Stuart Gibbs @ P&P :: April 24, 2015

Stuart Gibbs lived in DC (Garrett Park) until first grade and he liked to go to the National Zoo. --> Belly Up, Poached (Fun Jungle series)

Likes James Bond movies --> Spy School series. Kids in DC like this series because the school is in DC (but it's a secret location)

He wanted to be a writer his whole life, but he didn't know how to become one. He studied biology in college because he still didn't know how to become an author, and trained to be a field biologist. But his college was in a big city so they observed animals in zoos instead of the wild. He became the US expert on capybaras, and he got to hang out with zookeepers during his studies and learned about all of the crazy things zookeepers experienced --> the zoo would be a great place to set a story!

Eventually, Gibbs moved out to California to write movies and TV shows but never forgot this idea about setting a story in the zoo. He wanted a fun twist to the story and came up with the idea of an animal murder mystery. He decided on the hippo because it's an animal that people think they know a lot about, but they're actually very dangerous and kill 200 people in Africa every year. He did research on hippos at the San Diego Zoo, and even had to research how to kill hippos and get it fact checked by scientists (who were probably wondering why he wanted to know that). His books have animal biology facts, so Gibbs likes to claim they're still quasi-educational!

The TV show The Big Bang Theory drives him nuts because scientists aren't really like that! He knows scientists who are "much more awesome" than the ones on the show. He likes/respects scientists and wants to showcase them in his books. 

Space Case was inspired by his college friend Garrett Reisman who became an astronaut (he has a Yankees patch on his space suit!). Thanks to Reisman, Gibbs even went to the Johnson Space Center in Florida to watch the launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis. Reisman took the cover of Belly Up to the International Space Station (ISS) (not the whole book because of weight constraints)! Gibbs got an email from Reisman from the ISS, which Gibbs forwarded to everyone he knew, including his editor ... who forward to other publishing folks who thought it would be great to have a middle grade writer who knows an astronaut and can write about it!

Space travel is nothing like Star Wars or Star Trek --> it's much more cramped and uncomfortable/unglamorous than SciFi stories and movies make it out to be. 

Spy School series is not based on anyone he knows or his own personal experience. Instead, they were inspired by James Bond movies he saw as a kid. He wrote a story about Jimmy Bond (007's son): The Kid with the Golden Water Pistol. (He wrote it as a comedy because most people couldn't be like James Bond. What would happen if you drop a "regular" person in spy situations?) If Jimmy wanted to be a spy he would have to go to a spy school because his dad would be too busy to teach him how to be a spy. That idea stuck with him until he was an adult. 

How did Evil Spy School come along? Even evil organizations need to train their minions!

Gibbs recommends books by Carl Hiaasen and Michael Crichton, and Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce and The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. 

Two new books coming out soon: Big Game (Fun Jungle series) and Spaced Out (spring 2016, Space Case series)

Fun fact: There's an editing error in the Spy School series -- he told the same joke in both Spy School and Evil Spy School!

Random fact: When I mentioned I worked as a school librarian in Manhattan Beach (a suburb of LA), he asked me if I worked at Grand View Elementary. I didn't but I know the librarian there, and I mentioned how she was lucky to have had a NYT bestselling author as one of her volunteers. Turns out Gibbs and I both know him (I'm a friend of his wife's) -- what a small world!

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