Space Case, my newest book, will be out in stores on September 16. I’m proud to announce that it has just received a starred review from Kirkus, which is a pretty big deal. (They’re some big shot reviewers, so a starred review from them is a like a five star review from anyone else.) Many of you have been asking for more information on it, so’s another exciting installment of “Answers to Your Burning Questions About…”
What the heck is Space Case about?
It’s the first book in a new mystery series — and this one takes place on the moon. The idea is that, 25 years from now, we have finally started colonizing the moon. The first families have been sent to live at Moon Base Alpha, and the first kids in space have discovered that space travel isn’t nearly as amazing as Star Wars and Star Trek have led us to believe it will be. Twelve-year-old Dash, in particular, is frustrated by the awful food, small living space, horrendous toilets — and the fact that the only other kid there his age is kind of a dork. Then, the base’s renowned doctor dies mysteriously on the surface of the moon. NASA claims its and accident. Dash suspects foul play. So he investigates to find out what really happened and soon finds his own life is in danger as well.
Why are you writing a series that takes place on the moon?
One of my very closest friends was an astronaut. (Yes, an astronaut. Coolest job ever.) Through him, I was lucky enough to tour the Johnson Space Center behind the scenes, get VIP passes to space shuttle launches and send things cool things up to the space station so they could be photographed with earth in the background. Like this:
When my editor and agent found out I knew an astronaut, they immediately suggested that I should write a book with him. That didn’t quite work out, because he was too busy, but I was able to take everything about space travel that I’d learned from him and come up with an idea. One of the big things I’d learned was that traveling in space isn’t quite as glamorous as I had always assumed it was. For example, if you’ve ever seen an IMAX movie about space travel, the spacecraft look enormous inside, but in real life, they’re claustrophobically small. In Spy School, I found a lot of comedy in playing up the differences between the spy world of movies and what spying is like in real life. I thought it’d be fun to do the same thing with space.
So… it’s going to be funny?
Yes. Although there’s also going to be action and suspense. And the book takes place in a somewhat more realistic world than Spy School. I don’t really know what the future of space travel will be like, but I made the most educated guess I could.
Was it fun to write something set in the future?
Actually, that was the hardest part of the book. Writing something only 25 years in the future is kind of weird, because the potential for getting things wrong is enormous. My readers are still going to be around in 25 years. Hopefully, people will still be reading this book in 25 years. So anything that is prescient will seem cool — but anything I get wrong will seem idiotic, probably. Right before I started writing, I watched the second Back to the Future movie. (For those of you who haven’t seen it, the movie takes place in 1985, and they travel to the distant future — of 2015.) They weren’t really shooting for reality in that movie, but it’s amazing how far off they were. Almost nothing they imagined for 2015 has happened yet. They have flying cars everywhere. And flying skateboards. (Or hoverboards, really.) And instant food. And all sorts of other ridiculous stuff. And then, at some point, the hero runs right by a bank of pay phones. They’re videophones, but still… These guys predicted flying cars, but no one had any idea the smartphone was coming.
Will I still like this book if I don’t like science fiction?
I think so. It’s only science fiction in the sense that it’s set in the future. Really, it’s a mystery with some action and adventure and humor in it, just like my other books. I’m guessing that, even if you’re not a fan of sci-fi, you’ve at least wondered what it might be like to live on another planet, or to travel somewhere on a rocket. I know I did as a kid. So this book hopefully taps into that wonder and expands on it.
So now, with this, you’re going to have three book series going: Belly Up, Spy School and Space Case. Why can’t you be like other authors and just stick with one series?
Because there’s too much fun stuff to write about. I love writing, but the idea of only doing one series over and over and over again isn’t that appealing. I love the Belly Up series and the Spy School series, so I can promise you I’m not abandoning them for Space Case. In fact, I’m already at work on new books in both those series that will come out next year. But for now, I like the idea of jumping around between worlds.
You’re not going to start a fourth series, are you?
Not for middle grade.
That’s a kind of a cagey answer. Are you planning something for YA?
Let’s just say I have ideas. But it might be a while before I act on any of them.
Is there anything else I should know about Space Case?
I think that, out of all my books, this one might have the best ending of all of them. I was pretty excited when I came up with it.
What’s so exciting about it?
I’ve already said to much. You’ll just have to wait until September to find out.
Aw, man. That’s months away!
Yes, but it will give you something to look forward to when school starts.