was your favorite book to write?
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.
you go on a journey for every book you write?
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.
you write fiction, too?
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.
was your first journey?
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.
journey was your favorite?
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
did you start traveling?
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.
your kids be explorers like 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.
many places have you been to?
than I can count.
will you stop traveling?
I hope to travel for years to come.
kind of pets do you have?
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.
many friends do you have from your journeys?
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
were you born?
was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, when my father was still
in law school.
your next trip?
been working in Barrow,
Alaska, for the past year
and plan to return in September.
you ever retire?
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.
you like writing books?
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.
do you have time to write your books?
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.
it downloads onto your computer, it will be called
From A Presentation."
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