I read every book in the Hardy Boys series and the Tom Swift series. I loved how the boys could solve mysteries and get out of dangerous or tense situations. By junior high (middle school) I became a big science fiction fan, reading incredible stories by Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein and Jules Verne. Then I discovered Edgar Allan Poe, and would get creeped out by his scary tales. I also enjoyed reading O. Henry’s short stories because they all had great twists at the end.
Blame it on baseball. I dreamed of becoming a major league baseball player. When I was growing up, I was an awesome fielder, but I couldn’t hit the curveball, fastball or any other pitch for that matter. In fact, the longest hit I ever had in organized baseball was a pop fly double that the first baseman lost in the sun. So I turned in my cleats and jersey and decided that if I couldn’t play the game I loved, I’d write about it and all the other sports I enjoyed but couldn’t play well. I planned on becoming a sportswriter.
I wanted to be the sports editor of my high school newspaper. But there was a problem. I was getting bad grades in English, so I couldn’t get on the paper. Then the newspaper advisor, Gretchen Galer, spent extra time tutoring me before and after school for six weeks and I eventually earned an A in English, so I was rewarded by being named sports editor. I loved it. I knew then I would make my living as a writer.
It all depends on the book. Sometimes the research takes several months and requires travel and lots of phone calls and interviews to get answers to my questions. Some of the research is done over the Internet. Often, I hire researchers to help me. (One of the best researchers I’ve teamed up with is Mara Bovsun, who has worked with me on several books.)
When it comes to actually creating a manuscript, I try to write at least 2,000 words a day for my first draft. One of my typical books for Scholastic has about 34,000 words. That means it will take me 17 working days to complete the draft. Then I need another week or two to rewrite, edit and polish it.
Everything is done on the computer. When I’m satisfied with the manuscript, I email it to the editor who then goes over it very carefully and might make some changes (hopefully not too many). It could take anywhere from six months to a year after I turn in a manuscript before the book is published.
The best part about being a writer is the freedom to work on my own. During my research, I learn something new every day and I get to interview lots of interesting people from all walks of life.
My writing has taken me to many different parts of the world where I’ve visited villages in the Amazon jungle, Inca ruins in Peru, refugee camps in Guatemala, Mount McKinley in Alaska, the Coliseum in Rome, castles in Portugal and Spain, and temples in South Korea.