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Fall 2015 Publishers’ Preview: Five questions for Eric Pierpoint

Publishers' PreviewsThis interview originally appeared in the September/October 2015 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Fall Publishers’ Preview, a semiannual advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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Secret codes, disguises, and escapes-on-horseback propel this historical adventure set in the latter days of the American Revolution: The Secret Mission of William Tuck.


Photo: Sue Ganz.

1. I confess I never thought drummer boys were anything other than mascots. Is there a standard code for their drum signals?

EP: Too young to fight, many boys became drummers. There were standard calls for March, General, Retreat, Parley, etc. In addition, there were often variations for each regiment so that when they went into battle, commanders could tell the drummers to signal specific troops to advance, fire, or retreat.

2. How do you balance a reader’s desire for nonstop action with fidelity to the historical record?

EP: I’m developing sort of an internal timing mechanism. There’s a lot of action and energy in my books. But I use certain moments to slow down, weaving detail and historical fact into the plot and interaction of the characters. The challenging part is not bogging down the story with too much information and thereby making it all a history lesson.

secretmissionwilliamtuck_212x3003. In writing this book, what was the most surprising discovery you made about the American Revolution?

EP: It’s hard to pick the most surprising discovery, but one of the most fascinating was America’s heroic double agent, a slave and spy named James Armistead. He made huge contributions during the Revolution, particularly in the build-up to the Battle of Yorktown.

4. Is riding a horse as exciting as you make it seem?

EP: Riding a horse can be a thrilling experience. It can also make you sore! As an actor, I raced a champion Arabian alongside a speeding camera truck, reins in my left hand and feeling for the horse’s pulse with my right. But my favorite ride was with my Little Brother through Big Brothers of L.A. We rode all day in Yellowstone Park, taking it easy and looking at the wildlife.

5. What do you think George Washington would be most happy with in regard to the contemporary United States?

EP: Washington would be proud of the courage, strength, will, and ingenuity of the American people. He’d be happy to see that in our best moments we still possess the qualities that won our independence.

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Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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