Tony Abbott is an author with over 80 books to his credit and numerous awards and nominations. He has completed degrees in music psychology and English. He took some time to answer 20 questions for Book Reviews and More, we thank him for taking the time and hope you enjoy the interview.
1. You have published over 80 books in 16 years and the few I have read were amazing, to what do you attribute such copious output?
I suppose I established myself early on as someone who could write series books. I don't think everyone jumps at the chance, because deadlines are many and fairly severe. You have to be able to promise a finished book every few months, to keep the publishing schedule going. My first book, Danger Guys, back in 1994 was the first of a series, and for a while, that's all I wrote, for various publishers. That's why so many books over a relatively small time period. It's not something I'm especially proud of, that number. It's just something that happens with series.
2. I have read that over 12 Million copies of your books have been sold worldwide and published in over a half dozen languages (Italian, Spanish, Korean, French, Japanese, Polish, Turkish, and Russian). That is amazing success in a relatively short time. Are there any other translation projects currently in the works?
Thanks. There are some odd ones - Slovene and Czech come to mind. It's a wonderful feeling to think that children in other countries are picking up your books, just as we in North America read, say, Cornelia Funke or some other European writer. It is a privilege to be read so widely.
3. With so many books published do you have a favorite book you have written or a favorite series?
The Secrets of Droon will always be my favorite series, I think, because it's gone on for eleven years and over 40 books, all of which I've written myself. There is something wonderful that happens over such a long run. The characters become family in a very deep way. Of the novels, perhaps Firegirl is my favorite, because it's a personal story. Although, favorites change from time to time. The Postcard, too, because of the two main characters, Jason and Dia. They are, to me, very funny together. I love the life they have.
4. You have mentioned that your writing was sparked by reading books to your own children, what were your favorite books to read together as a family when your girls were young?
We did read a lot. James Marshall and William Steig. William Joyce. The sorts of picture books that you can read over and over because there is real wit behind it. Parents are also being written to in the best of these stories: the Fox books, The Cut-Ups (I love those books). Brave Irene, Doctor DeSoto. At Christmastime, we would read from Washington Irving's Christmas stories, and, of course, Dickens's A Christmas Carol. I'm lucky enough to have an 1846 edition of that book.
5. Danger Guys was your first published book, but you have elsewhere mentioned previously written books. Have any of them since been published or with your popularity would you like to go back and publish them now?
When one starts writing, there are a lot of things that seem not terrible, but that probably shouldn't be brought into the light. I would rewrite anything from the early days, in the light of my experience. It would probably become a completely new work.
6. What does your writing process look like? Takes us through the steps from idea to publishing?
Big question. I have found that most books come about from a collision of several ideas. One idea does not go far, there has to be a tension, and interaction of several, and then something wonderful begins to happen. Life grows on the page. I will sketch out a story on paper, with pencil, for the longest time, until it seems right to begin typing it all into the computer. Then I print it out and start again on paper, honing down the initial mess of a first draft into something that looks like a story. There is a succession of drafts like this, drafts that I wouldn't want anyone ever to see, before I get to a place where the story begins to work on its own. Then the draft changes dwindle and finally I polish the manuscript to a point at which my editor can see it. There are additional, and sometimes many, changes after that. Maybe two more drafts before the book is ready for typesetting (if that's still what that procedure is called). Initial pages come next. Sketches of the illustrations and cover. Final pages. Then the book. We are talking at least a year from the beginning to the end of what I've described here.
7. Your books and series cover such different topics, worlds and characters. How do you come up with so many different worlds and series ideas?
As I often tell school children, the problem is not where to find ideas, it's that everything IS an idea. What you see, hear, feel, think about. What you read. What happens in your world. What happens in the world of your imagination. And once the characters come to life on your desk, the ideas come even more quickly and interestingly.
8. What of your books or series are you most proud of and why?
Well, the 44 Droon books, of course. They are a major achievement, if only for me. Of the novels, Firegirl is probably the best. But I have a new book coming out next year, Lunch-Box Dream, from Farrar Straus Giroux, and I am very proud of this story. I've just seen the advance reading copies, and they are lovely. I'm proud and excited about the whole package.
9. You books are published and marked for children and teen, and yet I have recommended The Haunting of Derek Stone to about a dozen adults who have all loved it. Have you considered remarketing some of your books as omnibuses for the adult market?
Wouldn't that be fun? I confess that I write books I, as an adult, would like to read, so it's no surprise that adult readers sometimes find them appealing. I have thought about reworking Derek Stone into a single fat volume for older, perhaps adult, readers. But my publisher is not as interested in the idea as I am. In fact, the novel coming out next year, Lunch-Box Dream, for the longest time seemed to me an adult book. We'll see if there is any crossover of readership for that one.
10. Have you ever considered publishing some of your poetry?
11. You have stated one of your biggest inspirations for writing is "I love being with the characters I create and seeing what kind of adventures they get into (and out of!)" I once heard Madeleine L'Engle state that her characters were real to her and almost an extended part of her family, she said once that at the dinner table she sat up and stated "Meg just finished her PhD." Does that same sort of thing happen to you? Can you give us an example?
It does feel that way. There are characters that continue after the stories are written, just because of the very realness of them. I wish I could come up with an example. Perhaps the best I can do is to say that the main character of Lunch-Box is one I will write about again, and I have begun sketching out the story, which will be a lighter look at the person who is somewhat dark in the original book.
12. You have mentioned have a long term story arch for the Secrets of Droon book? Do you have a feeling how many more books might occur in that world?
I could have gone on for some time, but in fact the final book appears this year. It's called The Final Quest, and is Special Edition #8, the 44th book. Last year, the publisher and I talked, and they told me that it was probably time. Series of any kind, television included, don't often go as long as Droon has, so it has been a great run. In that last book, I tried to bring in as many of the favorite characters and places and storylines as I possibly could. It was a task, and a sort of melancholy task at that, but the book is one that I am very happy with. You know, it's like sending your child out into the world. I view it as that.
13. There are rumors that your book Kringle is in preproduction for a film to be released in 2011, have any of your other works been optioned for either the large or small screen?
Well, the movie thing is dead. Kringle was optioned, twice, for a period of about three years. Progress was being made. Then - poof. Nothing. The option expires, the director, writer, producer go their separate ways, and the ground is raked behind them so that you can't read any of the footprints. That's Hollywood. Some of my work has been optioned, but nothing has come of it. The story I would probably most like to see on the screen is The Postcard. It's very visual. A Florida mystery over six decades.
14. What are some of your favorite films?
Chinatown, The Thief of Baghdad (the Steve Reeves version), there are others that escape me.
15. Who were some of your favorite authors or books in your youth?
Well, The Wind in the Willows takes first spot. Johnny's Space Trip, a very unpolitically correct tale. Huckleberry Hound Builds a House. Hardy Boys, of course. I read dozens of them.
16. Who are some of your favorite authors or books now?
I don't read many children's books, but I do like people like Kevin Henkes, Karen Hesse, and Walter Dean Myers, real writers. Adult writers include William Faulkner, Carson McCullers, Richard Wright, Tonie Morrison, Truman Capote, Flannery O'Connor, James Agee, Ralph Ellison; mostly Southern writers, for some reason. Also Terry Pratchett, Charles Dickens, and P. G. Wodehouse. Oh, and Robert Frost, Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney, James Joyce, John Updike, Langston Hughes.
17. As a former librarian what ten books would you recommend for teen readers?
Of course, I have never been a librarian, as one of my bios happens to state. I worked in a college library for several years, but not in a professional position. And ten books! Gosh, that's a hard one. Well . . .
The Member of the Wedding (McCullers) The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald) To Kill a Mockingbird (Lee) Witness (Hesse) Out of the Dust (Hesse) The Golden Compass (Pullman) Lily's Crossing (Giff) All We Know of Love (Baskin) Mexican White-Boy (de la Pena) Small Gods (Pratchett)
18. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?
Another list of ten!
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (McCullers) Breakfast at Tiffany's (Capote) The Sound and the Fury (Faulkner) As I Lay Dying (Faulkner) Other Voices, Other Rooms (Capote) A Portrait of the Artist as Young Man (Joyce) Station Island (Heaney) Bleak House (Dickens) Invisible Man (Ellison) Beloved (Morrison)
19. What advice would you give to teens today, to your readers, what gems of knowledge have you gleaned in life that you would pass on?
Try to do everything (non-risky), read everything, open your mind to the possibilities of life and people, imagine a better world, love the world in all its beauty and horror.
20. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists?
Same as above.
Tony live in Connecticut with his wife and daughters. With his success and scheduled he is still very approachable and always willing to interact with his reads, fans and students. You can find out more about him and his ever increasing number of upcoming projects on his website tonyabbottbooks.com. Though his books are published for children and young adults I am sure readers of all ages will enjoy them so pick one up and give it a try. Thank you again Tony for taking the time to respond.
Books By Tony Abbott:
1. The Crazy Case of Missing Thunder (2012)
2. The Startling Story of the Stolen Statue (2012)
3. Superhero Silliness (2012)
4. The Mysterious Talent Show Mystery (2013)
5. The Scary Story of the Ha-Ha-Haunted House (2013)
1. The Battle Begins (2012)
2. When Monsters Escape (2012)
3. Revenge of the Scorpion King (2013)
4. The Ice Dragon (2013)
1. Danger Guys (1994)
2. Danger Guys Blast Off (1994)
3. Hollywood Halloween (1994)
4. Danger Guys Hit the Beach (1995)
5. Danger Guys on Ice (1995)
6. Danger Guys and the Golden Lizard (1996)
1. Space Bingo (1996)
2. Orbit Wipeout! (1995)
3. Mondo Meltdown (1996)
4. Into the Zonk Zone! (1996)
5. Splash Crash (1997)
6. Zero Hour (1997)
7. Shock Wave (1997)
8. Doom Star (1997)
1. Zombie Surf Commandos from Mars (1996)
2. The Incredible Shrinking Kid (1996)
3. The Beast from Beneath the Cafeteria! (1996)
4. Attack of the Alien Mole Invaders! (1996)
5. The Brain That Wouldn't Obey! (1996)
6. Gigantopus from Planet X! (1997)
7. Cosmic Boy Versus Mezmo Head! (1997)
8. Revenge of the Tiki Men! (1997)
Secrets of Droon
1. The Hidden Stairs and the Magic Carpet (1999)
2. Journey to the Volcano Palace (1999)
3. The Mysterious Island (1999)
4. City in the Clouds (1999)
5. The Great Ice Battle (1999)
6. The Sleeping Giant of Goll (2000)
7. Into the Land of the Lost (2000)
8. The Golden Wasp (2000)
9. Tower of the Elf King (2000)
10. Quest for the Queen (2000)
11. The Hawk Bandits of Tarkoom (2000)
12. Under the Serpent Sea (2001)
13. The Mask of Maliban (2001)
14. Voyage of the Jaffa Wind (2002)
15. The Moon Scroll (2002)
16. The Knights of Silversnow (2002)
Special Edition 1. The Magic Escapes (2002)
17. Dream Thief (2003)
18. Search for the Dragon Ship (2003)
19. The Coiled Viper (2003)
20. In The Ice Caves of Krog (2003)
21. Flight of the Genie (2003)
Special Edition 2. Wizard or Witch? (2004)
22. The Isle of Mists (2004)
23. The Fortress of the Treasure Queen (2004)
24. Race To Doobesh (2005)
25. The Riddle Of Zorfendorf Castle (2005)
Special Edition 3. Voyagers of the Silver Sand (2005)
26. The Moon Dragon (2006)
27. The Chariot of Queen Zara (2006)
28. In the Shadow of Goll (2006)
Special Edition 4. Sorcerer (2006)
29. Pirates of the Purple Dawn (2007)
30. Escape from Jabar-Loo (2007)
31. Queen of Shadowthorn (2007)
Special Edition 5. Moon Magic (2008)
32. Treasure of the Orkins (2008)
33. Flight of the Blue Serpent (2008)
34. In the City of Dreams (2009)
Special Edition 6. Crown of Wizards (2009)
35. The Lost Empire Of Koomba (2009)
36. Knights of the Ruby Wand (2010)
Special Edition 7. The Genie King (2010)
Special Edition 8. The Final Quest (2010)
Don't Touch That Remote
1. Sitcom School (1999)
2. The Fake Teacher (1999)
3. Stinky Business (announced, not published)
4. Freak Week (announced, not published)
1. Trapped in Transylvania: Dracula (2002)
2. Mississippi River Blues: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (2002)
3. What a Trip!: Around the World in Eighty Days (2002)
4. Humbug Holiday: A Christmas Carol (2002)
6. Crushing on a Capulet: Romeo and Juliet (2003)
Haunting of Derek Stone
1. City of the Dead (2009)
2. Bayou Dogs (2009)
3. The Red House (2009)
4. The Ghost Road (2009)
The Postcard (2008)
Lunch-Box Dream (2011)
Author profile interview with Tony Abbott.