Did you like reading and writing as a student?
When I was young, my parents didn't encourage it, but I wished they had. I did like writing, however. I remember taking a piece of paper to bed with me and writing down any ideas I had then.
Which of the books you have written was your favorite to write?
That's a hard question! It's almost like asking a parent who his/her favorite child is. The book I'm currently writing is always my favorite at the time, as the characters are in my head. I feel extra close to Petey because that story is mostly true about a real man I adopted as my grandfather.
What made you write the book Sparrow Hawk Red?
I was born and raised in Bolivia, South America and I was teased a lot because of the color of my skin. I reversed the story with this book. I also love to fly and soloed an airplane when I was 16 years old.
What made you become an author (as a career choice)?
I never wanted to become an author, but I liked capturing ideas on paper and always wanted to do things differently. In college, one of my teachers liked my writing and encouraged me.
How many years have you been writing books?
I started in 1984 full time. It took me almost 6 years and 127 rejections before "Rescue Josh McGuire" was published.
How long did you have Buffy, your black bear?
I had Buffy for over 25 years. He was born Jan. 24 and he was a 16 week old cub when I got him. When he was hibernating, I'd go sit in his "den" with him and I'd write. I don't think people should raise wild animals, but Buffy had been used for research, and they were going to kill him if I didn't adopt him.
Do you travel much to research your books?
Yes. I've been all through South America and to the North Pole. I've gone undercover with narcotics agents. I've also worked with dolphins in Florida and lived with homeless kids on the streets in Mexico.
What was is like taking care of a bear?
It was challenging, but wonderful. He was my close friend and he definitely thought that he owned me, not the other way around. He usually started his hibernation the second week in October and he'd continue to hibernate until the third week in March. During the rest of the year, I tried to spend about 4 hours a day with him. Wild animals really should be left to the wild, but I am grateful I had this rare opportunity to grow and learn by having Buffy in my life.
How long did you have the two little cubs which were the "soul of the story" for Rescue Josh McGuire?
We only had them for two weeks. We pulled them through and they survived only to be destroyed by Fish and Game. This was my story. Whenever something makes you laugh or cry, that "something" is a story which should be told.
What do you say to people who think you should write a book about yourself, including what it was like being homeless in Mexico?
Every time I write a book, it really is about myself. Each book has many elements that are from my own life experiences.
When you ride in your plane, can you do any loops like in Sparrow Hawk Red?
Yes, I really enjoy acrobatics; I do barrel rolls and loops.
Could you give us a short summary about your book Stranded?
It's about a young girl who loses her leg in a car accident and doesn't handle it very well. She spends time near the ocean and finds a stranded whale. Through her experiences with the whale, she learns lessons about herself.
How long does it take to write one book?
About 2 months of research. Then it takes approximately 4 months to write a rough draft, and then 6 months to rewrite. I spend more time rewriting, so in a way I should be called a rewriter instead of a writer.
Will you write more books for young adults like us (because I really like your books)?
Thank you, that's nice of you. I sure will continue! I hope I never grow up!
When you were little, did you ever think you'd have a bear like Buffy when you grew up?
No, I sure didn't. I remember watching "Gentle Ben" and thinking how neat it would be to have an animal that loved and trusted you so much.
How did you get the name for your bear Buffy?
By the time he reached 700 pounds, Buffy had definitely out grown his name. When we originally thought of the name, we were thinking of a cute little cub.
What did you want to be when you were young?
I think I wanted to be a fireman and to live in the woods.
When you were young, did you have animals?
Yes, the only thing about my animals is that some of them came from South America; I had a sloth and a quadmonday, a type of monkey-raccoon cross, along with dogs and cats.