About the Author
The Short Version:
Alex London writes books for adults (One Day The Soldiers Came: Voices of Children in War), children (Dog Tags series; An Accidental Adventure series) and teens (Proxy). At one time a journalist reporting from conflict zones and refugee camps, he is now a full time novelist living in Brooklyn, NY, where he can be found wandering the streets talking to his dog, who is the real brains of the operation.
The Long Version
C. Alexander London grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. He's an author of nonfiction for grown-ups (under a slightly different not very secret name), books for teens (as Alex London...see above), and, younger readers. He once won a 12-gauge skeet-shooting tournament because no one else had signed up in his age group. He's a Master SCUBA diver who hasn't been diving in way too long, and, most excitingly, a fully licensed librarian. He used to know the Dewey Decimal System from memory.
He doesn't anymore.
While traveling as a journalist, he watched television in 23 countries (Burmese soap operas were the most confusing; Cuban news reports were the most dull), survived an erupting volcano in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a hurricane on small island in the Caribbean, 4 civil wars (one of them was over by the time he got there, thankfully), and a mysterious bite on his little toe in the jungles of Thailand. The bite got infected and swollen and gross and gave him a deep mistrust of lizards, even though it probably wasn't a lizard that bit him.
Although he has had many adventures, he really does prefer curling up on the couch and watching some good television or reading a book. He enjoys danger and intrigue far more when it's happening to somebody else.
He lives in Brooklyn, NY.
All Your Questions Answered
What does the "C" in C. Alexander London stand for?
It stands for Charles! That's my first name.
Will you come speak at my school/library/bookstore/Antarctic Research Station?
I would love to! I like speaking to schools/book clubs/professional groups/lonely Arctic researchers stranded on ever shrinking ice.
Of course, I have a busy writing schedule, so we’d have to discuss all the details of my visit (dates, structure, fees, etc.), but feel free to contact me via this form to inquire about a visit. You can also visit Penguin Books for Young Readers and use their online request form or send an email to authorvisits [at] us [dot] penguingroup [dot] com with possible dates, your school name, location, details about the day, and your contact information.
How did you become a writer?
I actually wrote my first book in 1st grade, long before I knew a person could “be a writer”. It was called Larry and Luther Lizard Go to Summer Camp and I wrote and illustrated it with my friend Jon. For a while after that I thought I wanted to be a cartoonist, but I had no talent for drawing and didn’t want to do all the hard work it would take to develop the skill. But I always made up stories. I was a big day dreamer. I was lucky to live in a house with a lot of books and I spent hours and hours and hours staring at the book covers, imagining what was inside and making up my own stories about them.I loved asking the question “what if?" But, still I didn't often open the book beyond their covers!
When I was about ten years old, I wrote a letter to an author I liked, Brian Jacques, who wrote Redwall, and he actually wrote me back. I was amazed that he was a real person. That was when I realized that a person could “be a writer” the way you could “be a doctor” or “be a teacher” or “be a regional sales representative for a soup company.”
Then it became all about hard work—learning the craft, writing stories and rewriting stories and then rewriting them again. Eventually, I realized that I needed to read if i wanted to write, so I started actually opening all those books in my house and that's when everything really began. That's when I saw what was possible with the power of writing. Spending time with great writers-and not-so-great writers who came before me ignited a fire in my belly to put my words or paper. So daydreaming made me a storyteller, but reading made me a writer.
Even though I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was about ten, I didn’t get my first story published professionally until I was 23 and I had to do all sorts of odd jobs to make a living-I was a researcher in refugee camps in Africa, an assistant to a Hollywood talent agent, and even a professional librarian. I didn’t make a living just by being a writer until I was almost thirty. But in all that time, from ten to thirty, I never gave up and I kept writing, because I can’t imagine anything better than sharing stories.
Where do you get your ideas?
Everywhere I can. I stare out windows. I take my dog for long walks. I listen to people talking and I read books and magazines and newspapers. I keep a little black journal with me at all times and whenever I see something interesting or hear something weird or get a crazy idea from the central office of the crazy idea distribution corporation located somewhere in another dimension, I write it down so I don't forget it. Sometimes those notes turn into a piece of the next chapter or another joke, sometimes they take years to simmer before I find a way to use them. But everything I've ever done, known, seen or heard is a source of inspiration. And when all else fails, I can always watch TV or go for a run. You never know what you'll come up with when you shut off your thinking for an hour.
Where'd you get the idea for The Accidental Adventures?
I explain that over on my blog. You can follow the link here to read all about it.
I was enthralled and titillated by your depiction of the explorer's club in NYC. But then I was struck by a deep bout of melancholia when I discovered that it is private and exclusive. If I want to explore and have adventures in real life, what can I do?
You don’t have to go to Tibet to have an adventure. There is a certain kind of adult (you know who I’m talking about) who would tell you that you can have the wildest adventures of all with nothing more than a library card. I won’t do that to you. You know there are adventures to be had in books like We Are Not Eaten By Yaks or Treasure Island or Homer’s Odyssey, but you want to know where the real excitment is, right?
I will tell that you can go outside wherever you are and find ways to create excitement.
Here are some suggestions:
- You could eat bugs? Yep, some bugs are pretty tasty. Some are not. Some are even poisonous, so you have to be careful You can't just catch bugs in your backyard. You have to get the right bugs from a respectable distributor, some are listed here, but then you can cook and eat them!
- You could practice exploring by making your own fossils, hiding them and getting your friends to find them and try to figure out where and what they are
- For something to satisfy that urge to watch stuff go up high and fall back down, why not make a handkerchief parachute and see how high you can get it to go?
- You could also build a fort. Or, you know, an igloo.
- And, there is awlays the bone-breaking classic for a sunny afternoon: climb a tree
Of course, all that stuff should be done with a parent or guardian’s permission.
Your library card is still your cheapest ticket to see the world (oops, I did it. I’m totally one of those adults, sorry). At least you don't risk lizard bites when you're reading a book.