Interview by Piranha T. and Super Kitty
Stuart Gibbs is the New York Times-bestselling and award-winning author of the Spy School, FunJungle, and Moon Base Alpha series, among others. We recently read and loved one of his recent books, Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation, which tells the story of a girl genius who teams up with the CIA to find the hiding place of a Einstein's last equation. We were thrilled to interview him for this month's feature!
Rapunzel Reads: We love the way Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation blends real historical facts with a fictional storyline! What was the research process like (we read in your afterword that you traveled to many of the places the story is set in), and how much of the material you used was true?
Stuart Gibbs: The research was really done over a long period. I first had the idea for the book well over a decade ago, after seeing an exhibit on Albert Einstein at a science museum. To help build the story, I read a few books on Einstein and physics, and then was lucky enough to be invited to Jerusalem on an author tour, which allowed me to do research there. Mount Wilson is located close to where I live, so that was easy to visit. I would say that every fact I give in the book that does not concern Pandora is true: everything about Einstein's life, physics, and history.
RR: Who is your favorite character in Charlie Thorne,
Author photo credit: Dan Appel
SG: I like Charlie. (That's probably not a surprise.) I don't like how geniuses are normally portrayed in movies and TV -- as social misfits. The geniuses I know are socially adept -- as well as athletic, adventurous and funny. I wanted Charlie to reflect that, and I think she does. She is also flawed, though. There are some readers who don't like that, but it was important to me to not have her be perfect. For example, she is cocky, which makes sense for someone who knows she is smarter than everyone else.
RR: As we noted in our review, the Furies are very interesting, and are quite different from the villains in any other books we've read (especially ones in this genre). What inspired them, and what was it like to write about them?
SG: Sadly, it wasn't too hard to find inspiration for the Furies in the real world. Xenophobia and racism appear to be on the rise everywhere, probably in response to the increasing globalization of the world. When I was trying to come up with who my antagonists would be, it occurred to me that many books like this have the bad guys be these brilliant, devious characters -- but the truth is, someone who isn't brilliant and devious might be much more of a threat, because they don't realize the implications of what they're doing. They're just acting rashly out of anger and hate. To me, that's much more likely -- and much scarier.
RR: How did you develop the clues to Pandora? (We imagine creating clues which could have been written by Einstein must have been a bit daunting!)
SG: To be honest, Einstein's code was the first thing I created. I came up with it in high school, when I was bored in chemistry class. So I thought of the code well before I thought of this book. When I had the idea for the book, years later, I realized the code could work in it. To develop the rest of the clues, I worked backward: I figured out what I needed the clues to point to, then came up with a way to reference those things.
RR: What books inspired you when you were growing up?
SG: So many books. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. The Encyclopedia Brown series by Donald J Sobol. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Everything by Carl Hiaasen and Michael Crichton.
RR: What is your favorite thing about being an author?
SG: I have always loved to write, so the fact that I get to do this for a living is still astonishing to me. But I had no idea how much interaction I would have with my readers. It is great to hear from excited readers like the two of you.