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An Author Joins Us – Q & A with Carl Hiaasen

March 28, 2012

It’s a banner day when we have a new book from Carl Hiaasen, and bonus! we have an exclusive interview with the author here at Random Acts of Reading today! Carl’s latest middle grade novel went on-sale yesterday, and here he answers our questions about CHOMP, writing and reality TV.

You thank Claire in your dedication for coming up with the title, Chomp.  Did the idea for the book start with the title? 

This is one of the few times I had the title before I had the story. It might not be literary, but that’s what grandpas do for their granddaughters. Claire was thrilled when I surprised her with an early copy of the book. She had no idea it was coming. 

You really skewer the idea of television survivalists in this book—do you watch any of the survival shows?

I have an unhealthy appetite for reality television, but it’s just so damn funny. Really, it’s the best comedy on the air besides Jon Stewart and Colbert.

The survival shows are outrageously entertaining — here’s some guy choking down a centipede when you just know the cameraman has a Snickers bar in his pocket.  

With characters like Wahoo Cray, Tuna Gordon, Derek Badger, and Raven Stark, you clearly have fun with names. Do you think of a name first and then build a character around it, or imagine a character and then name him or her?

The character comes first but having a colorful but appropriate name is important. You want it to stick with readers the first time they see it on the page, and if the name is right it does help define that character as the plot unfolds. I spend lots of time working to find something that fits.

 There are so many vividly drawn “chomping” incidents in this book—have you ever been bitten by a wild creature?  Had any close encounters with a wild animal?

 I’ve been bitten by all kinds of snakes, raccoons, opossums, sea gulls, parrots, pelicans, lizards, turtles, fish and feral cats. Never lost a finger, or any other body part. That was pretty much my childhood, getting chomped.

 You thank Joe Wasilewski, a wildlife wrangler in Chomp.  Were any of the animal incidents in this book based on true stories?

Gator bites aren’t all that rare in documentary filming, I suppose. Joe is the real deal, and he’s been bitten by just about everything, including a coral snake, which is often fatal. He didn’t even go to the hospital, but that’s Joe. The stuff in the book was my invention, but all of it’s plausible, based on the true tales Joe has told me.

 What is your favorite chapter (or part of a book) to write and why?

My favorite part of the book to write is the last two words: The End.

 What is one thing about you that would surprise your readers?

I’ve never been institutionalized.

 What book made the strongest impression on you as a child?

The Hardy Boys series made me want to write books. I still think they were brilliant in many ways.

Many THANKS to Carl Hiaasen for joining us today at RAoR.

Please share your thoughts, and let us know your favorite Carl Hiaasen book in our comments section.

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