Local Author Spotlight: Eric Walters

Eric Walters is a Member of the Order of Canada and the author of over 115 books that have collectively won more than 100 awards, including the Governor General’s Literary Award for The King of Jam Sandwiches. A former teacher, Eric began writing as a way to get his fifth-grade students interested in reading and writing. Eric is a tireless presenter, speaking to over 100,000 students per year in schools across the country. He lives in Guelph, Ontario.

Houston, Is There a Problem? revolves all around space. Did you learn any really cool things about space that you can share with us? 

Writing about space meant learning so much about space! NASA seems to have initials for everything from the Orbital Maneuvering System(OMS) to the Waste Collection System (WCS), or as we'd call it, the toilet. EVERYTHING is recycled on the space station so every bit of sweat, condensation and urine is recycled and reused. As they say, 'Today's coffee was yesterday's coffee.'

Do you do your research before you start writing, or throughout the writing process? Was there a lot of research involved in this book? 

I always do a lot of research. I call myself a 'method writer'. I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to write Between Heaven and Earth, walked half-way across Kenya to write Walking Home, hung out with elephants for Elephant Secret and tigers for Tiger by The Tail. For this book, along with extensive reading, watching clips, and learning from astronauts, I also attended Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. It was an amazing experience and I learned so much. One of the things I learned there was that I could never be an astronaut! I just don't have the stomach for it!

What is your favourite part about writing books?

I love taking an idea, crafting an outline and making it into a full story. When I'm writing it often feels like I'm there, living with my characters. It's like watching TV or Netflix but I'm the one who gets to write the plot and figure out what's going to happen. Imagine having a TV where you could decide what adventures the characters are going to experience! That's what writing is like for me.

Which one of the characters in Houston, Is There a Problem? do you relate to the most?

I almost always write in first person. My main character in Houston, Is There A Problem?, is a 13-year-old boy named Houston. He's named after his parents' favourite singer, Whitney Houston. If he'd been a girl he would have been named Whitney. He does remarkably well in school and has a real talent for math. He is the character I identify with because I'm writing, experiencing, and feeling what he's feeling. He's a bit of a worrier and tends to overthink things. Both characteristics that I have. You always invest some of yourself into every character you write. Some more than others.   I hope you'll enjoy getting to know Houston in this first book in the trilogy. There's no telling where his adventures will lead him. Actually, having finished writing the third book I could tell you exactly — but I'm not going to! 

Purchase a copy of Houston, Is There a Problem? from your local independent bookstore.