Meet author, Keith Hemstreet and learn about his newest book, Travels with Gannon & Wyatt: Hawaii
When I was asked to review Travels with Gannon & Wyatt:Hawaii I thought, Oh cool! I would love to go back to Hawaii someday, it will be fun to review a travel book. I didn’t realize at first that I was being asked to review a young adult/middle school book. Yet, it still sounded interesting to me, and after all it was about Hawaii. So, I read on…
This and previous volumes in the series are written in the style of journals kept by famous explorers – both to engage middle graders in science and to make for a fast, dramatic read about the cultures. The stories set in Botswana, the Great Bear Rainforest, Egypt, Greenland, Ireland and now, Hawaii, share the experience of seeing these special places first-hand. Authors Patti Wheeler and Keith Hemstreet love to talk about why it’s so important for kids to learn about these places and people.
In Travels with Gannon & Wyatt: Hawaii, readers soon learn that the big island Hawaii has four the of five major climate zones on earth; that Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano, is both sacred and one of best locations in the world to view stars; and that the island is known as the bird-extinction capitol of world with 70% of its birds now extinct. It also quickly becomes clear how important the history, culture and language is to the Hawaiian people –and how that’s increasingly at risk. Hemstreet called Hawaii, “one of my favorite locations because of the environmental diversity and rich culture.”
He said, “In each book the main characters have an adventure with people from different cultures, who have different beliefs and lifestyles. We’ve also found everywhere we go, the indigenous people are talking about climate change and telling us what is happening in their part of the world. We aren’t looking to take sides, but to convey ‘this is what is happening, this is how the traditional inhabitants of this land feel about it, and this is how these changes may affect things long term.’ We do everything we can to share what we’ve seen and experienced with readers. In addition to the books, we have a website where we blog about our experiences and share our photos and videos. We also utilize social media to share news and run contests that include prizes from places we’ve been.
I was sold. Not only on the book, but on the inspiration of the authors. I wanted to interview Keith and Patti and learn more about what motivates them to use their talent and affinity for learning about cultures to make a difference in the world. I scheduled an interview through their publicist. I received the book, I read the first few pages and I knew – this is something special. Then I got this email from Keith – – my heart sank a bit. I am always disheartened when someone cancels. It took a lot for me to overcome shyness and I know most authors would rather be pulled apart limb by limb by wild horses than be interviewed on a live talk show. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when I received this…
“Hi Melissa, First, thank you for inviting me on your show. Unfortunately, I am just back from speaking at schools and libraries in Wyoming and feeling under the weather. In lieu of a video interview tomorrow night, is there another format we could use, possibly an audio interview (if my voice holds) or a guest post/text interview on your blog? In fact, audio and text are my preferred interview formats, so I would be happy to do either or both. Also, should you wish to offer a give-a-way to your audience, I’ll send send you a free set of our middle-grade adventure novels (there are currently 6 in the series).”
These books were a welcomed surprise for the library at Chaminade College Prep Middle School!
It is my goal to connect with people and to learn from them, and there are many ways of doing this. It doesn’t always have to be on Tinsel Town Live – – and what better way, what more inspired and enriching way – could I get the most out of an opportunity to have a guest post from a seasoned author than to have his answers in written form – in his own hand – I believe that was a pure gift.
I received Keith’s response today, the exact date he said he would send them to me. I am over the moon excited about sharing this classic interview with you. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I do!
Here are some questions I love to ask, and a few from a middle school student pal of mine…
What do you like to be called?
What do you most want to share about yourself with my audience?
I am a Floridan by birth and graduated from Florida State University. I now live in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and enjoy hiking into places where you’re more likely to see a bear or mountain lion than another human being.
What motivated you to reach this point in your career?
Since I was young, I wanted to be a writer. Reading and writing are two of my greatest passions. Over the years, I have taken on a variety of jobs that moved me away from full-time writing, but even then I’d wake at 4:30 a.m. and work for 2-3 hours on something — a novella, a newspaper article or blog, a screenplay. It is all I’ve ever wanted to do, but to do it well takes years and years of practice. Same goes for any profession. I have been writing for over 20 years now and I am still learning. Patti Wheeler, who had the brilliant idea to create a travel/adventure series for young readers, was the primary motivator behind Travels with Gannon & Wyatt. Patti and I work hard to make sure each book in the series is action packed, entertaining and educational. Hopefully, these books will be around long after we’re gone, and the idea that they could be provides added motivation to do all we can to ensure each story will be appreciated for decades to come.
What inspires you?
First, my wife and children. A child’s sense of wonder is a tremendous source of inspiration for me. I wake each day inspired to do my best for my family, to create an environment that is loving, supportive, creative. I’m also driven by a desire to do something good for the world while I am here. To contribute. To leave it better off in some way. Travels with Gannon & Wyatt addresses this desire, as each book brings the magic of nature and distant cultures to the imaginations of young people and their families. The series subtly promotes conservation, diversity, and global understanding. We hope readers will embrace these themes and be inspired to continue on their own journey of self discovery.
How do you relate to your characters?
There are parts of Gannon and Wyatt’s personality that are similar to my own. Patti’s, as well. Their interests, on the whole, are also similar. Specifically their fascination with travel, cultures, and the environment. There are few things as thrilling as exploring a place you’ve never been. The characters embody this excitement in the books, and Patti and I can totally relate. Truthfully, the fictional characters are the sort of teenagers I always wanted to be. Curious, smart, and worldly. Avid readers and prolific writers. Both Gannon and Wyatt, and key characters they meet in each location, are also driven to do right and have strong family values.
Are the brothers real?
While all the characters in the book are fictional, the main characters, Gannon and Wyatt, are very loosely based on two brothers of the same names. They are Patti’s twin sons, and have traveled to all of the places we write about in the books. Patti was a flight attendant for 15 years, just like the mom in the book. One of the great perks of working for an airline is that you and your family get to fly for free. So, their family has been traveling for some time. It’s in their blood.
Do you incorporate your own life’s experiences from childhood and from your own travels in your writing?
Yes, we do. We travel to each location to do some research before writing the book. We hope that our extensive field research will add authenticity to our books, and it’s not unusual for some of our own experiences to make it into a manuscript. Especially if something exciting happens. We do embellish, so again, the stories in the book are fiction, but in some instances they are based on our own experiences. The rhino encounter in our first book, Botswana, was based on a frightening experience we had in the Kalahari Desert. Sorry, I won’t spoil it.
What is the most vivid memory you have of your travels?
Staring into the eyes of a lion in Botswana that was resting ten feet away from me, or watching a glacier calve in Greenland and being horrified by the size of the wave that came racing toward our boat. Entering King Tut’s tomb in Luxor, Egypt, or seeing a Spirit Bear materialize in the Great Bear Rainforest. Crossing paths with crocodiles the size of dinosaurs in the Australian Outback, or our expedition to the top of an active volcano in Iceland, or casually strolling the streets of Havana, Cuba. All of these experiences are etched in my mind forever. And, of course, everywhere we go we meet wonderful people and make new friends. Also, returning home to my wife and daughters, wrapping them all in giant hug, that’s as exciting to me as the trip itself.
What is your favorite travel destination to date?
I have truly loved every place I have visited, so it is hard to say. There are three island nations I was especially enamored with and hope to return to with my family — Greenland, Iceland and Cuba. And having the opportunity to travel through South Africa, Botswana and Zambia was the thrill of a lifetime. Ireland is also hard to beat. Italy, too, because of the people, history, architecture and art, not to mention the country’s food, which is my favorite. I could go on.
Why do you like to write?
Maybe it’s that writing allows me to use my imagination. It gives me the ability to create. With writing, there is a level of freedom and opportunity that is invigorating. Writing is all I ever really wanted to do. While it takes significant time and focus, it’s not really work to me. When I wake up in the morning, I can’t wait to sit down and start writing.
What is your core value? When it comes to your passions and purpose in life?
Compassion. Acting with kindness and compassion in every day life. My wife and I always tell our daughters, the most important thing is to be kind. If you are a kind and caring person, a person who takes a genuine interest in the wellbeing of others, everything else in life will work itself out.
Is there anything else you would like to share with me and my viewers?
Travels with Gannon & Wyatt has been described as a mix between The Hardy Boys and Indiana Jones, or Magic Tree House for slightly older readers. We intend to have a minimum of 12 books in the series, but hopefully we’ll have many more. Patti Wheeler and I speak at elementary and middle schools across the country, via Skype and in person. Teachers and librarians interested in a school or classroom visit can contact us through our website — GannonAndWyatt.com. Also be sure to follow us at Facebook.com/GannonAndWyatt
What promotion would you like to tell us about?
We are happy to give away a complete set of autographed Travels with Gannon & Wyatt books (there are currently 6 in the series) to one of your readers. You decide how to choose a winner, and we’ll ship a set of books to them. [See details below on how you can win!]
These questions are from my friend and fellow blogger, Samantha, who is in the 7th grade:
What made you come up with the idea for Travels with Gannon & Wyatt?
Coauthor Patti Wheeler was a flight attendant for 15 years, so she and her husband traveled the world. When you travel, you learn lots of great things about the culture, environment, and wildlife of these places and Patti wanted to come up with a way to pass on all of that valuable knowledge to young people like yourself. So she and I started brainstorming and decided that a fictional adventure series would be the best way to do it.
Is your book series about your own life?
No, although some scenes are inspired by our own experiences. We try to use a lot of what we see, learn and do while traveling in each book.
What makes you use realistic places in your story rather than fictional places?
There are so many places on earth that are simply magical, as magical as any place of fantasy, if not more so. We want to bring the magic of these real places to young readers. There is a great big and wonderful world out there! We are fascinated by it and hope to capture a little bit of it in each book.
Why did you put a page for notes in the back?
The stories are told through the journal entries of the main characters, Gannon and Wyatt. In part, this was done as a nod to the historic journals of famous explorers from the 1800s and 1900s. Explorers like Lewis & Clark. It was also done to encourage young people to keep a journal of their own. The lined pages in the back are for readers to write their thoughts or jot notes. When we speak at schools, we talk about the importance of reading and writing. The more you read and write, the deeper your understanding of the world, and the deeper you understanding of yourself.
I can’t thank Keith enough for this fabulous insight into his and Patti’s process and for sharing his passion for travel and writing with me, Samantha, and our readers. I still hope to interview Keith and Patti on Tinsel Town Live – or perhaps, I will have a chance to meet them at school one day.
Connect with authors Keith Hemstreet and Patti Wheeler Here:
Please comment with any questions you may have for the authors, or myself. Please share any story of your own travels and adventures with us! We would love to hear from you.
Keith and Patti would like to send you a gift! A winner will be chosen randomly from those who Tweet the message below between now and Tuesday, November 15th and will be announced live on Tinsel Town Live with Miz Meliz on Smiletime.
Tags: Gannon and Wyatt, Hawaii, interview, Keith Hemstreet, kindness, Middle School, Patti Wheeler, travel, writing, Young People