Ask Gordon

The Ask Gordon feature has been retired, though the page will remain for those who want to read the questions that were asked and answered while it was around.


Q: (Natalie From CA): I LOVE Swindle. I've read it three to four times and the very first time I read it I read it in three days. I would just like to know why are you making a sequel ( not that I'm saying it isn't going to be awesome) and is it going to become a series? You are an inspiration for me to write books!

A: Thanks! SWINDLE fans have been coming out of woodwork lately, but it’s always nice to hear from a few more. Well, as you may know, ZOOBREAK, the sequel, is going to be published in late August. But what you probably don’t know is that I’m already planning a third novel about The Man With The Plan and his team. So, yes, SWINDLE will be at least a mini-series of three, with possibly more on the way.

Q: (From Sarah, Canada): In one of your older books, LOSING JOE'S PLACE, one of your characters is Rootbeer Racinette. I'm wondering if you could share your inspiration/development for this character, including things about Rootbeer's ridiculous money-making schemes (the 2 by 4) to "washday".

A: LOSING JOE’S PLACE is definitely an oldie but goodie, and I hear quite a lot about it – and, yes, Rootbeer’s name does come up a fair bit. He is, pretty much, everybody’s favorite character. I hope I’m not disappointing you when I confess that he isn’t an old friend or cousin of mine. He’s a product of pure imagination – except his name. The French Canadian translation of rootbeer IS Racinette, so “Rootbeer Racinette” is printed on the label of every bottle of rootbeer up there.

Q: (From Claudia in MD): Are you going to write a sequel to the book "Schooled"? It was really good and I want to know what happens next. Does Cap get a haircut? Do Cap and Naomi start dating? I would like to know the details!!! It seems like a book that should have a second one! I felt like you left your readers hanging because we all want to know what happens to Cap next!

A: Glad SCHOOLED was such a hit with you! It’s one of my favorites, and I’d love to do a sequel, but the right plot hasn’t come to me yet. Just because a book is good doesn’t mean there’s another story in that cast of characters. What do you think? Besides Cap’s hairstyle and his possible future with Naomi, where else could I take the crew from C Average Middle School? Any ideas?

Q: (From Robert in Canada): Who was Mike Otis to you?

A: Very few of the characters in my books are based directly on real people, but Mike Otis (from DON’T CARE HIGH) is one of the exceptions. He is based on a highly non-average guy who lived in my college dorm.

Q: (From David in Santa Rosa Beach, FL): I used to write stories all the time when I was younger.It has always brought a lot of joy to me. It's been a couple of years now and I feel the creative part of me bursting at the seams but at the same time I'm rusty. Do you have any suggestions to help me get back into the groove of things?

A: 95% of what I know about writing I learned from doing it. So I’d suggest just trying to make it a part of your day-to-day life, rather than a hobby you come back to once in a blue moon. I know this is probably hard for a busy person to do, but you’ll be amazed at how quickly it happens. And once the “delivery system” has become second nature to you, I think the stories inside you will come bursting out naturally. All writers are different, so of course I can’t guarantee anything. But it’s worth a try.


Q: (From Vermont, 2008): I just finished "Schooled" which is on the 2008-2009 Dorothy Canfield Fisher recommended reading list for 4th -8th graders in our state. Did you take any of  the scenes from "Schooled" from personal memory or from things your own kids may have shared with you?  I'm interested to know the level of exaggeration you may have added.

A: Not many of the events of SCHOOLED come directly from real life, either my own or anybody else's. But I do spend a lot of time at schools – many of them middle schools – and I think I've got a pretty good sense of how things are. As for exaggeration, I guess I was worried during the actual writing that Cap might be a little over the top. Then I spoke to a friend who had gone to school with a boy who had come straight from a research station in Antarctica where his parents had been scientists. With no other kids around, he'd spent his days with the wolverines. Wolverines mark their territory by urinating – and this kid did the same thing in his desk at school! (After I heard that, I stopped worrying about Cap.)

Q: (From Alexandra, Canada, 2008): I have read your Dive, Everest, and Island books. How do you know so much about diving, climbing, and surviving on an island? or did you just make up all that information?

A: It was during those three series that I discovered research. I'm not a climber, diver, or sailor, and I've certainly never been shipwrecked. So learning about those topics was essential if I was going to do a decent job. I think it all clicked in my brain when I was writing ISLAND . I checked a sailing manual out of the library, and on the very first page there was a reminder to turn on the blower switch before starting the engine. If you don't, you can blow up your own boat. Well, that became the climax of the entire book and the catalyst for the entire series. And it never could have happened without research.

Q: (From Kati in California, 2008): I am wondering why one of your publishers hasn't put your book into a downloadable format for purchase. I would willingly pay for it right now.

A: This is a business decision made by the publisher, or possibly the e-bookseller. In other words, it's out of my hands. It's not that I've got a grudge against e-books or anything like that. I'm in favor of any “delivery system” that will put my novels in my readers' hands. I'm guessing, though, that this is coming soon. More and more books for kids and teens are available in this format these days, so it's only a matter of time before my titles are offered as well.

Q: (From Stephanie in Nevada, 2008): I am writing a book report on your recent book, Swindle. What inspired you to write this book, as I am really enjoying it.

A: While trying to do research for the ON THE RUN series, I kept coming across these great books and movies about robberies, which started me thinking about writing a good old-fashioned heist story. The problem was always the same: Robbery is a crime. How can I expect readers to sympathize with kids who are engaged in a criminal enterprise? The reason for the heist had to be so compelling that people would forgive my characters for breaking – no, shattering – the law. That's a tall order – unless the protagonists aren't so much stealing something as stealing it back . It was my editor who came up with the Babe Ruth baseball card – and I'm forever grateful to him for that. I was totally stalled on the story up until that point.


Q: (From Mihail in Florida, 2008): Are you going to make movies of some of your books?

A: We sell film rights all the time, but the decision about whether or not a movie or TV show gets made is up to the producer. I'm no expert on the movie business, but I think companies put dozens of projects into development, knowing that only one or two will ever see production. So it's always kind of a long shot.

Right now, there are exciting projects in the works based on SWINDLE, SCHOOLED, BORN TO ROCK, EVEREST, NO MORE DEAD DOGS, ISLAND and (an oldie but goodie) NO COINS, PLEASE. I'm keeping my fingers crossed

Q: (From Clive, Toronto, Canada, 2008): Are there any plans for more Bruno and Boots adventures? I've been a proud fan since the late 80s/early 90s.

A: I would love to return to Bruno and Boots/Macdonald Hall. And I do believe it will happen someday. But there are quite a few issues that need to be worked out.

When would a new Macdonald Hall book be set? In 1978, when THIS CAN'T BE HAPPENING was published? At that time, there was no such thing as the Internet, first class postage was twelve cents, and a personal computer was something only George Wexford-Smyth III could afford. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it would have to be a deliberate decision to write a period piece – something none of the other Macdonald Hall books were.

Or, I could write the new novel as if it's happening today, and update the rest of the series to match. (Scholastic Canada has already done this with their editions.)

Another possibility would be to say that time has passed, and a new crop of kids has come the school. Kind of like “Macdonald Hall – The Next Generation.” Bruno could be a young teacher now. Mr. Sturgeon is chairman of the board. And, Miss Scrimmage, at age ninety-nine, hasn't retired yet, and is still terrorizing Highway 48 with her shotgun.

I'm not saying that any of these is necessarily going to happen – just that going back to Macdonald Hall and picking up these series where it left off is trickier than it looks. Remember, I was fourteen when THIS CAN'T BE HAPPENING was published. Assuming Bruno was the same age, he'd be pushing forty-five today. Then again, Mickey Mouse is almost a hundred, so nothing is impossible.

Q: (From Corey in Canada, 2008): What book did you really like writing?

A: It's very hard for me to choose favorites. I'm lucky to be one of those fortunate souls who has a great time doing his job. Since the ISLAND series, I've grown to love the adventure genre, and, of course, comedy has always been my first love.

Still, if I had to pick my most rewarding writing experience, I'd have to go with the novels about the Falconers. Maybe it's because I'm an only child, so having a brother or sister is alien to me, but there was something about ON THE RUN and KIDNAPPED that really transported me. There are nine books between the two series, yet I never – not even for a moment – felt burned out on those two characters. Their adventures were my adventures, and I was right there with them every step of the way.



Q: (From Mark?, 2002ish): What is Boots O'Neal's middle name? We've been told the P stands for "Pushed around for the last time," but what is it, really?

A: In the first draft of THIS CAN'T BE HAPPENING, Boots actually revealed that his middle name was Paul. But that was cut in editing.

Q: (From Joe in Michigan, 2007): We know Willie and Mildred and lots of other first names from the various Bruno and Boots books, but we've never heard a first name for Miss Scrimmage. What is Miss Scrimage's first name?

A: Reviewing the seven MACDONALD HALL books, I guess I never gave Miss Scrimmage a first name. My bad. I have a vague memory of her being Cornelia or Carmelia, but now I think that may have come from an old dramatic production of my first book that toured around eastern Canada a very long time ago.