When I was a child my father made me slide down mountains and my mother trapped me in a dungeon full of books . . . but all in a good way: Dad was a ski instructor, which gave me a love of nature, and my mother was a children’s librarian, which gave me a love of books. Her library was like Doctor Who’s TARDIS for me: a doorway into fantastic worlds. My favorites books were Calico the Wonder Horse, the Moomin series, and Tintin books (which had everything that other children’s books didn’t in the 1960s: comic strips, realistic action, and adult characters). Tolkien kindled my imagination with his small hero facing great evil, which inspired my first novel, Sting, about a small honey-bee hero.
My adult jobs have included gardening, teaching, and now writing and editing. My wife, Penelope Todd, is a fine novelist and publisher, and we have three adult children and two grandsons.
I’ve always gotten a buzz from writing, starting at age seven with a teacher who praised my quirky science report. Science gives me many ideas for books. I studied entomology (insects) in college, and on my fortieth birthday a friend gave me a beehive– what a surprise party! After observing honey bees for years, I wrote two novels, Sting and Wings, about a bee’s adventures.
I write because I have so many ideas in my brain that need a home. While writing, I consult my inner audience — a ten-year-old boy who likes a quest, humor, and action. That’s why in Flight of the Honey Bee there’s a wasp attack, a hailstorm, and a bird chase. The biggest challenge in writing picture books is to integrate science with a gripping narrative. For example, in Gecko, the hero journeys through the jungle using disguises and deceptions to escape predators on the way.
The worst thing about being a writer is not having enough time; the best thing is the moment when I open a copy of my new book when it first arrives.
My advice to aspiring writers is stay inside, watch TV, and don’t read. . . . No, not really! You should read great books, go outside, have adventures, and remember that nobody else sees the world exactly like you do. Also, learn to edit.
Three Things You Might Not Know About Me
1. I look a little like Tintin (it's the tuft of hair).
2. I love to carve limestone sculptures while listening to music from the 1970s.
3. I remember my dreams every night.