As a stop along the way on Jon & Pamela Voelkel’s Blog Tour, I was able to ask the authors several questions about themselves and their recent Egmont release – The Jaguar Stones Book One: Middleworld.
Of all the ancient cultures, how did you choose the Mayan culture to research and develop your story?
Jon grew up in Latin America, so the book was always going to be set in that region. When he produced his first draft, it was like a James-Bond-type adventure in the jungle – with lots of cool pyramids for background color. As we started to research the people who built the pyramids, we got sucked deeper and deeper into this fascinating culture until the Maya took over the book. What’s particularly exciting about studying the Maya right now is that there’s still so much the experts don’t know. There are thousands of pyramids still to be excavated, and the archaeologists are making new discoveries all the time. It’s thrilling to be a part of that, even in a small way.
What inspires you and your writing?
We’re both inspired by memories of our childhood, but in different ways. Jon had all sorts of wild escapades in the jungle, which he gets to relive through Max Murphy, the hero of Middleworld. But I remember sitting alone in my suburban bedroom, never traveling, never having any adventures, and reading/writing were my only ways of escape. I think back to that little girl and want her to know that things will work out – one day she’ll become a writer and travel all over the world. Of course, we’re also inspired by our research trips to Central America. We’ve visited around 30 Maya sites so far, and every single one has a different vibe. Along the way, we’ve met so many interesting people, and they all have inspiring stories to share.
Max is a typical smart, video-game-loving American kid. And Lola loves to pick on him. Did you base the characters off anyone in particular?
Max, to a certain extent, is Jon as a boy. But he also represents today’s headphone wearing, facebooking, videogaming kids whose connection with the world is mostly through electronics. Lola shows him that the real world is more exciting than any videogame. She’s the voice of many contemporary Maya we’ve met. She’s proud of her heritage and the incredible achievements of the ancient Maya, but she also wants people to recognize that the Maya are still around and fighting for their place in today’s world.
What are some books (and authors) that you love?
Jon:100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula LeGuin, A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway.
Pamela:To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean, Black Swan Green by David Mitchell, A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian by Marina Lewycka, anything by Martin Prechtel, anything by Nick Hornby … I could go on all day.
Can you tell us anything about the next book in the series? How many are planned?
There are three books planned in The Jaguar Stones series. Book 2, The End of The World Club will be released on December 28, 2010. It takes Max and Lola to Spain on the trail of the Yellow Jaguar – and we think it’s even faster, with more unexpected twists and turns, and more thrilling than Book 1!
Be sure to check out this exciting fantasy novel for middle readers!
Here’s a link to my review of Middleworld: