When I was growing up, I never really thought about becoming a writer. I used to love coming up with wacky stories and scenarios, but friends of mine and I would act them out...I didn’t write them down. (I think it never occurred to me.) The only time I'd write creative stories was for when allowed to for assignments in school, starting in elementary school and on through college. Back then, I thought more about drawing...cartoon characters, creatures, comic book-type beings, even stick figures. I wish I had been writing since I was young; I love meeting young people who are putting their ideas and stories down on paper.
So, when did you start writing, and what inspired you to start?
The first time I sat down and wrote something just for myself was after I'd graduated from college. I had this wild idea (wild as in weird, even for me) and, after talking to a good friend about it, decided it might make an interesting book. I did some research and just started writing. (I now realize it wasn't a very good book, but one day I'll rewrite it…and it’ll still be weird.)
When was your first book published? Was it accepted immediately or did you experience a number of rejections?
Let's see...the first book to get published was actually my fifth that I'd written. It sold in 2005, but only after many rejections. But by then (my fifth book, remember), I’d been braced for rejection. I still didn’t like it, but I wasn’t shocked or crushed. By the way, that book also had a different name: it was called THE TEACHER'S EDITION then, but it eventually became SIMON BLOOM, THE GRAVITY KEEPER.
What kinds of things inspire you to write? Where do you get your ideas?
Hmm, I kind of have an overactive imagination, and my mind wanders a lot. Sometimes things just click. SIMON BLOOM, THE GRAVITY KEEPER stems from something I used to think about in high school science classes: wouldn't it be cool if there was some superhero whose powers were to break or bend the laws of science? I'd say my imagination and ideas are fed by every book, article, comic, etc. that I read, every movie, TV show, etc. that I watch, every conversation I have or overhear, and so on. Basically, everything and anything around you could hit you the right way and trigger something inside you to write.
Have any of your fiction stories been about real people or events?
Sort of. In SIMON BLOOM, THE GRAVITY KEEPER and its sequels, there are plenty of characters loosely based on people I know. No one character is taken from just one person, but there are definitely inspirations. Certain teachers are blended together for some of the science Keepers, and Miss Fanstrom talks a lot like my AP English teacher from high school. (I didn't mean to do that...I only realized it after I was done...though I'm glad I did. She was a great teacher!) The main roles in the book–Simon, Owen, Alysha, and the Narrator–have certain traits of mine. (In fact, friends tell me the Narrator sounds A Lot like me.) There are also many places based on locations in my hometown (much as places in the sequels are based on locations I've visited).
Do you enjoy researching or do you prefer working totally from your imagination?
A little of both. The SIMON BLOOM books required a lot of research, because they have so much science in them (and I am no scientist). I enjoyed it because it was fun to find ways to make science magical and exciting. Still, I'm working on something now...a humorous supernatural YA book...that's totally from my imagination. I'm really enjoying the freedom; writing can move a lot quicker when it's coming straight from my head.
When is your next book going to be in book stores?
The paperback version of book 2 in the SIMON BLOOM series (SIMON BLOOM: THE OCTOPUS EFFECT) is coming out February 2010. The 3rd book, called SIMON BLOOM: THE ORDER OF CHAOS, comes out in hardcover June 2010.
What do you most want the students to get out of your school visits?
I have multiple goals in my visits. First, I hope to encourage students to read. Second, I'd like to show them that science can be fun and interesting...not as boring or confusing as some find it. Third, for those who are interested in writing (adults as well as students), I try to give a sense of my writing process. Advice as well as sharing my publishing experiences. And fourth, I'd like them all to have a bit of fun during my visit, too.
Has anyone ever written you a fan letter that you’d like to share?
I've gotten some great fan mail...some hilarious, some sweet, some quirky, but all really flattering. I think my favorite was from a 15-year-old named Jon who aspires to compose movie scores. He told me he was inspired by SIMON BLOOM, THE GRAVITY KEEPER and even wrote a score set to one of the scenes (where Simon accidentally cancels gravity in his bedroom). He emailed it to me, and it was great; it really conveyed the tone and emotion of the scene! Most amazing, though, was the fact that something I wrote actually inspired someone to do something incredible in an entirely different art form. I'm still glowing from that...