When I visited with the fourth graders at Graham Elementary here in Austin this past April, they followed up with many questions — and artwork. Such as this recreation of one of Don Tate’s illustrations in The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch:
That drawing of John Roy Lynch is just an example of the great stuff they sent. I believe I’m overdue in answering their questions. So…
Do you enjoy making children’s books?
Yes, I do. I think it’s the perfect job for me.
Do you like animals?
Not all of them, but I like a lot more animals than I dislike.
What inspired you to become an author?
My toddler son wanted me to tell him over and over the story of how I installed a smoke alarm in our house. I wrote that story down, and it was awful, but it got me going.
How long have you been writing?
Almost as long as I’ve been reading. The first story of mine that I know of is one that I wrote in second grade, “The Ozzie Bros. Meet the Monsters.”
Will you make chapter books?
I sure hope so. I’ve written a nonfiction book called Can I See Your I.D.? that had ten chapters, and I wrote a short story for a YA collection, and I hope that I will have more longer-than-a-picture-book fiction published.
How many books have you written?
88 Instruments, which was published just yesterday, is my tenth published book. I’ve written many more that have not been published.
Where do you get your ideas from?
All over. Things I see, things I read about, ideas that pop into my head while I’m running, suggestions from friends and editors — these are just some examples.
How old were you when you started to do books?
I was 29 when I realized I wanted to write books for kids, and almost 38 when my first book was published.
What inspired you to write the book “The Ozzie Bros. Meet the Monsters”?
Star Wars, the Muppets, and Abbott and Costello movies where they meet famous Hollywood monsters.
Do you have any books about your dog?
Not yet, but there are dogs in some of my manuscripts that sure remind me of Ernie.
Do you talk in a different language?
I’ve started relearning the Spanish that I began forgetting after my sophomore year in high school. Duolingo says I’m now 4% fluent.
Have you ever visited different countries?
I went to Mexico and Canada when I was growing up, and this past spring I traveled to Singapore to visit the Singapore American School. That trip included some time wandering around an airport in Qatar.
Have you been on tour?
Yes — to schools in Utah last December to celebrate my nonfiction book The Nutcracker Comes to America, and to cities in Texas and Oklahoma this past spring, in support of my book Mighty Truck.
Have you ever experienced difficult, frustrating times?
I sure have. I’ve been lucky to have family and friends to lean on during those times.
How many awards have you won?
I don’t know how many, but I can tell you the biggest: My first book, The Day-Glo Brothers, won a Sibert Honor from the American Library Association.
And that’s it! Thank you for the great questions, fourth graders — now FIFTH graders! — at Graham Elementary.