(Frequently Asked Questions)
So you’ve got to do an author report on me? Let’s see if we can’t make this easier…
Q: Did you like to write as a kid?
I actually liked cartooning much better than writing, but I did both. In high school, I used to pass around these little comics I’d created, cracking up my friends.
Q: What were your favorite books as a kid?
At first, I was an indifferent reader, although I enjoyed Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak and most of Dr. Seuss’s books. Then my dad got me hooked on Tarzan, and I read that whole series and became a rabid reader. Some of my early favorites included: The Lord of the Rings, My Side of the Mountain, The Wind in the Willows, and The Phantom Tollbooth.
Q: What’s your favorite book that you’ve written?
That’s like asking, “which is your favorite toe?” I like them all, and my favorites change as I write more books. Currently, my favorite Chet Gecko story is The Malted Falcon, followed closely by The Big Nap. My favorite picture books are Clark the Shark and Big Bad Baby, and my favorite spy novel is Playing With Fire.
Q: Will you write my report for me?
Q: Pretty please?
Not even with sugar on top.
Q: What other children’s authors do you read?
I read lots of books these days – both adult novels and children’s stories. Some of my favorite children’s authors are Libba Bray, Bruce Coville, Christopher Paul Curtis, JK Rowling, RL LaFevers, Dav Pilkey, Matt de la Pena, Jennifer Nielsen, Philip Pullman, EB White, Maurice Sendak, Dr. Seuss, and Roald Dahl. Sorry you asked?
Q: Were you really raised by wolves?
What do you think? Actually, I loved how Mowgli was raised by wolves in The Jungle Book, and always felt like that would’ve been cool. Here’s the facts:
I was born on Oct. 30, 1957 in Los Angeles, and went to Lunada Bay Elementary, Palos Verdes High School, and UCLA. I graduated UCLA with a degree in economics, which I only use when balancing my checkbook.
Q: What’s your favorite color?
Today? Turquoise, the color of the ocean just off the coast of Hawaii.
Q: Where do you get your ideas?
From a small man named Guido who lives in my basement and makes them for me. No, actually. I think ideas come from the collision of two things that weren’t combined before… like geckos and mysteries. Ideas are a little bit magical, but if you keep your antennae up, they’re all around you. Just ask the question, “what if…?” and you’ll get an idea rolling.
Q: Will you send me some metaphors or similes for my story?
Lower than a snake’s belly button; as tight as a blue whale’s bikini; as cold as a truant officer’s heart; sadder than the last day of summer vacation; as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a roomful of rocking chairs. There. How’s that?
Q: How did you come up with Chet Gecko?
I was doing some free writing – that’s writing without any kind of plan. I knew I wanted to write a mystery, so I was just playing around with the detective’s narration. All of a sudden, it was like I could hear this voice in my head saying: “Who am I? Chet Gecko, Private Eye. I go to fourth grade at Emerson Hicky Elementary. I’m a lizard.” I trusted the voice and went from there.
Q: Do you know any other authors?
Yes, and we do the “secret authors’ handshake” when we meet. Just kidding. I’ve met quite a few authors at conferences around the country, including Bruce Coville, Jon Scieszka, Jarrett Krosoczka, Christopher Paul Curtis, Cinda Williams Chima, and “Lemony Snicket.” In fact, I’ve even performed music with fellow authors Judy Cox and Fran Lantz, though not at the same time.
Q: What do you like best about writing?
I love getting to make up stories. And it’s a blessing to be able to earn my living doing that. I’m a very lucky guy, and I know it.