Tell me a little about yourself:
I’m the author of The Thickety series and Nightbooks, all published by Katherine Tegen Books. I’ve also been a teacher for 20 years! My wife and I live in New Jersey with our three sons: Jack (16), Logan (10), and Colin (8). My favorite dessert is pumpkin pie, and I’m really bad at fixing things around the house.
When you were my age did you like to read?
I was a VORACIOUS reader! My parents took me to the library every Saturday morning and I used to come back with piles of books. I would then sit on my bedroom floor and read until it was dark out!
2. What was your favorite story?
Such a tough question! I liked anything scary (no surprise there), but also fantasy, fairy tales, and mystery novels. I used to especially love the Prydain novels of Lloyd Alexander and a mystery series called The Three Investigators.
3. How do you get your ideas? How do you write spooky vs. scary?
Some of my ideas come out of the blue during times when I let my brain wander, like during my commute to work. Other ideas take a little work, and I have to sit at my computer and try out some bad ideas before figuring out a good one. I think “spooky” is more like the tone of a story, and I usually convey that through the setting and description. “Scary,” to me, is when a character is in peril. There are only a few scary parts in my books, but they pretty much have a spooky tone at all times!
4. How does being a teacher help your writing?
I write about children, so it definitely helps that I’m around kids all day. I hear how they talk and see how they act, so that (hopefully) helps me create more realistic characters. Another part of my job is reading lots of children’s novels, so I always stay immersed in that world.
5. What author do you like right now?
I think Jonathan Auxier is a splendid writer. I’ve just begun his new one–Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster–and it’s top notch, as always. Kate DiCamillo and Katherine Applegate are always sure bets as well.
6. Do you have any new or lesser known authors you would suggest?
John Bellairs. He might not be as well known to children since he wrote a long time ago, but hopefully the recent film version of The House with a Clock in its Walls will help young readers discover his novels. I’ve been re-reading his books recently, and I like them every bit as much as when I first read them as a child.
7. What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author?
Read, read, read. Not just novels–short stories, too, since that’s what you’ll be writing at the start. And make sure you write every single day, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. It’s like exercise!
8. As an author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that?
Social media is great for interacting with readers, and I’m also lucky enough to get emails as well. It’s especially touching when the email comes from somewhere far away, like England or Australia. I’m always flattered when any reader takes the time to reach out and contact me, because that means they really loved something I wrote. That makes all that hard work worth it!
9. If you could portal into any book, what book would it be?
It definitely wouldn’t be one of my books–too scary! I’d have to say Harry Potter. It’s such a rich and varied world, and I’d love to explore it. (But only if I get to be in Ravenclaw