Junior Bookseller Interviews a Literary Hero, Author Stuart Gibbs

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 1.26.24 PM

If you’re ever in the store shopping when 13-year-old junior bookseller Cameron is here, he has probably tried to sell you a book by Stuart Gibbs. Cameron has loved Gibbs’ books for years and recommended them again and again, because he likes how Gibbs’ series “combine action, mystery, and comedy.” As you can imagine, he’s not going to let you miss out on Gibbs’ upcoming visit to Parnassus Books on Thursday, April 7, at 6:30.

Gibbs’ newest offering is Spaced Out, a continuation of 12-year-old detective Dash Gibson’s adventures on Moon Base alpha. Here’s a transcript of a recent email chat between the author and his fan, who had some questions about just how Gibbs keeps turning out such entertaining books:


Hi, Mr. Gibbs. First I’d like to know: How long does it take you to come up with all the ideas that go into one book?

Stuart GibbsSG: The answer varies a lot. I came up with the idea for doing a story set at a spy school when I was in elementary school. So I thought about that story for decades before I wrote it. But generally, I am playing with ideas for at least a year before I start writing.

Do you know how a story will end when you start or do you make it up as you go?

SG: I try to have a good idea about how a story will end before I start writing — but sometimes I change my ideas about the ending while I’m working on it.

Do you think your books are “boy books” or “girl books”? Or is there even such a thing as boy and girl books? 

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 1.17.49 PM
Elementary and middle-grade readers who love humor are the perfect audience for Gibbs’ FunJungle series, including Belly Up, Poached, and Big Game.

SG: I don’t like to think of my books as “boy books” even though they have a boy protagonist. I try to write strong boy and girl characters, so I hope that my books appeal to boys and girls alike. I think that most writers try not to target one gender or another (although on occasion, some might). Sometimes publishing marketing divisions market the books to one gender or another, however.

Sometimes my teacher says I need to add more details and explain things better in my writing. Do you have any advice? How did you get good at writing with such good descriptive detail? 

SG: I actually try to get away with as little description as possible. Since my books are all in first person, I try to think of how someone the age of my protagonist might describe a person — or a building — or anything, really — and use that. For example, Teddy in the FunJungle series tends to describe things in terms of animals, that someone might have eyebrows that look like wooly bear caterpillars, for example. I find that one or two details like that will probably stick in someone’s mind more than a whole litany of details.

My sister, who is 10, always says she has to sit somewhere very quiet to write. She wants to know if you always write in a certain place.

SG: I absolutely require peace and quiet to write, so I almost always write in my office, which is attached to my house, and I do most of my writing while my kids are at school (or camp, in summer). I have no idea how anyone can write in public, although there seem to be a staggering number of people writing in coffee shops these days.

Next up: In October, Gibbs will release the next installment in the Spy School series, Spy Ski School.

Why do you write series instead of separate individual novels? Do you think you’ll start any more series?

SG: The hardest part of writing a book is setting up the characters and the world of the story. Once you’ve done that, it’s kind of exciting to think about where you can go with those characters and what other stories you can tell in that world. I never started out to write series, but once I wrote the first book in each series, I didn’t want to say good-bye to my characters. I might start another series one day, but I’d have to end one of the ones I’m currently doing first.

What’s your favorite section in a bookstore? 

SG: That is an incredibly hard question to answer. If I find a really great bookstore, I love to just wander around and find books that I might never have noticed. That said, I probably tend to read non-fiction about science and history or mysteries slightly more than I might read other books. And I suppose that I always wander into the children’s section just to see what they recommend for my own kids.

Thank you!

Thanks for the great questions!

Spaced Out Cover Image
ollies-odyssey-9781442473553_lgCOMING UP FOR KIDS

Tuesday, April 12, 6 p.m. — William Joyce, author of The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (location: Christ the King School on Belmont)

Saturday, April 16, 2 p.m. — Brooks Benjamin, author of My Seventh Grade Life in Tights

Sunday, April 24, 2 p.m. — Middle Grade Mania with Kristin O’Donnell Tubb(John Lincoln Clem: Civil War Drummer Boy), Gail Nall (Breaking the Ice), and Lois Sepahban (Paper Wishes)

Saturday, May 7, 2 p.m. — Kate DiCamillo, author of several of the best-loved books in our kids’ section, including Because of Winn Dixie, The Tale of Despereaux, Flora and Ulysses, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, The Magician’s Elephant, and the Mercy Watson series, will discuss and sign her upcoming book, Raymie Nightingale. (NOTE: This event is part of the Salon@615 series and takes place at 2 p.m. at the downtown Nashville Public Library.)