Publishers' Preview: Fall 2023: Five Questions for Carl Hiaasen

This interview originally appeared in the September/October 2023 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Fall 2023, an 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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Wrecker and his new friend Willi confront evils past and present in this fast-paced mystery set in a very contemporary Key West. 

1. Between reading Wrecker and Jenni Holm’s Turtle books, I’m dreaming of ­visiting Key West. What must I make sure to see? 

The old cemetery featured in the novel is an iconic attraction on the island. The iguanas that live there now are uninvited newcomers, but they are officially part of the graveyard experience. 

2. What can you do in a novel for kids that you can’t do in one for grownups? 

Writing for younger readers is liberating, in a way, because you get to tell a story through the eyes of characters who are seeing and experiencing things for the first time. They don’t bring along the same baggage that the jaded characters in my adult novels seem to have—problems with finances, in the workplace, with relationships. The young characters in Wrecker have so much energy and focus—and also hope—that it gives an extra spark to the story. 

3. Wrecker and Willi make a fine pair of sleuths—who is your own favorite ­fictional crimefighting duo? 

Definitely the Hardy Boys, Frank and Joe. They had no superpowers, just brains and guts. I devoured those books when I was a kid. 

4. You present a number of serious themes (the pandemic, racism, ­environmentalism) without swamping (sorry) the story. What’s the secret? 

For me, it’s hard to write fiction without using a real-life backdrop and real-life issues. The secret is not to preach, to let your characters have their say, and never to take your foot off the accelerator. Keep the pace moving fast. I learned that early on, from reading John D. MacDonald’s cool Florida mysteries. 

5. Speaking old man to old man, how did you become so crafty about cellphones? 

My wife and my youngest son are my consultants on cellphone technology jargon. I feel like I’m having a good day when I don’t erase something important by acci-dent. (Like your questions, for example!)

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Photo: Elena Seibert.

Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton

Editor Emeritus Roger Sutton was editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc., from 1996-2021. 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 MA in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a BA from Pitzer College in 1978.

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