Interview with Marty Reeder
About the Author
Marty Reeder lives in Smithfield, Utah, with his wife and five children where he teaches Creative Writing and Spanish at the local high school. Though not a natural born pirate hunter, he taught sailing at Scout camps for many years and uses his history degree to fuel worlds of piracy and compensate for perhaps being born in the wrong time and place for his passions!
1. You are also a high school Creative Writing and Spanish teacher, what inspired you to also become an author?
I've been writing longer than I've been teaching high school, so I feel that you could almost reverse the question and ask what inspired me to also become a teacher! The truth is that either way I love both writing and teaching too much to make either one exclusive. It was about in the sixth grade when I decided that I wanted to be a teacher and that I wanted to be an author. I'm not sure which one came first, but once I started teaching, I don't think I ever let go of my other plan to be an author.
One thing that I like about teaching is that I feel it keeps me grounded in my audience and in life--crucial for an author hoping to stay connected to an audience beyond a small writing circle. Through Creative Writing, I've been able to learn how to write succinctly for my young adult audience, how to respond to critiques, and what writing pitfalls to avoid. Teaching Spanish has given me a comprehension of language usage, and you may notice a few Spanish names scattered throughout the story that hark back to memories of people or places in Latin America where I've been.
2. What inspired the idea for How to Become a Pirate Hunter?
How to Become a Pirate Hunter was an idea that came to me about 15 years ago. I was working construction for my brother-in-law in California one summer, and we were doing a renovation on a house. We were on the roof, scraping away shingles in the searing California sun, and I kept on slipping with my scraper and missing the shingles. As I noticed the other workers around me completing the job many times faster than me, it occurred to me that somewhere out there was probably a natural born roof shingler ... and that I was not that person! I kept on thinking what kind of skills a natural born roof shingler would have and how amazing it would be to watch them at their work. Then, that night as I cooled off in my sister's guest bedroom, I started thinking about other natural born abilities. With my sailing and history background, it did not take long for me to connect the dots and think: Wait a second ... what about a Natural Born Pirate Hunter? I stewed the idea over for a few years and then started writing. A few years back, I wrapped it up and sat on it for a while. Finally, I had been telling my students to send stuff in to publishers and some of them were even getting published, and I thought, What, am I a hypocrite? I sent in my story and I am excited to see its 15 year journey culminating soon!
3. What do you want readers to take away from reading your book?
First of all, I hope it is one of those stories that takes you away for a moment and let's you revel in possibilities, even if they are fantastical. Next, I hope some teenagers read it and realize two things: 1) everyone has some kind of talent, something that they naturally excel in, even if it's not obvious or noticeably useful on the surface; 2) any skill, no matter how useful, is ultimately worthless without a good person behind it.
4. Will you share some behind the scenes facts about the book?
Absolutely! Some of my favorite things are names of people and places. The main character is Eric Francis. The "Francis" is a nod to the man who got me into pirate history in the first place: Sir Francis Drake. I could only hope to match in fiction what Drake performed in real life! "Port Raleigh," the fictional Caribbean city of the story, is in deference to Francis Drake's relative, Sir Walter Raleigh, who spent some time in the Caribbean but his exploits there are often forgotten. The custodian, Al Lorenzo, from Chapter 1 is based off of one of my actual custodians in high school, who I thought was just a nice, simple guy, but then for a high school assembly he blew everyone away by coming on stage and singing some songs. So I made him a natural born stage musical star in the story. Other names correspond with some of my favorite collegiate athletes from Utah State University when I attended there to get my degree. There are more, but I'll spare you going through all of them for now. I am planning to do a summer reading of the book with readers, one chapter a week, and then a short podcast that will address questions from fellow readers for that chapter and where I plan to reveal more nuggets of back story and behind-the-scenes.
Perhaps my favorite hidden secret is that I've created a treasure hunt to go with the story. There are three clues, which will be released at different times this year. One clue goes with one of the chapters in the novel. One clue will go with a bonus chapter that will be made available on-line after the book releases. And then a final clue goes with a song that musician Tanner Lex Jones has composed as part his album that will accompany the book. For fans of the novel, I will release the clues that will help them know what to look for, then they can put the pieces together and send in an electronic form divulging the location of the treasure. If they get it correct, they will receive a small prize and certificate.
5. When you are not writing or teaching, what hobbies do you enjoy?
I am pretty addicted to my family. My best-friend wife and I have five kids and each one of them enjoys doing stuff with us that we already like doing anyway: playing Frisbee, swimming, reading, going on camping trips, hiking, visiting family, board games, family movie night ... all that fun stuff. As the story will probably make obvious, I love sailing but don't do it nearly enough (that's where fiction comes in!). And finally, I love learning. If I am learning something new, quirky, challenging, and especially if I get to learn it with someone else!
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