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  Q & A 


  • Which was your favorite book to write?                 
  • I love them all.  Every trip and every book is about a different setting, a different history, and on every trip I meet different people.  Wonderful people.   Each adventure has its fascinations.  But I will say that the more time I spend on researching an adventure, the more I get out of it.
  • Do you go on a journey for every book you write?
  • Certainly every nonfiction book I've written stems from an adventure I've taken.  But as with the Lost Treasure of Captain Kidd, my first novel for children, I hope to transform my former journeys into fiction, too.  In order to accomplish this, I might revisit a place like the ancient Mayan city of Palenque in Chiapas, Mexico, to work on the fictional version, but there may be times, also, when I won't actually take a journey to finish up a novel.
  • Do you write fiction, too?
  • Yes.   I'm working on a second historical novel now, this one about the great Incan treasure buried in a cloud forest in the Andes.  Seven hundred tons of Incan gold are still hidden in South America, and I intend to get my characters into those mysterious mountains, maybe to find that darn thing since no living person has actually seen the gold, and since so many real people have died and gone crazy in their searches.
  • Where was your first journey?
  • My first journey took place in the jungles of Ecuador when I graduated from college.  I was planning to become an anthropologist, actually a physical anthropologist with a specialty in the study of living monkeys.  No one had ever studied the monkeys of Ecuador.  But it was during those years that I just happened to hear the story of the Incan treasure, and so I decided to look for the gold and to write nonfiction accounts of that story (Sweat of the Sun, Tears of the Moon; The Lost Treasure of the Inca).  It was the story of the Incan gold that turned me into a writer.  All writers need stories and this one was the one that got me going on my other adventures.
  • Which journey was your favorite?
  • Again, no journey is my favorite.  I love them all for different reasons.  This question is like asking: Who do you love more?  Your brother or your sister?  The answer is that I love my sister for certain reasons, and I love my brother for other ones.  Every journey is different.
  • How did you start traveling?
  • I started traveling in the summer between my eleventh and twelfth grades.  I worked on a Roman excavation on the island of Majorca in Spain.  On weekends, I worked for an archaeologist who was excavating a prehistoric rock shelter in another part of the island.  I particularly loved the study of ancient bones and artifacts.  The older bones the better, until I ended up during the next summer, right before college, working with the Leakeys in Nairobi, Kenya.
  • Will your kids be explorers like you?
  • You know, it is often true that when a father or mother loves one thing, their kids love something quite different.  I doubt my kids will travel in the same way I do.  I know they do not love canoes as I do.  But they both have the adventuring spirit, and it remains to be seen exactly how that spirit will drive their lives.
  • How many places have you been to? 
  • More than I can count.
  • When will you stop traveling?
  • I hope to travel for years to come.
  • What kind of pets do you have?
  • At home we have a soft-spoken golden retriever, a fierce Alaskan Husky, an extremely confident but not-quite-macho cat, two green basilisks, four geckos, five chickens, and tons of mice in the basement.
  • How many friends do you have from your journeys? 
  • As I tell kids in schools, the best part of my job is making friends with people along the trail.  I meet so many wonderful people, old, young, scientists, experts, conservationists, etc.  I really love geezers and geezerettes because the older people in our societies have great stories to tell.
  • Where were you born?
  • I was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, when my father was still in law school.
  • What's your next trip?
  • I've been working in Barrow, Alaska, for the past year and plan to return in September.
  • Will you ever retire? 
  • Never.  How could I retire from a job that I love?  Research and writing are forms of exploration.  And I love to explore.  When the knees give out, with any luck I'll turn to an active life of the imagination.
  • Do you like writing books?
  • I love writing books.   I love everything about the process: the research; the journeys; the first draft; the revisions; the designing of text and photographs; and then of course seeing the final product.  There's nothing like seeing the final form of the book after years of planning and preparing for it.
  • When do you have time to write your books? 
  • It is often the case that people with the least amount of time are the ones who produce the most amount of material.  There is a lot to be said for staying curious and active.  Curiosity, enthusiasm, love of people and learning is like the ultimate coffee.



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