A: Actually, almost nobody asks me this but I wish they would, because most people mispronounce it. It's pronounced 'Reeseman', not 'Riceman'. There - now you know.
Q: How many Simon Bloom books are there (and what's going on with book 3)?
A: There are currently two books available – SIMON BLOOM, THE GRAVITY KEEPER and SIMON BLOOM: THE OCTOPUS EFFECT. The publication of the third book, SIMON BLOOM: THE ORDER OF CHAOS has been delayed, but my agents and I are working to make it available as soon as possible. For more information, watch this incredibly amateurish video filmed and edited by me:
Q: Is there going to be a SIMON BLOOM movie?
A: I hope so. THE GRAVITY KEEPER movie deal is in the process of moving over to Walden Media, the makers of many great movies like HOLES and the NARNIA series. (Walden Media's book-division is also the co-publisher of THE GRAVITY KEEPER and THE OCTOPUS EFFECT.) Stay posted for updates...
Q: What are you working on right now?
A: Well, I'm pretty wiped out from making that video. (Feel free to watch it again...) Other than that, I'm putting the finishing touches on a YA urban fantasy and a middle grade sci-fi/ adventure that my agents will be showing to publishers in the new year. What are they about? Not telling you yet, but the working titles are ACCIDENTAL NECROMANCE (YA) and WELCOME TO THE IMPOSSIBLE (mid-grade). I'll let you know more as things progress...
Q: Is SIMON BLOOM, THE GRAVITY KEEPER your first book?
A: Nope, my fifth...it's just the first to be published.
Q: What are the other books about?
A: Some are sci-fi, some are not, some are middle grade/YA, some are not.
Q: Did you always want to be a writer?
A: No...in fact, when I was younger I used to draw a lot and thought it would be fun to be a cartoonist. I was pretty lazy about it, though - I can only really doodle.
Q: So when did you start writing?
A: I've always liked coming up with stories in my head, but I used to only write them down for class assignments that allowed creative essays. After I graduated college in 1994, I decided to try writing a book. I also worked at various jobs in the movie/ TV industry and basically stopped writing until 1998. It was then that I decided to really give novel-writing a chance.
Q: Do you always talk this much? Can't you give short answers?
A: I usually talk even more. Brace yourself.
Q: What's the deal with the titles and covers of your books? Did you come up with them? Why did they change?
A: I did not come up with the title for book 1; the original title was THE TEACHER'S EDITION. The folks at my publishing house suggested THE GRAVITY KEEPER, which I like a lot. Once we added SIMON BLOOM to it, I was delighted. For books 2 and 3, I came up with the titles OCTOPUS EFFECT and ORDER OF CHAOS. As for the cover art, people at Penguin came up with the concepts but I have to say, I love them! They changed the covers to make them more active and to give a better sense of what the books are about, which I think is great.
Q: Are any parts of your books based on real people or places?
A: Short answer -- Yes. Not-so-short-answer -- Versions of real people/ places have found their way into the SIMON BLOOM books, including a few teachers, classmates, and locations. There really is a small forest around the corner from where I grew up, there really is an elementary school a short walk away, and there is a pizza place that a bunch of kids used to walk to. No one character is based solely on one person, but rather a mix of people...names and personalities have been changed to protect privacy (and, um, to avoid lawsuits). But there are definitely versions of my high school science teachers, math teachers, and English teachers in there. There is also a lot of me in the main characters, especially the Narrator. (I only wear a bathrobe when impersonating the Narrator, though.)
Q: Why do you write for kids?
A: To be honest, the first few books I wrote were for adults. During my work for Nickelodeon, I read Lemony Snicket's SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS and saw just how clever and fun kids' books could be. I started playing with two different concepts and tried writing two different books at the same time. One was something I'll revisit and rewrite eventually, and the other was an idea I'd had about a person who could control the laws of science. In the future, I will continue to write for young readers as well as work on stuff for older readers, too.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for SIMON BLOOM, THE GRAVITY KEEPER?
A: Yeesh...this'll be a long answer. I always liked science in high school and college, but I never liked the math side of it. I liked finding out how things around me worked, and I also liked that new stuff was always being discovered. A big part of science is the possibility that laws and theories will be expanded upon or disproven by some experiment or occurrence. I was intrigued by the notion that there must be higher understandings of modern science and thought it would be interesting if people with a good enough grasp of science could control it in amazing ways. (There's a great quote by science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke: "In a primitive culture, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.".) I even thought of a superhero whose power was to actually break the laws of science at will. (The name I thought of for him was The Lawbreaker. How original, right?) When I started thinking of it in terms of a book for kids, I thought of a logical parallel to the classic spell book: a Teacher's Edition with the answers in it, like my teachers used in school. Only these books had the answers to the universe!
Q: So wait, aren't you some kinda scientist?
A: Not at all. I just did a lot of research through textbooks, websites, and make-science-easier books to figure out how I might use science as a form of magic. I have some friends with science backgrounds that I asked for help, and I even got a physicist-friend to proofread the book and tell me what does and doesn't work. Most of the science use in the book is accurate, assuming there was a way to control physics via spoken formulas. Since we don't know what would really happen if someone could alter the laws of the universe like that, I gave myself some leeway.
Q: Why do you write about science?
A: Because I think a lot of science is interesting stuff. The more I find out about how the world (and universe) around me works, the more amazing it seems.
Q: Are you a full-time writer?
A: Not quite. Though I spend most of my time doing book-stuff, I also work as a Story Analyst for Dreamworks Animation. That's a fancy way of saying 'reader of scripts and books.' I've been doing that for a while - I've also worked for Nickelodeon Movies and TV, Cartoon Network, Fox TV Studios, and several other companies. It's a great job - flexible hours and I can work from wherever I want. (Often from home or from cafes.)(In fact, I'm writing this in a cafe right now...)
Q: Who's your favorite character in SIMON BLOOM, THE GRAVITY KEEPER? Who do you relate to most?
A: The first part is easy to answer, but it makes me sound very conceited. I really enjoy writing the Narrator parts (I often laugh out loud while I'm writing), but I'm told that he sounds a lot like me (though I'm not British). As far as who I relate to most, hmm. The three main characters - Simon, Owen, and Alysha - all have certain parts of my personality in them: Simon's very active imagination, Owen's energetic and fast-talking way, and Alysha's stubborn, often confrontational nature. So I can definitely relate to them. But they're different than me in many ways, too.
Q: If you could have one formula, what would it be?
A: Aw, that's not fair - I'd want to be Simon, who can have so many. But fine, I'll answer. I used to think I'd want to be able to control gravity like Simon does, and I still think that'd be a lot of fun. But I've been thinking more and more about space-time and what I could do with that. In books 2 and 3, I'll be playing around with it more and, if the series continues on beyond that, I'll experiment more with it.
Q: Will there be more books beyond book 3?
A: Only time will tell...
Q: Can you visit my school/ library/ power plant/ etc.?
A: I'd love to! There's info about my visits on a separate tab (um, the one labeled Visits)...