Ask Eric

Eric enjoys answering questions from his readers. Submit a question and it might even be posted here on his website.

Hello, Everybody! I enjoy answering your questions. However, the volume of questions has become HUGE! As much as I would like to write an answer for all of you, I’m afraid I just don’t have the time. I’m going to pick a few questions to answer. Don’t be discouraged. If I don’t select your question, send me another.

Quinn from Maryland writes: What is the point of Jack’s Giant Barbecue?

Eric answers: I get this sort of question a lot. I think parents and teachers are telling children that every story needs a point, a lesson, a moral to be worthwhile. I disagree. My goal is to tell a good story. I often like to take an old familiar tale like Jack and the Beanstalk and move it around to see what happens. I moved it to Texas, stuck in a barbecue and a juke box that plays old Country hits and ended up with Jack’s Giant Barbecue. It’s a good story. That’s all it has to be. So what’s the point? My point is I love to find ways to make old stories new. That’s all I care about.

Liam from Maryland writes: I’ll bet you that you don’t like when you make your mistakes after you published it but how do you fix it if it is already published?

Eric answers: Excellent question, Liam. You can’t do anything about errors once the book is published. That’s why you take a lot of time and care as you revise to make sure the manuscript is the way you want it. My editor and a copy editor also go over the book to make sure there are no factual errors or inconsistencies in the story. Errors do creep in sometimes. There’s nothing you can do about. Usually, no one notices. On occasion a reader will write to say, “Did you know that on page 27…?” I acknowledge the error and compliment the reader for having sharp eyes. We’re all human. We all make mistakes. Nobody’s perfect. On to the next!

Richard Figge from The College of Wooster writes: A couple of years ago you were kind enough to permit me to read your story Hershel and the Hannukah Goblins on my radio program For Reading Out Loud on The College of Wooster’s Non-commercial station WCWS. I have had requests to present it again as Hannukah begins and am writing to ask your permission once more.
Many thanks and every good wish.

Eric answers: I would have written back to you directly if you had given me your email address. This is an odd way of getting the permission to you, so I hope it works. You certainly do have my permission to read Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins on Station WCWS. Wish all my friends in Wooster a Happy Hanukkah and Happy Holidays. (Write back to let me know you received this message.)

Amelia, Della, and Megan from Maryland write: Are you ever going to write another Anansi story?

Eric answers: I’m afraid not. I haven’t written a story about Anansi in several years. My artist friend, Janet Stevens, wanted to work on other projects after we finished the 5th book. You should check out some of the books she’s done with her sister, Susan Stevens Crummel. They’re some of my favorites. I also had other projects myself. I might do another Anansi story in the future. For right now, nothing’s in the works. However, if you love Anansi, see if you can find more books and stories about him in the library. I can suggest Philip Sherlock, Gerald MacDermott, Harold Courlander, and Joyce Cooper Arkhurst as authors who have written fine books about Anansi.

Mya from Maryland writes: Who are some of the people that inspired you to be an author?

Eric answers: Other authors, mostly. I never met an author before I began my career. Some of my favorite writers are Hans Christian Andersen, the Grimm Brothers, Robert Louis Stevenson, Mark Twain, and a long-forgotten writer whose books I adored and read many times: Harold Lamb. He wrote histories and adventure stories set in the Middle East and Central Asia. Far more exciting than anything going on around me at the time.

Dayani from Maryland writes: What is your next book about?

Eric answers: My next book, coming out in August is called Hank and Gertie. It’s a Hansel and Gretel story set on the Oregon Trail.

Clara from Maryland writes: What can I do to become a good writer?

Eric answers: Write every day. Become a good reader. Read the best books you can find. That’s how to learn what good writing looks like and sounds like. Ask a teacher or librarian for recommendation.

Jaslyn from Maryland writes: What is your favorite color?

Eric answers: Green. Why is that important?

Shane from Maryland writes: What is your favorite animal?

Eric answers: I like all animals. I am partial to those most people don’t like: spiders and snakes.

Clara from Maryland writes: What inspired you to make Anansi and the Talking Melon?

Eric answers: The idea began with Janet Stevens, who illustrated all the Anansi books that I’ve done. Janet mentioned that she wanted to draw Anansi getting stuck. He gets in a tight place and can’t get out. I immediately thought of the story of Winnie-The-Pooh visiting Rabbit, eating too much, and not being able to fit through the door. Janet and I started tossing ideas around and that’s how the Talking Melon came about.

Alexander from Maryland writes: Are you going to make a new book soon?

Eric answers: I have one book coming out this spring, another this summer, and a third sometimes in the future.

Kate from Maryland writes: Do you have any pets and do you want a certain kind of pet?

Eric answers: We have a poodle, a cat, a snake, and tropical fish. I’d love to have a horse, but I doubt that will happen.

Nadia from Maryland writes: How long does it usually take you to write a book?

Eric answers: It takes as long as it takes. Every book is different. What counts is how well it’s written, not how quickly. It’s not a race.

Liam from Maryland writes: If I want to be an artist, how do I start to write books?

Eric answers: Being an author and an illustrator are two different things. Do you want to draw or do you want to write? Either way, start doing it now. Are there classes in your area to help you develop your skills? Take them if you can. The more you learn, the more you work at it, the better your skills will be.

Kathy from Maryland writes: If you could rewrite the ending of one of your books, which one would it be and what would the new ending be?

Eric answers: I’d probably go back to the original way I ended Jack and the Giant Barbecue. The giant is killed when he falls out of the sky. Jack barbecues him and serves him up to the customers in his barbecue shack. I thought that was a fitting ending. My editor didn’t.

Bella from Maryland writes: Is there anything that kids can do to help people?

Eric answers: You must be a kind and thoughtful person to ask that question. There’s plenty that kids can do. I can’t give you specific suggestions because I live on the other side of the country. Talk to your parents, teachers, and other adults in your community for ideas.

Jayden from Maryland writes: Can you write a book like kind of more royal and with princes and stuff?

Eric answers: I could if I wanted to, but I don’t want to. I can never figure out why people who usually aren’t very talented, intelligent, good-looking, or well-educated deserve to live in palaces and have everyone else bowing down to them. Most royals have terrible childhoods and lead unhappy lives. They often come to bad ends. Read about real royals, not fantasy ones, and you’ll see what I mean. (Princess Diana; Edward VIII; Louis XVI; Tsar Nicholas II and his family; Mary, Queen of Scots.)

Sebastian from Maryland writes: What was the title of the first book you made as a kid?

Eric answers: I didn’t write books as a kid. I was 22 when I first began writing professionally.

Maggie from Maryland writes: I love writing and consider being a writer. Any tips?

Eric answers: Good for you, Maggie! Go for it. The best advice I can give you is to be a good reader. Search out the best books you can find. Ask your librarian for recommendations. Start reading as a writer. When you find a book that you really like, ask yourself what the author is doing to make the story so interesting. Is there anything you can adopt for your own writing. Write every day, even if it’s just a note to  yourself or a diary entry. Writers write. Writing is a skill. The more you do, the better you get. Good luck! I’ll be watching for you on the bestseller lists in a few years.

Ms. Frank’s class from Maryland asked a lot of questions. Here are the answers:

1. What was your favorite book that you made?

It’s impossible to pick a favorite book. My books are like my kids and I love them all, although they are different from each other.

2. What made you want to become an author?

I chose to become an author because no other career seemed as exciting or interesting.

3. How many books have you written?

Close to 140, the last time I counted.

4. How did you get inspiration for Iron John?

Check out the original story in Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

5. What inspires you to write stories?

I don’t need inspiration. It’s what I enjoy doing most.

6. Is writing books interesting?

It is for me. If it weren’t, I wouldn’t do it.

7. Are you proud of your writing?

Better believe it!

8. Do you write books for adults?

No. I don’t think adults are very interesting.

9. Can you write another Greek myths book?

I’ve suggested it. The publisher didn’t show much interest in another collection.

10. Who is your favorite Greek god?

Hephaistos. The other gods underestimate him.

11. Is it hard to create a book?

Doing anything worthwhile takes time and dedication. I think it’s worth it.

12. Why do you call your work area your hobbit hole?

Do you know J.R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings triology and his single adventure, The Hobbit? Read about hobbits and you’ll know why.

13. Why did you write the Greek myths book?

Because I’ve loved those stories since I was your age.

14. What was your first car?

Who cares? Ask me something about writing.

15. What is your favorite video game?

I don’t play them. I think they’re a waste of time. I’d rather be reading something.

16. How old are you?

Old enough

Do you have a question you’d like to ask Eric? Send it in.

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