The lovely Matt Weiss, author of A Day in the Park has kindly allowed me to interview him about his book. To find out more keep reading!
1.Tell us a bit about yourself!
Thanks for the opportunity to be on your blog. I live just west of Chicago and one of the things I love about this area is the expanse of land that’s been set aside for parks/nature preserves. I love going for walks in the park when the weather is warm enough. I’m fascinated by the natural world around me, which lead to me studying geology in college. That study allowed me to travel the U.S., see a lot of national parks, and a lot of off the beaten path kinds of places. I’ve continued on that path after college as an environmental geologist. I’m part of a company that investigates properties for environmental impact (think landfills, industrial facilities, etc.). The past couple of years I also teach an evening geology course. It’s been a great way to keep in touch with the fundamentals of the discipline and be able to share that excitement with students.
2. What is A Day in the Park all about?
A Day in the Park is about exploration and adventure in the context of the everyday life of 13 year olds. I’m hopeful this book will help develop that sense of wonder that all kids have and help them understand that that wonder is what drives science.
In the book, a group of middle school age boys take interest in a classroom science experiment. Their teacher tells them that they can expand on that interest if they go out into a preserve near the school and investigate on their own. When the boys do that, they discover something completely unexpected. I say unexpected because the main character, Ryan, literally trips over this thing and falls flat on his face in the process. Their adventure evolves into a research project driven by their own curiosity. It allows the boys to learn about their town going back to prehistoric times as the last ice age ended. They get to experience firsthand a full blown scientific investigation aided by a university professor who happens to be a friend of Ryan’s family.
3. Why did you decide to start writing?
Writing has always been something I’ve enjoyed. I write a lot of technical papers and reports for my full time work and I’ve been told that my writing is easy to read. The idea for this book was quite random. Out of the blue I decided to Google the geology of the town I live in, which gives you a clue about how hip/cool I am. I found this great research article published by the Illinois Geological Survey detailing how artifacts from the last ice age were being found around my area. I had this notion that the only people who find stuff like this were archeologists or paleontologists out in the middle of nowhere or in some ancient ruins or something. It turns out that’s just not the case. Anyone can make important discoveries, you just have to been in the right place at the right time. In the case of this article I thought, why not try to show people this is the case. So I started writing to try and tell a story that would, hopefully, inspire readers to get outside and explore.
4. What are your favourite YA/Middle Grade books at the moment?
I haven’t been keeping up as much as I should in the genre. I’m going to go back to a couple of my favorites. One is Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and the other is Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.
5. What writers inspire you?
That’s a great question. I normally read non-fiction business or science based books which I think of as more about the content than the author. I like a lot of different authors, but Mitch Albom and Doris Kearns Goodwin are two that come to mind. I think what both of them do really well is take their ideas and convey them so clearly I feel like I’m in the story with the characters or historical figures. It’s amazing how they do it. I’m hoping that I am able to develop into that kind of writer.
6. What is the main character in A Day in the Park like? What is unique about him?
The main character of the book is 13 year old Ryan Hutton. I think he’s a pretty ordinary kid, but what makes him special is his ability to relate to the world around him. In the book he’s able to dream about what the prehistoric world was like and then relate that to the town as it is now. This insight allows him to make connections that others might not be able to.
7. How can readers discover more about you and your work?
The best way to learn more is to follow me on twitter @mattweissauthor . I’ve set up a Pinterest page for the book so readers can get a sense of the characters and setting. You can get a free sample of the book and sign up for email updates from me here: Email updates