78° Good Afternoon
78° Good Afternoon

Kidsday talks with author Graham Salisbury

I liked the book "Calvin Coconut: Trouble Magnet" because the lovable characters made me laugh. Kids should read the "Calvin Coconut" books because you never know what is going to happen next and what the characters will do.

In the book, Calvin is a Hawaiian boy who also has big responsibilities as the man of the house. His dad is Little Johnny Coconut, a singer who left the family years ago to be a musical sensation in Las Vegas.

Calvin is starting fourth grade with his new teacher, Mr. Purdy, who treats his class as a boot camp. Calvin's friends, Maya, Julio and Rubin, help him get into trouble and out of it.

Among his adventures in the book: Calvin gets tangled up in a runaway kiteboard; he helps start a food fight at school; he accidentally locks his baby-sitter in his room and then has to jump into a slimy, smelly garbage bin to escape the school bully, Tito.

I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series, "The Zippy Fix," which will be released in September.

After reading the book, I met author Graham Salisbury along with two of my friends, Charlie Uhrin and Samantha Uhrin, 8 and 9, of East Northport. We met him in the children's section of the East Northport Library.

What is your inspiration for "Trouble Magnet"?

It took me a long time to figure out how to approach this concept of wanting to create this series character. Everywhere I looked, and everything I dreamed of, nothing worked. It was just junk ideas. And where I went to get the inspiration for Calvin was inside myself -- looking back at my old days as a young person. And once I decided to do that, boom, there was Calvin.

In your story, Calvin is tormented by a bully. Were you ever tormented by a bully?

No. There was one guy who liked to get ahold of us, but guess what: I was fast. He never could catch up with me. I hung out with a bunch of guys, and we were all buddies, so nobody really bothered us.

Did you make the story based on your childhood?

Not really. The story is based on the kind of kid I used to be, but the stories themselves are not things that I actually did. However, the house he lives in, the street he lives in, the school he goes to, the beach he goes to, the market he goes to, are all places where I grew up. The places are real; the story is imaginary.

Is it hard to write a story?

It is really hard to write a first draft. But once you have a first draft, that is when the fun begins because you are revising it. And you go over it and over it and over it. And you make it better and better and better. That is really the key to good writing -- revision.

Are there any tips you can give me about writing stories?

There are many tips I could give you about writing stories but lets start with the most important ones. The most important tip I could give anyone who wants to be a writer si to read. Read your brains out. Only by reading will you begin to understand what's good writing and what's not good writing. As you read a book you should pay attention to which books really draw you in. The ones you remember, those are the ones that have something to say to you. Read, write and if you like to, keep a journal. Keep a journal of things you feel, things you do. If you start now and you become a writer, 20 years from now those journals will be a gold mine.

Why did you become a writer?

I became a writer by accident. I didn't know I could write, I didn't I would like to write. I became a writer because I had a fear of public speaking. I signed up for a Dale Carnegie course in public speaking. In that course which was a class of 40 people who all had the same fear we had to write three-minute talks to give to our fellow classmates. I started telling these little stories about growing up in Hawaii. As I would tell these stories, some people would laugh and I started to feel good about myself. Then I would come back with a new story and I would tell huge lies about what I would do as a kid. I discovered I was a fiction writer and I liked to make things up. Isn't that amazing?

Why does Stella move into Calvin's house?

Calvin's mom is a single mom and she has to work and she need help. She needs help when Darcy comes home from school Since Stella was having problems in her own life with her own mother. . Her mother was Calvin's mother's friend from high school, Stella's mom said maybe living in Hawaii for a while would help things out. I thought of Stella because in my own life my mom was a working mom and we had somebody live with us. And I was butting heads with her all the time. I can remember those times and that is why I have it with Stella a love hate relationship I love having Stella in there she helps make the story more lively.

Why did you make two bullies in the story?

Two bullies. Tito and Frankie Diamonds.Oh, Frankie Diamonds. He is not really a bully in my mind he just kind of hangs out with Tito. He is the same age and he has made friends with them. He is like a follower. When you read the second book you will see more of Frankie Diamond and his personality will get a little deeper.

How many books have you written?

To this point, 12 books. Calvin Coconut is the first one for younger kids. I have been wanting to do it for a long time but the younger you try to write for the harder it gets. If you write books for older kids or adults you can ramble a lot but trying to write a book that is vey tight it is almost like poetry it is really hard you have to really work with your language.

How did you come up with the name Coconut for Calvin?

I don't really know. It is kind of like magic.It just popped into my head one day. When I first invented Calvin he was Joey Coconut but my publisher said I don't like Joey so much as a name so I thought about a name that was popular in Hawaii and Calvin is one that you hear a lot. I came up with the Coconut, well you know how he gets his name it is from his dad. Coconut also paints a visual image. When you hear it you think of Hawaii.

How long does it take to write chapter books?

If I have a good idea it doesn't take too long. Sometimes it takes a while to develop the ide, the concept you want to write about. I think most of the work goes into the concept. Once I have a concept I can construct a beginning, a middle and an end. I believe that writing fiction is kind of a magical experience and a lot of the best things that happen, happens while I am actually doing it.

Do you relate your own friends to Calvin's friends sometimes?

No, I think they are all imaginary, but every character has a little bit of my friends and a little bit of me -- just composites. Only in one of my books have I based a character on a real person. That was the book called "Shark Bait."

Do you interview the people you are writing about?

Only in my World War II novels. Those are ones with historical facts. My World War II novels definitely have some people who were there. To me that was fascinating.


We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

More Family