Stuart Gibbs is the author of the comic mystery novels Spy School and Belly Up and the time-traveling adventure The Last Musketeer. He has written the screenplays for See Spot Run, Repli-Kate and some other movies too embarrassing to even mention. Before all that, he worked at a zoo and studied capybaras (the world’s largest rodents). At one point, he was one of the world’s foremost capybara experts — although this was because he was also one of the world’s only capybara experts at the time. He now lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children. His next book, Traitor’s Chase, the sequel to The Last Musketeer, with be out on June 26. He is has just finished Spy Camp, the sequel to Spy School (which will be out in 2013) and is at work on a sequel to Belly Up. For more info, visit his website.
Let the conversation begin!
How old would you be if you didn’t know?
Probably around 18 or so. My friends often tell me that I don’t behave like an adult much (which I choose to take as a compliment). My own four year old daughter seems to agree with this. Recently, she asked me what I was going to be when I grew up. I told her that 1) I am a grown up and 2) I have a job. I don’t think she believed me on either count.
What’s your passion?
Traveling. Especially to places I can see animals in the wild. I’ve been on a lifelong quest to see every large animal on the planet in its natural habitat. (Although I’m perfectly happy to see smaller animals as well.)
If you could live anywhere for one year, all expenses paid, where would you live?
The Okovango Delta in Botswana. Although the Serengeti in Tanzania is a close second. Basically, I’d love to spend a year on safari.
What was the worst smell you have ever smelled?
If you’ve read Belly Up, you’re familiar with the scene with the hippopotamus autopsy. I’ve actually seen a hippopotamus autopsy. The innards of a dead hippo are a smell you never really forget, no matter how much you’d like to.
If you could have one super human power, what would it be?
Flight. I’m not sure that this would really come in handy for fighting crime, but I’d certainly save a ton on airfare.
What is the craziest (or stupidest) thing you’ve ever done?
I have a very long list of potential answers for this. But my high school friends all like to remind me that I used to break into the zoo at night on a regular basis. I never did this to cause any harm to the animals. I did it because I really liked the zoo and had figured out a surprisingly easy way to get over the fence. I brought friends along much of the time. Usually, we just checked the animals out, but once we climbed into the elephant pit to pet the sleeping elephants, which was pure idiocy. Kids, never ever do this.
Who has been the biggest inspiration in your life?
Michael Crichton. Why? When I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer, but I had no idea how you became one. I absolutely loved Michael Crichton’s books. (Especially Congo.) Crichton started out studying to be a doctor and wrote all the time on the side. Eventually he got published and became an author. So I set out to follow exactly the same path. I barely made it through a semester of pre-med before I realized there were other ways to become a writer, but I think I’ve still always been influenced by Crichton’s determination to write — not to mention his fantastic storytelling and his desire to work science into his novels. Oh, and I should probably point out that Carl Hiaasen has been hugely influential, too.
What cartoon character best represents your personal philosophy?
Bugs Bunny. That rabbit travels the world, embraces life and always stands up for what he believes in. When I was in college, a friend of mine pointed out that Bugs Bunny never says ‘Why should I do something?’ He says ‘How can I do it?’ My friend was probably drunk at the time, but the point is still valid. We could do a lot worse for role models than Bugs Bunny.
What is your favorite way to waste time without getting caught?
I compulsively check my book sales on line. It’s terrible. I should probably get help.
When was the last time you did something for the first time? What was it?
I tried out a new way to scuba dive. You sit on a propeller sled and have it push you through the water. It sounded a bit complicated, but it was extremely intuitive and turned out to be absolutely amazing. It really felt like flying through the water. Apparently this is the wave of the future for scuba diving, which means I will probably be diving a lot more. Plus, we encountered a pod of spinner dolphins and they swam all around us. So all in all, that was a pretty good day.