Gordon Korman is a household name to many. Born in Montreal, raised in Thornhill, Ont., and currently living on Long Island, N.Y., Korman wrote his first book when he was 12, kicking off a career as a popular author of more than 60 books for middle-grade and young-adult readers. His latest, Masterminds, about a group of kids living in a strange New Mexico town where nothing is as it seems, is the first in a series.
Why did you write your new book?
I've always been fascinated by how seemingly ordinary kids deal with learning something extraordinary about themselves. I wrote Masterminds to throw the ultimate curveball at a group of middle-schoolers. They believe they are living perfect lives in the perfect town, and they discover the dark truth that everything they thought they knew about themselves is a lie. They are clones of the worst criminal masterminds in the prison system, being raised in a sanitized environment of sweetness and light as an experiment to see if they can overcome their sociopathic DNA and become productive citizens.
What agreed-upon classic do you despise?
I don't despise Charlotte's Web – in fact, I think it's terrific. But this has to be the worst message in any kids' book ever: Nothing bad will ever happen to you if you've got connections. Why should Wilbur escape the fate of every other pig on the farm just because he knows the right spider?
What scares you as a writer, and why?
The scariest thing for kids'-book writers is that pretty much your entire audience outgrows you every three or four years. Of course, the flipside is that there's always a new younger crew of fans coming up to take over the baton. The really cool part is that decades after you lose your audience, many of them come back and find you as adults. I now have a substantial base of 'old' fans, who were the original readership of my earlier books in the late seventies and eighties. One of the most common comments I get from kids these days: "You were my dad's favourite author when he was my age."
What's a book every 10-year-old should read, and why?
I'm partial to Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume. I read it in Grade 4, and it was my first realization that there were actual books written for and about people like me. It was the beginning of a love of the middle-grade novel that really shaped my life. My first book came to be because my Grade 7 English teacher gave us carte blanche to write whatever we wanted. It was due to Tales and The Great Brain and classics like those that it was natural for me to create a story that was, in style, content and format, very much an old-school middle-grade novel.
What's the best death scene in literature?
In juvenile literature, a lot of our best death scenes involve dogs rather than people. Think back to all the canines you buried as a young reader. The next time you're in the kids' section of a bookstore or library, try this experiment: Find a book with an award sticker and a dog on the cover. Trust me, that dog is going down! My personal cliché-busting favourite comes from Heads or Tails by Jack Gantos, where an alligator rises from a Florida canal to snap up the protagonist's dog.