The car: Mazda RX-8
Profession: Children’s Book Author
- His first novel, Stand Your Ground, was created for his Grade 5 class in 1993; has published more than 70 novels for children and young adults
- Founded The Creation of Hope charity (creationofhope.com) to provide care for orphans in Kenya
- His latest novel, The Taming from Doubleday, is a modern-day twist on The Taming of the Shrew
- Upcoming books this year include The Matato Ride, Hunter, Between Heaven and Earth
Eric Walters is an award-winning children’s author. The former teacher launched his writing career in 1993 with his first novel, Stand Your Ground. Since then, he’s published more than 70 novels for children and young adults.
Walters has gone to great depths for his research – he walked 200 kilometres across the Sahara to write Just Deserts and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for his upcoming book, Between Heaven and Earth.
When he’s not working, the writer is driving around town in his 2004 Mazda RX-8.
Why did you choose an RX-8?
I had an RX-7 when I got married before I had kids and I traded in my RX-7 that didn’t have a back seat for a Reliant station wagon. It was a sportier station wagon.
Now my kids are grown and in university and I thought it was time to go back to the car I loved.
As I get older and my legs don’t work as well, I like to have a car that works well. The acceleration is like being stung by a bee. It just jumps.
Originally it was a summer car for the first five-six years, but I’ve been driving it year round. I’ve got 230,000 kilometres on it. I’ve replaced the clutch – that’s it. No major repairs. The brakes have to be fixed. But my son-in-law helps me with those. The car has been almost maintenance-free.
What does an RX-8 say about you?
I went through a mid-life crisis, maybe?
I’ve joked around. I got it when I was 48 – your classic mid-life crisis.
I already had all my hair so a transplant was out. And I really do love my wife so there weren’t many options left. I had to get a new car.
Do you know what’s under the hood?
It’s a rotary engine; it’s really small. I’m not a mechanical person.
What do you think about Mazda getting rid of the rotary engine?
It’s such a quirky little engine. Because it’s different people don’t really like it. It’s a wonderful engine.
Are your kids and wife allowed to drive it?
Oh yeah. I taught my kids how to drive standard on my RX-8.
But learning to drive a stick on an RX-8 is hard – did they have any mishaps?
They all say once they learn on that every other car is simple.
There’s such a small window on my clutch. In some cars the sweet spot is eight inches – this one is pretty tight.
It’s a sign of love to let your kids drive a new car.
It had better moments including my daughter deciding she was going to get fancy and downshift going around a curve on a highway going from fourth and she thought she was going into third and she hit second. If we didn’t have our seatbelts on, I think we would have set off the airbags.
I really love my car, but I love my kids a lot more. It’s not worth me yelling at them or getting upset. They’re my babies. This is just a car.
Do you like to drive fast?
This car doesn’t allow you to go slow. I set my cruise so I don’t get above 130.
Any speeding tickets?
Not recently – how’s that for an answer?
I had an officer pull me over doing 138k and I talked to her a little bit. …I said, “Is there any way you can reduce this a bit?” She said, “I don’t reduce tickets, I just let people go who I like.” And she let me go. I ended up hugging an OPP officer on the side of the 401.
Do you brainstorm ideas for new books while driving?
Continually. Driving is one of the best times.
You’ve had those times when you’re driving and think where am I? How did I get here? Where you’ve driven 75 kilometres and you can’t figure out how you got there because your head was so occupied with something. I love driving and thinking.
What’s your best and worst driving memory?
Best is being with my family and doing 18-hour straight drives. We used to leave here [Mississauga, Ont.]and go to Nova Scotia and my kid would say, “I have to go to the washroom” and I’d say, “No, you don’t. I have a quarter tank.”
We try to see how fast we can get into the gas station, pump gas, go to the washroom, get our snacks and go out. We do it like an Indy Pit stop. We made it to Nova Scotia in 16 hours and 30 minutes.
My worst would be Kenya. I’m in Kenya every summer – we run an orphanage. Kenya driving makes Italian and French driving seem like German driving.
Nairobi is the worst driving I’ve ever seen. People literally lean out of their cars and hit each other’s cars with their hands. The police, if they don’t like you, smash your car with their nightstick.
The traffic jams are unbelievable. If there are three lanes in one direction and three lanes in the other it might become five lanes in one direction and one lane in the other.
People do whatever they want – there are no speed limits. They pass uphill, behind a transport truck on a blind curve.
They don’t even clear away the debris from an accident. So a car that’s been caught on fire will sit at the side of the road for the next five years.
What was your first car?
A Pinto station wagon with wood panelling.
I paid about $400 for it. I got most of my money back by going through the seat cushions.
I drove that thing into the ground. At one point, I lost reverse. I couldn’t drive anywhere where I had to back up.
Then the floor rotted out and I took stove pipe, straightened it and riveted it in the bottom of my car. Before that, I would drive over a puddle and get wet!
What came afterwards?
I had a Camaro, a full-size van, lots of Hondas, RX-7, my Reliant and lots of minivans.
How long will you keep this Mazda?
I’m driving it until it drops.
This interview has been edited and condensed.