June 17, 2016

Hold the hometown presses! (Okay, you can let them go.)

I grew up in a small, Northern California town called Sebastopol. My childhood there was basically pretty fantastic, though I maybe didn't appreciate that fully at the time.

Anyway, as I wrote The Drake Equation, I drew upon my experiences there. And now that the book's out, I'm glad to see that my hometown newspaper, The Sonoma West Times & News, has run a story about it! The rest of the article is after this screen grab:

 While King has already written several funny nonfiction books for younger readers, The Drake Equation (grades 3-8, May 10th) is his fiction debut. The story is a humorous adventure about a young birdwatcher named Noah Grow. It is set in a fictionalized version of Santa Rosa intended to resemble the Sebastopol of King’s childhood.

Noah’s search for a wood duck leads to a string of outrageous events, and the boy is swept up in a storm of middle-school mayhem and intergalactic intrigue. Aliens and peanut butter are key plot elements. Yet for King, the story isn’t a complete flight of fancy.

“As a 4-H member in the 1970s, I built nesting boxes for wood ducks in the Laguna Wetlands Preserve. Admittedly, I didn’t see any extraterrestrials back then, so perhaps a return trip is in order.”

Working for Disney was a new experience, though. “People understandably ask if the story will be turned into a film,” said King. “And while it’s extremely unlikely, my editor at Disney had worked with Rick Riordan (of ‘Percy Jackson’ fame). So I have that going for me.”

After attending Twin Hills School and Analy High School (class of 1980), King earned a teaching credential from Sonoma State University. During his first year teaching in Petaluma, he met his wife, El Molino High School graduate, Lynn Wassink.

“Due to irreconcilable similarities, it seemed inevitable that we’d get married,” King said. “So we did.” King was teaching at Brook Haven School when Dark Horse Comics in Portland offered Lynn an editing job, so the couple moved to Oregon.

It was while King was teaching that he began his first serious attempts at writing. “As a teacher, I was always distressed by reluctant readers,” the author said. “I was convinced that it was just a matter of getting the right books in their hands.”

King’s attempts to find a book irresistible to even the most jaded student led to his writing The Big Book of Boy Stuff (2004). The book combined the sensibility of MAD magazine with the contents of an activity book, and it became a hit with young readers. “I knew we were onto something when the book reached #5 on Amazon’s overall bestseller list,” King said.

King continued writing funny nonfiction books for young readers and “immature adults,” the most recent title being The Big Book of Superheroes (2014). But for the moment, fiction—and Sebastopol—are at the forefront of his mind. “I’m grateful I got to grow up in a community as charming as Sebastopol,” he said. “My hope is that The Drake Equation both entertains the reader and serves as an homage to my hometown.”

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