1. What was your favorite animal as a child — and did you know about alpacas?
I always wanted to have a chimpanzee, but my mother wouldn’t let me. Sometimes I think parents have entirely too much say in the matter. But through the course of my childhood, I had a guinea pig, several hamsters, fish, a cat, two dogs and a few chameleons. No alpacas. I didn’t even know alpacas existed until a couple years ago. I have since atoned for that sin by writing an entire book about one.
2. In your research for the book, what did you find most interesting about alpacas?
The most interesting aspect for me was trying to get inside the mind of an alpaca and figuring out how they might look at the world. Having had so many pets, I definitely believe animals have personality and character, and with that territory comes a world-view. Cats, for example, clearly believe they’re the supreme rulers of the planet. Any book I wrote about cats would probably have them looking at humans with condescending disdain, whereas dogs would think of them as advanced toys. Creating an entire society around alpacas (two, in fact: one in America, and one in Peru) was a really fun exercise.
3. Which character did you most enjoy writing about?
It’s hard to pick a favorite character. Buttersby was fun, just because of all the trouble she got herself into. So much of the conflict in Cavern of Babel comes because Buttersby refuses to conform. Of course, the way she comes off when she does this is very prideful and conceited, and so others don’t take kindly to it. Meander, on the other hand, also doesn’t conform. He’s very unique and fun-loving, and he manages to be himself without being rude about it. I’d have to say that in the first draft, I enjoyed writing Meander’s scenes the most. I feel like I know him well, and I know how he’d respond to any situation. Of course, I also really liked writing anything with Ozymandias the Prophet Mouse, but he didn’t appear in Cavern of Babel until the second draft, believe it or not. Still, I think that Buttersby is the character with the most room for growth, and that always makes for interesting material as well. I honestly don’t think a book with Meander or Ozzy as the main character would work well. They’re better in small doses, and they’re rather static (meaning they don’t change much). A dynamic, changeable character is really important for a book to succeed, and Buttersby fits that description exactly, even if she is rather stuck up from time to time.
4. Are there going to be more books about Buttersby and Meander?
I certainly hope so. Cavern of Babel was originally conceived as the first book in an open-ended series called the Buttersby Chronicles. I’ve already written about two books’ worth of extra material, and I’m ready and willing to write more. Much of this depends on if Diamond Triple C can afford to publish another book. Printing books is very expensive; you have to pay the author, illustrator, editor, book designer and printer, and then you have to pay for the book itself. If you’d like to help Buttersby and Meander make it to a sequel, the best thing you can do is tell your friends about Cavern of Babel. As soon as we’ve sold enough copies of the first book to let us afford the second, you can bet I’ll be hard at work. In the meantime, I can tell you that the sequel will be called City of Lost Alpacas, and for the most up-to-date news and information about it, you can check out my website.
5. Have you ever visited Peru?
Unfortunately I’ve never had the chance to go to South America at all. I’ve visited most of the other continents: I lived in Germany for two years and I’ve traveled extensively in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, France, England, Austria, Israel, Egypt and Jordan, as well as visiting most of the states at one point or another in my life. South America is a place I very much want to go to, though–perhaps I’ll get a chance at some point while I’m working on the sequel to Cavern of Babel.