Author Interview: Gary Paulsen
By Amanda Lynch, The Children’s Book Review
Published: January 26, 2009
Gary Paulsen never ceases to amaze. He’s done it all—from when he ran away at age 14 to join a carnival to competing in the Iditarod to winning awards for his writing. The author of over 200 books has two more coming out this year—and has another on the way! He took time out of his very busy schedule to answer some questions about his new historical fiction novel, Woods Runner.
Amanda: Mr. Paulsen, I’m thrilled to be able to interview you! I grew up reading Hatchet and The River, and am excited that you have come out with another historical fiction novel. What made you decide to write about the American Revolution?
Gary: I’ve been reading and researching various aspects of history–Dickens’ London, Nelson’s sea battles, Magellan’s nautical explorations, the weapons and battles and key figures of the American Civil War–for most of my life. I pick up a book here or there or see a documentary or talk with an expert in the subject, and my curiosity about the one area of study and discovery always leads to another. So I can’t rightly say where deciding to write about the American Revolution came from; I had bits and pieces of information about the war and about the country at that time that I’d collected over the years and, of course, I’m comfortable in the woods, so, finally, it just all feel into place.
Amanda: I couldn’t help but notice that Samuel encounters a plight in Woods Runner similar to that of Brian in your earlier series: he’s a boy alone in the wild having to fend for himself. What made you decide to go this route with the character of Samuel?
Gary: I am happiest in the brush and by myself–whether that’s the woods of northern Minnesota or the wilds of Alaska behind a dogteam, picking through the foothills of the mountains by my ranch in New Mexico on horseback, or on the ship of my sailboat on the Pacific–so I guess it made sense to me that both Brian and Samuel would find their challenges and adventures, if that’s what you call them, in the woods.
Amanda: What did you hope to convey to the reader about the nature of war through Samuel’s story?
Gary: That the essence of war is insanity. Destruction, death, women widowed, children orphaned, lands plundered, property destroyed, lives decimated–it’s all bad.
Amanda: How true to real life is Samuel’s story?
Gary: As real as I could make it. He’s a fictional character, of course, I made him up, but I tried to stay true to what his life would have been like at that time and what I know he would have experienced getting by in the woods.
Amanda: Did you always want to be a writer?
Gary: No. It was a sudden and unexpected change of heart. I’d been an engineer in aerospace and pushed back from the work desk one night and headed for Hollywood to find writers and learn how to write.
Amanda: You’ve written over 200 books. Where do you go to find your inspiration for new stories?
Gary: Personal inspection at zero altitude. The stories come from my life–if not my own experiences, then about topics and subjects that interest me.
Amanda: What other projects are you currently working on?
Gary: I’m working on a book about a kid who has a series of catastrophic, death-defying disastrous adventures that nearly kill him and his buddies. And another book about a kid who’s a real smart aleck, things he has all the answers and knows everything when, in fact, he knows nothing and keeps getting in trouble for it. And I’m writing a book about animals–the wonderful way they let you share their lives. We make a mistake in thinking we own pets–the animals open their lives up and make us a part of them. I’m writing another book about a girl in a filthy bad mood, everything just irks her although she’s really a good person at heart, just having a rough run. And a couple others that are too soon to talk about much.
Amanda: What are you doing when you’re not writing books–if you have time outside of that?
Gary: I have my dog kennel in Alaska, and a horse in New Mexico at my ranch and my sailboat on the Pacific. I pick up my laptop and a bunch of notebooks and pencils and I go from one place to the other.
Add this book to your collection: Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen
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