But first, what a blast I had reading your prompt responses. I’m impressed by your imaginations, the improvements you’ve made as writers, and the great support you’re showing one another. What an awesome community!
Last time I promised Q&A. To those who asked if I could visit their town/city: the tour is packed with more than 75 events, including tons of school visits. It’s all been tightly planned and organized for months by my awesome publisher, Scholastic, and it’s posted here. But I can visit anywhere (yes, including Canada, where I’ve been twice recently) on a school visit — just have your teacher of librarian check out my Author Visits page.
CheerfulSeeker1: What was the first book you ever wrote and when was it published?
A book of puzzles and games called (oddly enough) Puzzles and Games, in 1983.
OnyxTiger45: Do you read all the responses to the story prompts personally or does someone else?
I personally read them all. (And I hope someone else reads them too — lots of someone elses!)
FightingCobra225: But what do you like to read?
Mystery, historical fiction, basically any novel with really good writing. And I make sure to read a lot of nonfiction too.
DarkTiger40: Out of all of the 39 Clues and Cahills vs Vespers books you've written so far, which character is the hardest to write about and why?
DaintyOfficer1: Was it hard writing about Jake Rosenbloom in The Dead of the Night? I think he's kind of a complicated character.
I’ll answer both Dark and Dainty: yes. Jake. I worked hardest on his character for The Dead of Night. Once I figured him out, he became great fun to write.
DancingTeam1: I want to be a writer and I'm good at it, but I feel like I'm pulling away from my friends, which I don't want to do. What should I do?
Maybe you need a little private time for your ideas. Take the time. But make sure to be kind to your friends and let them know you’ll be back. They’ll be happy you do.
OnyxWolf91: When you write stories, what process do you use? Do you write everything down first, or do you carefully plan it?
Yes, I outline my books very carefully before I start writing.
AmethystButterfly167: Do you have any pets? What is your favorite color? What is your absolute favorite food?
Not since the guinea pig died, blue, and chocolate.
DragonAdventure181: If you could meet any character from the 39 clues or the Cahills Vs. Vespers, who would it be and why?
Buffy the dog, from Book 3, who fascinates me inexplicably.
AgentCourier10: You are kidnapped by unknown Vespers, and transported to a desert island. Using your wits and a few coconuts, you are able to contact the Attleboro crew, and the Cahills. They agree to rescue you, but, can only send one agent. Out of the eight agents (Ian, Sinead, Amy, Dan, Evan, Hamilton, Jonah, and Saladin) who would you want to rescue you, and why?
Saladin? Really? Let me think about this ...
BronzeEagle168: What inspired you to become a writer? What was your favourite book when you were small?
I loved reading Jack London. His stories, which took place in the Far North, were so vivid I could feel freezing cold in the dead of summer. I wanted to do what he did!
DragonChallenger20: What is your advice for some who has started eight novels, but can't seem to finish? I mean getting started is easy for me. But finishing? You've got to be kidding. How do you handle a writer's creative block?
Chocolate, mostly. But really, the only “cure” for writer’s block is to sit there until you finish. Time is your friend. Take it. It could very well be you haven’t found the story that really connects deeply with you yet. But I would recommend picking out one of your stories and trying to outline it — just a brief summary of what will happen, right to the end of the book. Do a couple of drafts of that outline, and then try again. It will feel amazing to finish something.
InventorLavender1: I know a lot of people are asking you what it's like to be a writer, etc, etc. But I know that you were also an actor. Had being an actor helped you be an author at any time?
Definitely! Especially with dialog. When you’re an actor you get such a strong sense of storytelling and the economy of language.
EkaterinaDragon327: When did you want to become a writer?
Early on. I don’t even remember not wanting to be a writer!
InfiltrateRattlesnake1: Is it true that there is a movie on the clue hunt set to be released?
DreamWorks is working on it. We know they have a screenplay but the movie hasn’t been cast, so we’re sitting tight, waiting to hear.
BearDeciphering2: Why do you almost ALWAYS wear a red hat? Is it because you're uncomfortable being partly bald?
Well, the hat isn’t always red! And I recommend being partly bald — it’s VERY comfortable. But you need to protect your comfortable head against the sun.
BreakingHurricane5: In the dead of night, you forgot a comma between Nellie said she sacrificed stuff like food, her iPod tukey and having to listen to Natalie. You forgot the comma in-between turkey and iPod.
No, that was done correctly. “Cold turkey” is not an actual turkey. It’s an expression that means “suddenly or without preparation.”
SteelBone2: Why is it that everyone's High School/Collage pictures from waaaaayyyyy back in your day make them look hillarious?
Ha! Believe it or not, yours will too!
OK, DRUMROLL, PLEASE ... Remember that mysterious breathtaking waterfall? To those who figured it out: your research skills humble me. Here’s the reveal.
Although I was sad to leave the Pacific Northwest, my pals in Southern California went out of their way to make me feel welcome, including the Aeolian Elementary School ...
The presentation was sponsored by Mrs. Nelson’s Books, which was an amazing place to visit, as always.
I got another great welcome at Barnes & Noble in Huntington Beach, where the bright 7:00 P.M. sun felt like midday.
Someone in this crowd knows how I feel about chocolate — and look what she presented to me! (Did I mention how much I love being an author? Let me count the ways ... )
Like my HB cap? It stands for Huntington Beach. And no, I didn’t eat all the chocolate. I had to be alert the next day, for Lincoln Elementary School. I didn’t cownt on having to travel to the gym on the back of a red bovine. Unherd of! The school provided an udderly wonderful welcome sign, and the enthusiasm of the kids was quite mooving. I milked this visit for all it was worth.
Although they did not have a lion statue, they more than made up for it with this:
As if that wasn’t enough excitement, I met a bright, enthusiastic, and warmly welcoming crowd later that day at the Chamlian Armenian School.
All those presentations get a cowpoke mighty hungry. So I galloped into the Eagle Rock neighborhood to find some good grub. When I discovered a huge Filipino community, I let out a YEE-HAH! Our books have many fans in the Philippines — and you know who you are, so here’s a mabuhay to you:
Between the chocolate and the bibingka (a delicious type of rice cake from the Philippines), I was energized to take on Salt Lake City. (And, naturally, I switched caps.)
Once I started eating, there was no stopping me. In Utah my book tour became a food hunt.
In between meals I visited more schools, hosted by the amazing King’s English bookstore ...
...after which I went right back to, well, you know. (This restaurant, the oldest in Salt Lake City, had an entire Thanksgiving meal in a sandwich —turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce!)
After that, I needed a long hike. Salt Lake City has some breathtaking views and monster hills. It also has ... STATUES! As always, they taught me well and graciously took all my advice.
After running into Roland Smith in Portland, I hoped to find Linda Sue Park or David Baldacci in L.A. Alas, no such luck. But there was a friendly chap at my hotel in Salt Lake City, who was reading one of my favorite books ...
Well, you’ll never believe who this guy really was! (Actually, you probably caught on before I did.) Now we have a mutual fan club.
Next stop, a couple of days in NYC and then Houston! Okay, for the next blog post, I will have a special challenge for all of you, a real 39 CLUES MESSAGE BOARD EXCLUSIVE!
I can’t tell you about it yet, but I promise it will be fun! For now, a great big shout-out to ALL of you from around the world who have followed me on this incredible journey. Good to have you with me.
And, before I forget, back by popular demand, here is the newest writing prompt:
“Evan!” Amy Cahill shrieked from the bottom of the stairs. She waited a moment, but there was no answer.