1. How did the two of you go about writing the book together?
Jon came up with the original idea for the book. It was based on a bedtime story he used to tell our son – which was, in turn, based on Jon’s childhood in Latin America. I got involved because I’d always been a writer in advertising and found it a lot easier to transfer the adventures in our heads to the printed page. At first we’d switch off and pass the manuscript back and forth between us. Now I do most of the writing and Jon does most of the illustrating, but we plot everything together.
2. Since you both visited some amazing places, what is the best thing you encountered?
Pamela: For me, it’s the thrill you get when you enter one of the less excavated sites and you see it almost as the first explorers did. Trees growing on the pyramid steps, fallen masonry, everything overgrown, incredible carvings peering at you through a tangle of foliage, howlers booming in the forest, toucans coughing in the branches, and you think “Who made this place? Who lived here?”
Jon: At the remote Maya site of Balamku in Mexico, you can go inside one of the pyramids, where archeologists have discovered an intact, 20 meter-long painted stucco frieze. It depicts a wild range of mythological creatures (serpents, jaguars, witz monsters), but the most striking elements are massive frogs with Maya kings rising from their open mouths. Breathtaking!
3. If you could meet one of your characters from Middleworld in real life, who would you want it to be?
Pamela: Of course, it would be fascinating to meet Lord 6-Dog or Lady Coco and ask them about all the things we don’t know about the Maya. So much knowledge was lost when Diego de Landa burnt their books. Maybe I‘d want to meet him and ask why he did it. There are several characters with secrets that I’d like to quiz, although we’ll find out everything sooner or later. You know, I’d also really like to meet Raul, because he’s such a good cook.
Jon: The character I would most like to meet is Lady Coco. I imagine she would have very entertaining stories about life in the Maya court. And she wouldn't hold back on any of the juicy details!
4. What is the story behind the cover of Middleworld?
It shows the scene where Max and Lola are escaping down an underground river. The Yucatan peninsula, where the story is set, is made of limestone, so there’s not much surface water – the rain filters through the limestone and ends up in a network of underground caverns and rivers. We’ve actually canoed down a river like the one in the book, where you sometimes have to lie flat because the cave roof is so low and sometimes it soars above you like a huge cathedral. There were lots of bats flitting around, and blind catfish in the water, and a human skull embedded in the rocks – but we didn’t have to shoot any rapids, thank goodness.
5. What was your favorite part to write in Middleworld?
I think we’d both choose the scene in the Black Pyramid where Ah Pukuh, the god of Violent and Unnatural Death, throws a party and Max has a string of misadventures. It was so much fun to write and took the least editing.
6. What do you want your readers to take from reading Middleworld?
We’d like them to take greater knowledge of the ancient Maya and the amazing things they achieved; awareness that there are still six million Maya living in central America today; respect for the delicate balance of life in the rainforest; oh, and we’d like them to feel like they’ll explode with impatience if they don’t get to read Book 2 on the day it comes out. (December 28 2010.)
7. Did you base any of your characters on yourselves or close friends?
Max is based on Jon as a child, particularly his acquisitive nature and his dislike of life in the jungle. But he’s also based on every fourteen year old we’ve ever met. They’re not always perfectly behaved but they have a strong sense of justice – and when the chips are down, they’re usually braver than the adults.
Thanks so much Jon and Pamela for visiting my blog and doing the interview. And to all my followers, I hope you try this book out because it is wondeful (you can view my review here.) And you can buy the book from Amazon.com here.