Frequently Asked Questions
WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR IDEAS?
My ideas come from all over the place. Whether it's a story on the news, something somebody tells me, or something that just pops into my head: ideas are everywhere. Sometimes it's a combination of a few stories all piled on top of one another. One thing I like to do is to ask myself 'what if...' questions:
- What if two kids find a magical library under their school?
- What if a family is in danger of losing their chocolate shop?
- What if a boy damages his father's boat and needs to earn $500 to fix it?
My ideas all include some sort of conflict and some sort of pressure. I let the story and characters develop around that.
DID YOU ALWAYS WANT TO BE A WRITER?
No. I only learned to love writing when I was around nineteen. And even after that, it took me a long time to figure out what I loved to write. Once I settled on books for young readers, I never looked back!
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO WRITE A BOOK?
Some of my books have come quickly and others have taken much longer. I suppose the best answer to this question is "as long as it takes!"
DO YOU ALWAYS KNOW WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN AT THE END?
I'll usually have an idea of how things will turn out at the end of my books, but I'll have no clue how I'm going to get there. I think that having good, strong characters is the most important part of a book. If you know your characters well, they'll sort of lead the way. Sometimes it's all I can do just to keep up!
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THE PEOPLE OF ANTARCTICA?
Really?!? There are people in Antarctica? I suppose I'd ask them why they are wasting their time reading about me and not on some boat headed to a tropical island!
WHERE DO YOU WRITE?
I have an office in my house where I do a lot of my writing, but sometimes I need to get out to do some research or to just get a change of scenery. Occasionally, I'll write at a café or at the library. I've even been known to do some writing on our dock in Lake George!
WHAT'S BETTER, A MONKEY IN A SUPERMAN COSTUME OR A MONKEY IN A TUXEDO?
It's a tie!
DO YOU EVER GET WRITER'S BLOCK?
I get writer's block all the time, but that's no excuse to stop writing. For me, writing is a job, just like building houses might be a carpenter's job. Houses don't get built if the carpenter doesn't show up when he doesn't feel like hammering nails into wood. If I have no idea what happens next, I'll do one of two things:
1) I'll go back a chapter and edit for a while. Sometimes re-reading my work and editing it a bit will trigger some thoughts that will unblock me.
2) I'll write something I know is bad. Sometimes I'll just write and see where it leads me. As I write, I know what I'm doing might not be the best thing in the world, but just getting the ideas onto paper can help unblock me.
DO YOU HAVE ANY PETS?
Not at the present time. I do a lot of traveling and I'm away many days and weekends. It wouldn't be fair to an animal if we were never around, so we're holding off on pets for the time being. I do have plants but I can only seem to keep the cacti alive. Sometimes, we have fish.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FLAVOR CUPCAKE?
My favorite flavor cupcake is the kind that is in my mouth at the time. All cupcakes are yummy!
WHAT WERE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE BOOKS WHEN YOU WERE A KID?
As a kid, I didn't read as much as I wish I had, but my favorite books were The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams. I also enjoyed reading comic books, joke books, and doing Mad Libs.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE COLOR?
That really depends on my mood. I like blue, but I also like yellow. And sometimes I like orange. Mix them all together and you get brown. Strangely, I don't like brown so much.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE BOOK THAT YOU'VE WRITTEN?
Wow, that is a hard question. I love them all for different reasons. It's like asking whether you love amusement parks, the mountains, or the beach best. All of them are awesome and you can love every single one of them for different reasons!
HOW DO YOU GET A BOOK PUBLISHED?
This is a long process that is different for every person who writes a book. Start by reading a load of books similar to the one you want to write. Focus on how the authors use language to tell their stories. Your way may be different, but you can learn something from every book you read. The surefire way to get an editor to love your work is to write well.
WHAT WOULD I FIND IF I LOOKED IN YOUR CLOSET?
You'd find a bunch of coats and boots. Then, you would find me standing behind you. I'd have a phone in my hands and I would be saying, "Yes, hello, there's a strange person rummaging around in my closet. Please send the police."
|| WHAT IS THE BEST PART ABOUT BEING AN AUTHOR?
There are so many best parts about being an author, so I'm going to give you a few. The first is meeting all the young people who have read and enjoyed my books. It's great to know that people are getting something from my hard work and are eager to see more of it. Another great part about being an author is seeing my book on the shelves. Whether it's in a classroom, at a bookstore, or in the library, I love peeking at that L shelf and finding those familiar book spines peeking out at me. I never grow tired of that.
WHAT IS THE WORST PART ABOUT BEING AN AUTHOR?
The worst part about being a writer is all the waiting. It takes a long time to write a book, but it takes longer for it to come out! After I finish writing a book, it can take as long as two years for it to get to the shelves... and that's a book without photos or illustrations! If there are drawings, it could take even longer!
DO YOU HAVE ANY KIDS?
I do. I have a boy and a girl. Their names are Ethan and Lily.
WHEN DO YOU FIND TIME TO WRITE?
I have a very busy life. Not only do I write books, but I am also a doctor during the day. I have two kids and a house to take care of too! But the writing still happens. It's a matter of deciding which activities are important to me and not wasting too much time doing the stuff that's less important. I call it 'writing between the raindrops'. If you look out the window when it's raining, you see water falling. But if you were able to stop all the raindrops in midair, you'd see huge amounts of space between them. That's where I write, in those spaces.
WHAT IS THE MOST INTERESTING JOB YOU HAVE EVER HAD?
Writing is my favorite job, but I'm guessing you mean 'other' job. I've had a number of interesting jobs, but two stick out to me. The first was helping birds of prey. We took in injured hawks, owls and vultures and worked with them until they were well enough to live on their own. It was really interesting until the turkey vulture threw up at me. Turkey vulture vomit smells worse than a skunk! The other interesting job I've had is working on a medieval castle in southern France. It was a place called Arlempdes and we spent a month chiseling a stone window frame from a huge block and hoisting it up to the top floor for installation. We even got to sleep in the castle!
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW?
Right now, I'm working on a few projects, but I don't like to talk too much about them until they're ready. Ask me if you happen to see me or check the website for updates!
MAY I HAVE YOUR AUTOGRAPH?
Sure! One way to get my autograph is to come to one of my book signings or events. You can also have me come to your school or conference to do a presentation. Check out the Appearances page to find out about that.
Another way to get an autographed book is to call my local independent bookstore and have them send you one. The bookstore is called The Little Book House in Stuyvesant Plaza (that's pronounced Sty-ves-ant) and their phone number is (518) 489-4761.