Monday, July 26, 2010

Blog Tour: Interview with J&P Voelkel

Jon and Pamela Voelkel are the authors of the MG novel, Middleworld (the Jaguar Stones #1) It's a wonderful adventure and I can't wait to read the next book, The End of the World Club (it's a trilogy). My review

Welcome Mr & Mrs. Voelkel to Reading in Color and thank you for doing this interview :)

Thank you for asking us! We’ve discussed all your questions together, but it’s me, Pamela, doing the answering as Jon’s in a whirlwind of trying to finish up the illustrations for Book 2.

Did your travels and various adventures prepare you in any way for being authors (besides giving you great material!)? Do you prefer writing, traveling or both?

Well, both of us have always traveled, even before we met each other, so I guess we both have adventurous spirits. But I’d say it was becoming parents that prepared us for being authors because you’re always looking for great books to read at bedtime. Something I’ve always liked about traveling is the feeling of being on the outside looking in. That’s how I feel when I’m writing too. It’s a tricky question though, because I love traveling – but writing is like traveling in your head. And you don’t need to pack!

*sigh* I'm a notorious day-before-packer so I understand the appeal of traveling without needing to pack! Too bad I'm not a writer ;) It seems like most writers start writing because they can't find books that they want their kids to read. I'm grateful for that because then we are fortunate to read stories that might not have otherwise been shared!

Out of the places you've traveled, which is your favorite? What's the most daring or grossest thing you've ever done/seen while traveling?

Jon’s favorite place is the area around Calakmul in Mexico, because there are so many atmospheric Maya sites around there. His grossest moment was when he was a kid and a big rat was running down a path full pelt towards him. Not being able to stop in time, the rat ran up his leg and up his body onto his shoulder, where it looked him in the eye before springing off. It’s an episode that inspired the live rat on a platter in the Black Pyramid.

Pamela’s favorite place is probably Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain, because it’s so old and mysterious and rainy – and it has great restaurants! (Okay, so it’s not in the Maya region, but it is one of the settings in Book 2.) And the most daring thing I’ve ever done was canoe down an underground river in Belize. I had to be very brave because I don’t like caves or bats or dark places or deep water or water with fish in it. The worst thing was that we forgot to shoot any video, so we had to go back and do it again.

Caves and dark places are not my favorite things either. That stinks that you had to shoot the video again. I've been to Mexico a few times but never Calakmul. The part with the rat would have freaked me out if I was Max (or your husband)! My dream is to go to Spain one day, I'll add Santiago de Compostela as a place I want to visit :)

Which character was the hardest to write (my guess would be Max who certainly starts off as unlikable)? The easiest?

You’re right, Max was the hardest character to write. He’s bratty in the beginning, but fourteen year olds can be that way. (They can also be completely charming and adorable the very next second.) Max is a child of the consumer society and he has to learn to be less selfish. He’s come a long way by the end of Book 1 - but he still has a long way to go. The easiest characters to write were the Death Lords. They’re based on the twelve Death Lords of Maya myth and they’re completely outrageous. They have no redeeming characteristics. Like cartoon characters, they’re one-dimensional and bad to the core.

I like to think that I wasn't a bratty fourteen year old but if my mom ever reads this, she would probably be rolling her eyes right now. Therefore I won't say that I wasn't bratty ;) Max's slow growth was quite rewarding to read about, but he is not there yet. The Death Lords were crazy creepy!

What did you find to be the most fascinating thing about the Mayas and their culture?

Jon is obsessed with the Maya glyphs. He even took a short course at Harvard to learn how to read and write them – which is where he first met the professor who checks all our stuff. I think more about the modern Maya and how much they’ve lost. History is written by the victors and all that. Having burned their books, and outlawed their language and culture, the conquistadors depicted the Maya as ignorant savages. They’ve been oppressed ever since. But the main thing is that they have survived. There are still six million Maya living in Central America. I’m hoping their stars will soon be in the ascendancy again.

I was boiling mad as I read about all the Mayas suffered at the hands of the Spanish. They will continue to survive and it helps to have books like Middleworld which helps to put stereotypes to rest.

Personally I don't believe the world will end in 2012 and it's mentioned in Middleworld that there's no archaeological evidence that the Mayans believed the world will end in 2012. But if the world was to end in 2012, what would you do your last year on Earth?

So you’re saying there’s no time to excavate any more pyramids or save the rainforests, right? In that case, we’d take the children out of school, sell everything we have and blow the money on a small palazzo on the Grand Canal in Venice. Then we’d spend our last days gliding along in a gondola, eating fresh pasta and looking at great art.

That sounds amazing, can I come with? :)

Hopefully this interview has helped inspire you to want to read Middleworld. It's a treat, I highly recommend it. Also Middleworld was picked as one of Al Roker's Book Club picks. Watch the video here

*I will be out of town from July 24-August 1 with no computer access. I look forward to reading your emails and comments when I get back :)


  1. Great interview. I also, hate rats. and mice. It sounds pretty fun, though to canoe in an underground river. Must have been amazing.

  2. This interview has definitely made me want to read MIDDLEWORLD--well, more than I already wanted to! As a writer myself, though, I have to disagree with unlikable, bratty characters being hard to write; I find them the easiest because they're just so much fun. :P

  3. @Mardel-Ugh rodents. On my service trip there were bugs everywhere, it was awful. I'm covered in bites =/ Had a blast though. I would love to take a canoe trip, especially in an underground river :)

    @Heather H-Read Middleworld as soon as you can. A fun adventure.

    I can see both sides. It would be fun to write bratty characters, but I would be afraid that I would make them too over the top and one dimensional.


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