Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is very happy to shine our Friday spotlight on children’s book author Stuart Gibbs. I asked the following questions of Stuart, and here are his responses:
Hello, Stuart, can you please tell us briefly a little about yourself and your writing? How would you like us to introduce you?
I am the author of five NY Times bestselling middle grade series: Spy School, FunJungle, Charlie Thorne, Moon Base Alpha and Once Upon a Tim. Before I was an author, I worked as a screenwriter for film and TV, and before all that I studied capybaras (the world’s largest rodent).
Where can people find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester–though they should totally check here first!)
Everywhere. My books are available in independent stores throughout the United States as well as bookshop.org and larger booksellers (though I would prefer if everyone shopped local).
How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?
I do my best to keep everyone up-to-date at http://www.stuartgibbs.com as well as @AuthorStuGibbs on Twitter and stuartgibbs1 on Instagram
For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from Whale Done?
I write adventures and mysteries that generally draw on lots of fun science and history and have lots of humor as well. Whale Done is a comic mystery that follows Teddy Fitzroy, an extremely intelligent 13-year-old with a track record of cracking cases, as he tries to determine who was behind the death of a juvenile blue whale that washes up on the beach in Malibu.
What kind of research went into writing this book? What is your favorite research story? What cool facts and findings didn’t make it into the book, but you loved discovering?
I love doing research, especially for this series (the FunJungle series) because it gives me the opportunity to talk to biologists and other people very knowledgeable about animals and conservation. For Whale Done, I had kind of been doing research for decades, because I have always enjoyed whale watching and done it quite often. I have been lucky enough to see humpbacks feeding en masse in Monterey Bay and breaching off Cape Cod; to sail alongside a pod of orcas in the San Juan Islands; and to see blue whales only a few miles off Long Beach, California. Still, I wanted to know more, so I interviewed a whale specialist named James Stewart at the Aquarium of the Pacific, during which I discovered there were a disturbingly large number of ways that human behavior can kill whales. One of my favorite things I learned about whales (which I was able to use in the book) is that we can determine their age by the amount of wax that builds up in their earholes. Perhaps my favorite thing that I couldn’t find a use for was that drones have made it much easier to take samples from whale spouts; what a whale spouts isn’t just water, but also a good amount of mucus, which makes the spray a good way to test a whale’s health. Whale scientists often refer to the drones as SnotBots.
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
I have a really busy year coming up, with six releases: Whale Done in February, Bruce Wayne: Not Super (a graphic novel I wrote for DC Comics) in March, the Spy Camp graphic novel in April, Sea of Terror (Once Upon a Tim book #3) in May, Spy School Goes North in October and Quest of Danger (Once Upon a Tim book #4) in November.
What is/are your passions when you’re not writing? How do you make time for your non-writing hobbies/things you love?
I love heading out into nature and looking for wildlife. I go hiking near my home most weekends, but for vacations, I like to go farther afield. I have been lucky enough to visit Africa six times (so far) and many other places. Last summer, I took my kids out to a really remote part of Alaska because it was the only place I could find where you can see walruses from land. (As a bonus, there were also a lot of really big grizzly bears in the area.) Since a lot of these adventures often end up inspiring books, you could argue that even when I’m traveling, I’m still coming up with ideas — although I make it a point to not write on vacation. I think having a break from the writing process is very important. Instead, I take lots of notes and lots of photos, which I use to craft new stories when I get back.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned, thus far, in your writing career?
Outline your book before you start writing it.
Stuart, thanks so much for your great answers, and best of luck with Whale Done and your other books this year!