Frequently Asked Questions
Where do you get the ideas for your books?
Everywhere! I love to travel, explore and read history. I got the idea for The Devil's Paintbox from an 1862 newspaper article reporting a controversy about whether or not Indians should be vaccinated against smallpox.
I was working as a Divemaster on an expedition cruise ship in the South Pacific when I first learned about Guano - because almost every island or atoll we visited had some history with it. That set me on the path to writing Son of Fortune.
After The Mosquito War was published, I was doing research for another thriller that I intended to set in Antarctica when I came across the true story of Ernest Shackleton and the Endurance expedition. When I discovered there actually was an 18 year old stowaway - I knew his story had to be told and so I wrote Shackleton's Stowaway.
Are you going to write another book about Aiden?
I'm working on some different story ideas right now. I'm thinking about jumping ahead to around 1910 and having the book focus on his grandchildren. I think the changes in the world from 1850 to 1920 were the most dramatic ever and I think it might be interesting to see how Aiden's life has turned out.
For Shackleton's Stowaway - If the story is true - why did you write it as a novel?
Everything in Shackleton's Stowaway actually happened as it did on the real Endurance expedition, but I used my imagination to develop some scenes and create dialog. I also had to leave out many of the actual men (there were 28 including Shackleton!) combine some incidents and make some minor nudges to the time line.
If you want to read some more about Shackleton's expedition I recommend "Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage" by Alfred Lansing and "The Endurance; Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition" by Caroline Alexander. Alexander's book also offers lots of photographs from the voyage.
Why did you write The Mosquito War under a different name?
My first three books, Osprey Reef, Point Deception and Crooked Island were scuba-diving mysteries with continuing characters. They were well-reviewed, but as often happens, they didn't really get much notice and wound up what is called "mid-list." The Mosquito War had entirely new characters and was a "bigger" book, more thriller than mystery. It is pretty common for authors to have different names for different genres, so my agent suggested we go with a different publisher and a new name so they wouldn't be confused with the earlier books.
I want to be a writer, what should I do?
I don't actually understand the idea of "wanting" to be a writer. You either write or you don't. If you love writing and want to be a better writer however, you should read a lot and write a lot. Read all sorts of books from different genres and different times.
When you find a book that you really love, re-read it critically. How are the characters unique? What about the story captures you? Pay attention to language too - learn to spot cliches or lazy writing.
Read some poetry to get a sense of vivid, muscular use of language.
Rick Riorden (I know you know who he is!) actually has a much better answer to this question than I could ever come up with - check out the FAQ on his website!
Do you visit schools to talk about your books?
I love to visit schools, libraries and book fairs - have your teacher contact me through the "Contact" page here.
Are you on Facebook and Twitter?
No. But you can send me any other questions by email - see the "Contact" page.