Author Gary Paulsen probably won't read this story for a year. Right after he talked to KidsPost about his newest book, "How Angel Peterson Got His Name," he was setting off in his boat to sail around the world -- alone.
Gary Paulsen is all about adventure. But if you've read his books, you know that. In "Hatchet," he tells of how a boy named Brian Robeson fends for himself after the small plane he is in crashes. In "My Life in Dog Years," he tells about the dogs in his life, including the ones that pulled his sled in the legendary Iditarod race.
"Angel Peterson" is a series of short stories about the wild things that 13-year-old boys do. Like what? Like jumping a bike through a hoop of fire or peeing on an electric fence. They are real stories of things that Gary and his friends did when they were kids. But the thing he learned most in writing it is how little kids have changed since he was 13 (50 years ago).
He talked to Tracy Grant about writing, the adventurous spirits of boys and about not trying these stunts at home!
Why did you write "Angel Peterson"?
I was looking down at my leg one day while I was on my old sailboat and saw this scar on my thigh. I couldn't remember where it came from and then it dawned on me what had happened. I had put a walnut on my leg and then took a hunting knife and tried to cut the walnut on the seam with the knife. It went right through to the bone. Then one time I was speaking to a convention full of grown-ups and it occurred to me to ask the question: "How many men here have peed on an electric fence?" About 200 hands shot up in the air and I realized that 13-year-old boys are pretty much all the same, and I decided to write the book.
The book is dedicated "to all boys in their thirteenth year; the miracle is that we live through it." Talk about that.
It really is a miracle. My son is 32 and he's just now telling me some of the things that he did . . . and thank God he didn't tell me at the time. Some of us never grow out of it.
Is it harder to grow up now than when you were growing up?
Kids today have better equipment. They have helmets. They have better skis and skateboards, but I don't think the basic animal has changed. I think a 12-year-old boy hasn't changed a whole lot as a person. And pretty much they're having the same fun that we did. But it's harder to be young now than it was 50 years ago. There's more to think about, like terrorism.
What is your writing process like and what is the least time and the most time it has taken you to write a book?
I work all the time. On my boat, I have two solar batteries that power my laptop and I just go below and write. I will be researching one or two books while writing two or three others. On a bet, I wrote a Western novel (52,000 words) in 37 hours, and I actually slept seven hours during that period. "Hatchet" took three or four months to write, but it took really 20 years and 4 months because I've done everything in that book.
What are you working on now?
Last week I turned in four books, so my publisher has books for the next two years. I'd like to do a book-length poem. I want to do a book called "The Puberty Journal about Boys," sort of like a step later than "Angel Peterson."
You've written nearly 200 books. Where do you get your ideas?
Mostly from my life or from other people's lives. I write stories about how I've lived through some stuff, like riding Harleys [Harley-Davidson motorcycles], racing the Iditarod, sailing, riding horses.