How did you come up with the idea for Mice Don’t Taste Like Chicken?
It began back in 6th grade. My teacher dreamed of working in the Reptile House of the San Diego Zoo. Our classroom contained more than a dozen reptiles and amphibians, ranging from a thirteen-inch long gecko to thirteen-foot long Burmese python (named Prometheus). Aside from the animal atmosphere, my teacher changed the way I perceived school. He read us controversial books, played basketball with us on Fridays, and showed passion for everything we learned. It served as the spark for my love of learning to this day.
Two years ago, I participated in a writing workshop called “Tator Tots and Technique.” The presenter challenged us to think back to our school days and write about our memories. The exercises I completed at that workshop became the seed for Mice Don’t Taste Like Chicken.
Who is your favorite character in the book?
Authors, like parents, aren’t supposed to have favorites, but I do. My favorite character is Jackson. He is the comic relief. His jokes, sarcasm, and close friendship with Drew remind me of growing up with my best friends. Also, I enjoy the change Jackson undergoes from the beginning of the book to end.
Are any of the human characters or events based on your own life?
Characters come from the behaviors we observe in those around us. All of the human characters in Mice Don’t Taste Like Chicken are a blend of people I grew up with as well as some of my current students. Sure, some characters are based more on one real person than others, but I’ve changed those names to protect the innocent (or guilty).
I will share that a few of the events in Mice Don’t Taste Like Chicken happened to me, but it’s no fun if I tell you which ones.
If mice don’t taste like chicken, what do they taste like?
The next time I catch one, I’ll let you know.
If you could be any animal in the book, which one would you choose? Why?
I would choose to be Iggy. I can hang on the wires of my sprawling cage most of the day. When I’m hungry, I can climb down to munch on some lettuce leafs and vegetables. If anyone messes with me, I can smack him with my long tail. I’m also a great climber, so escaping and exploring is fun.
Do you have a Writer’s Notebook? If so, what do you keep in there?
I believe every serious writer needs a Writer’s Notebook. I collect quotes, random thoughts, newspaper clippings, comic strips, photos, story ideas, and brainstorming sessions. Nothing is off limits as long as it has the possibility of turning into an idea for my writing. All of my stories began in one of my notebooks. I also love to go back to my old Writer’s Notebooks and see what I collected over the years.
What advice do you have for young writers?
As author Richard Peck says: “Nobody but a reader ever became a writer.” It’s true. You can learn the most about writing by reading works of talented authors. Focus on the genres that interest you because those will be the ones you will write about most. The most important advice I have is to be passionate about what you do. Writing comes from the heart and the head. When you are only writing from one, it’s like you are seesawing alone.
Will there be a sequel to Mice Don’t Taste Like Chicken?
At the moment, the answer is no. An author can never say never, though. There may come a time when a way to continue the journey of one or more of the characters appears. Until then, I will devote my time to creating books students can embrace and enjoy.
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