Of Geckos and Monsters: The Boundless Creativity of Children's Author Bruce Hale

When he was in the second grade, Bruce Hale had an idea for a monster book inspired by a moment when he and his friend were watching a horror movie. His father dressed up as a werewolf and scared the living daylights out of them. Not many second graders get the gift of seeing their books published one day, but Bruce eventually did. The Curse of the Were-Hyena, the first book in Hale's new Monstertown Mystery series for grades 3-7, came out last July with Disney-Hyperion.

A love of film and a passion for intrigue are two hallmarks of Hale's long and celebrated writing career. His award-winning Chet Gecko series, which features a high-functioning lizard solving mysteries at his elementary school, delights kids and parents alike – the titles are parodies of classic film noir movies (The Chameleon Wore Chartreuse, Hiss me Deadly, This Gum for Hire - you get the picture).

The multi-talented writer is an artist too; his illustrations bring a spark to Chet's many adventures. Hale is also the author of several picture books, including the ever-popular Clark the Shark series. I was so curious about his seemingly limitless creativity that I had to ask him for a "Short & Snappy" interview. Read on!

CSM: Your Chet Gecko mystery series is fun, irreverent humor for kids in 3rd through 6th grade. What do you love about writing for this age group?

BH: Middle-grade readers are enthusiastic readers.  They love action, humor, and mystery (as do I), which makes it fun to write for them.  Also, they’re very loyal — they find a series they like and stick with it.

CSM: Your books take punning, metaphors, and similes to a whole new level (here's a kooky example: "the afternoon flitted by like a butterfly stapled to the desktop"). Who is your biggest literary inspiration for creative work play?

BH: For better or worse, the wordplay in the Chet Gecko books comes from my own twisted brain. But I do get inspired by Raymond Chandler’s colorful similes in the Phillip Marlowe mysteries and Tom Robbins’ playful way with language.

CSM: What would happen if Chet Gecko met the Geico gecko?

BH: It wouldn’t be pretty.  My money’s on Chet.

CSM: Does such a prolific author ever gets writer's block? How do you get your creative juices flowing again?

BH: I think writer’s block is just perfectionism in disguise. I combat it by deliberately writing crappy first drafts. As James Thurber said, “Don’t get it right; just get it written.”  If I’m not trying for perfection, it’s always easier to put something on paper.

CSM: This one's for frazzled parents. Any tips for getting kids to put their screens down and pick up a book?

BH: Take the time to find the books that suit their taste to a T. I was a reluctant reader until my parents introduced me to Tarzan; after that, they couldn’t get me to stop reading.


Edgar-nominated author-illustrator Bruce Hale is passionate about inspiring reluctant readers to open books (and read them).  He has written over 40 seriously funny books for children, including the award-winning Chet Gecko MysteriesSnoring Beauty (one of Oprah’s Recommended Reads for Kids), and the Clark the Shark books, one of which ended up in a McDonald’s Happy Meal (not the way you think). His latest tale is The Curse of the Were-Hyenathe first book in his new Monstertown Mysteries series, based on an idea he had in second grade. An actor and Fulbright Scholar in Storytelling, Bruce is in demand as a speaker, having presented internationally at conferences, universities, and schools. You can find him on-line at www.brucehale.com and www.brucehalewritingtips.com.

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Author photo by Roxyanne Young

Author photo by Roxyanne Young