"...I'm having so much fun doing what I'm doing now, that it's hard to imagine ever doing anything different."
There are certain questions I get asked all the time, either by e-mail or in person, when I go to schools or libraries to speak to readers. Kids want to know: Are you rich? (Sadly, no.) What is it like to be famous? (If I ever meet someone famous, I’ll be sure to ask him or her.) How old are you? (No comment.)
And, inevitably: Why did you decide to write mysteries?
The answer is pretty straightforward — I write ’em because I love to read ’em. Always have.
I was a huge fan of Nancy Drew when I was young. I can’t remember how it happened, but my mother came home one day with the complete collection of Nancy Drews. Someone must have given them to her. I read every single one. I borrowed all of my brother’s Hardy Boys books and read them too. And Brains Benton — boy, did I ever like Brains Benton. He was a genius (as if you couldn’t figure that out) with a regular-guy sidekick named Jimmy who got to do all the heavy lifting and, as a result, usually got into the worst jams. Jimmy was always trying to dodge his mother’s favourite supper dish — something called chicken croquettes. I never did figure out what they were, but they must have tasted terrible because Jimmy would rather face down death than have to eat even a single bite.
When I read those books, I liked to imagine that I was as smart and as fearless as those kid sleuths. They never took no for an answer, and they would do whatever they had to (usually something dangerous) to get to the truth. I used to wish the kinds of things that happened to those kids would happen in the boring (so I thought at the time) suburb where I grew up. I longed for the excitement that they faced. And the satisfaction they experienced when they solved a mystery and usually, as a result, made a huge difference in someone’s life. Wow.
But I have to say, it never occurred to me at first that I could actually write a mystery. It seemed too complicated. There was too much figuring to do — not just who committed the crime and how they got away with it, but how on earth was some kid going to figure out whodunit? Writing mysteries means I have to do a lot of planning, which, to the outside observer (usually my family) looks like I’m just sitting there, staring out the window (I’m thinking! I’m thinking!). But when it comes together, boy, does it ever feel good! And when I hear from readers who enjoyed one of my books, that’s even better. Every mystery writer loves to know that there are mystery lovers out there — and I’m no exception.
One last question I get (usually from an adult in the audience): When are you going to write an adult book? Answer: When I get tired of what writing books for kids — and that may be a long, long time because I’m having so much fun doing what I’m doing now that it’s hard to imagine ever doing anything different.
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