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Skipping Stones at the Center of the Earth Tour: Interview with Andy Hueller

Monday, July 25, 2011
Today, as part of the Skipping Stones at the Center of the Earth Virtual Book Tour, I am excited to be hosting an interview with author Andy Hueller!

Welcome, Andy. First, tell us a little about you.
I have a wonderful life. My wife, Debbie, rocks my socks off every day with her energy and intelligence. Our dog, a beagle, matches my wife’s energy though certainly not her intelligence. And I teach English for a living, which means I work with talented, interesting, funny teenagers and adults every day. My house is close enough to my school and to Target Field that I can bike to both places. Who can ask for anything more?

The only thing I can think of is super powers! I noticed that your first book Dizzy Fantastic and her Flying Bicycle also contains fantastical elements. Is this a central part of your writing style? What draws you to include these phenomena in your writings?
I read everything as a kid—from the funnies in the newspaper (including Calvin and Hobbes, one of the greatest stories ever told) to sports and action books to . . . well, to whatever I saw in the library that looked interesting, and that was most everything. But I adored, above all other storytellers, Roald Dahl. You know, Matilda, The BFG, Danny the Champion of the World. I read his books again and again. He’s fantasy-lite: No dungeons or wizards, but anything’s possible. When I began writing for children and teenagers, I just felt at home with this kind of fantasy.

Roald  Dahl is a genius. He was all I checked out from my Elementary school's library until I found Nancy Drew. What did you enjoy most writing Skipping Stones?
A couple things. First: It was the first children’s novel manuscript I ever began or finished, so I feel awfully attached to it. Second: I loved watching the storylines come together. For a few years, I wasn’t sure how this would happen. I knew the stories were related in some way(s), but each one built separately in my imagination until they were ready to converge. When I write something worth reading (I hope), it’s always the same sensation: I’m more conduit than creator. I sit down to write every day, and when I’m lucky these stories or scenes find their ways to my fingers. I do a lot of writing off the page—that is, free hand, and very messily, on lined paper. When I type up my off-the page writing, sometimes the writing develops in ways I never expected. It’s not that I don’t see my life in my writing—it’s always there, inspiring each setting and character—but I often don’t know how any of it relates until it shows up on the computer screen. That’s exciting.

Read is magical in itself. To be the connection between two worlds... I can begin to imagine it! At your website, you have a lot of ways for readers to interact with you, such as publishing their stories on your website, starting a Super Club, providing a list of books you're reading, and talking about author visits. What do you enjoy most as an author interacting with your readers?
It’s very, very cool to get e-mails from readers. I remember being my readers’ age and thinking that every author I read was one of the coolest people in the world. Now that I’m an author—me!—I know this isn’t true, of course. Trust me: my wife is laughing somewhere at the thought of me being one of the coolest people in the world. I used to think authors were rich, too, and let me tell you, that certainly isn’t the case!

I have all of those ways for readers to interact with me on my website because, as a teacher, I know just how interesting and insightful many young readers are. I want to hear what they think about my stories and other stories.

You hear that, readers? Email Andy Hueller as soon as you finish reading any of his books. He wants to hear from you! (Back to Andy) I noticed that you started Dizzy's Super Club for your first book. What inspired you to start it? 
Really, this club hasn’t taken off as I hoped it would (which means Dizzy remains lonely . . .). I started it because I’ll take any chance I can get to interact with readers. Readers of all ages tend to be interesting, thoughtful people. People who love stories, after all, generally are curious. They ask great questions, and they have dazzling imaginations.

After meeting Mr. E, Calvin's life changes. Did you have a Mr. E of your own?
I’ll try to keep this answer short, because it’s complicated. Mr. E the stone skipper is inspired by a man I watched skip stones in northern Minnesota when I was a kid. He was a lefty, like Mr. E, and he was far and away the best stone skipper I’ve ever seen. He was so smooth, and every throw skipped and skipped and skipped.

I suppose, emotionally, I have had lots of Mr. Es in my life. My dad was a college athlete and later an English teacher (though he’d moved into a new career by the time I came along). I played a lot of catch and shot a lot of hoops with him growing up. He also taught me how to skip a stone. And yet he also sat around the house many evenings reading a book. So I guess he taught me a lot about being a man (as old-fashioned as that sounds): that a love of stories and words doesn’t come at the expense of afternoons with friends playing pick-up sports. He’s a patient man who often takes a step back and reassesses his situation. I think Mr. E’s kinda like that. I’ve had terrific teachers (male and female) and coaches, too, who probably helped shape Mr. E, as well.

That's really cool. I love how chance encounters and can inspire such prominent characters in literature.  My Mr. E is a Mrs. E: my mom. What would you like readers to get out of reading Skipping Stones?
More than anything, I want it to be fun. In a lot of ways, I write to myself as a younger reader. I write the books I would have loved (and still do love). I also always loved books that played with language. I do that a lot in Skipping Stones, and I hope readers enjoy that kind of playing as much as I always have.

Thanks for interviewing with us!

Andy's Website
Andy Hueller is the author of Dizzy Fantastic and Her Flying Bicycle (Cedar Fort, 2010) and Skipping Stones at the Center of the Earth (Cedar Fort, 2011). He writes every day--sometimes the work is a thrilling adventure, and other times it's a slog. He always feels better, however, after he's given it a go. Mr. Hueller teaches at St. Paul Academy and Summit School. He lives in Minneapolis, MN with his wife and their dog.

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My Review of Skipping Stones

1 comment on "Skipping Stones at the Center of the Earth Tour: Interview with Andy Hueller"
  1. I have not heard of "Skipping Stones at the Center of the Earth" before. It looks like a great read.

    marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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