How did you come up with the idea of Jack Stalwart?
I love to travel and thought it would be fun to write a children's book series where the main character got to travel the world. What better way to do that than as a secret agent!
Where do you find inspiration for each Jack Stalwart story?
Whenever I sit down to write a new Jack Stalwart story, I crack open an Atlas and take a look at the map of the world. I think about where I might like to travel to and where I would like to send Jack. Then, I think about the important people, places and possessions in those places and ask myself whether a mission could be created from them. Once I have the setting and the mission, the story starts to write itself.
What's your favorite Jack Stalwart book?
Honestly, I like all of the Jack Stalwart books for different reasons. I like the USA book because it’s the first in the series. I like the England one because the Tower of London has an amazing history. I like Cambodia because Southeast Asia and the temples of Angkor are beautiful. I like Egypt because it’s the last book in the original series and answers questions about Jack’s brother, Max. You get the drift ...
How do you come up with character names?
I try to create names that are meaningful and memorable. Jack's surname, 'Stalwart', means 'dependable' and 'trustworthy'. Madame Midori (the villain from the Japan story) got her name from the green eye shadow that she wears. ('Midori' is 'green' in Japanese). Treasure hunter Callous Carl (from the Mexico story) is hard-hearted and has rough hands so he deserves to be called 'callous'.
Have you been to all of the places that you've written about?
I have traveled to Thailand, Ireland, New York, France, England, Cambodia, Japan, Australia, Italy, Mexico and Kenya. But I used my imagination for Brazil, China, Russia, the Arctic, Nepal and Egypt. I currently live in California, so that made it easy to write The Race for Gold Rush Treasure, and I grew up in Louisiana, which provided the inspiration for Swamp Mysteries: The Treasure of Jean Lafitte.
Why do you think the Jack Stalwart series resonates so well with boys?
I think the series resonates well with all genders alike because it contains action, adventure and suspense. It’s also written in a style that is straight forward and to the point. I often get letters from parents of children and children with dyslexia, autism, and ADHD who have found the simple language and larger font sizes of the Jack Stalwart series helpful.
How old were you when you started writing books?
I was 34 years old when I wrote the first Jack Stalwart book, although creative writing was one of my favorite classes as a child. When I was 9, I wrote a book called The Girl Who Wanted a Horse ... because I did!
Did the Jack Stalwart series inspire the Secret Agent Training Manual?
Over the years, Jack and I have received thousands of letters from children asking how they can become a secret agent like Jack. So I thought it would be fun to create a book that introduced them to basic code-breaking. It's called - not surprisingly! - How to Make and Break Top Secret Messages.
What is the best and worst part of being a writer?
The best part is knowing that I have created a meaningful and relatable character for children. It tickles me to see the letters that children send to Jack via the www.jackstalwart.com website. They love him, trust him and want to be like him. My hope is that when these children are older, they will remember Jack fondly. Some might even decide to follow in his footsteps and work for an organization that saves the world’s most precious people, places and possessions. Honestly, there are no worsts in being a writer. Unless you count writer’s block!
What do you do in your spare time?
That’s a very good question as I have very little of it! I am a full-time wife and mother with a rambunctious rescue dog. Besides being at home with my family, I love to hike, swim, travel and go to the movies! I also like to learn new languages and have been studying how to speak and read Thai off and on for more than ten years.
You originally self-published the Jack Stalwart series. What advice would you give to others wanting to take the same path?
First, you should research the marketplace to see whether a book idea like yours already exists. For example, if you’re writing a time travel book, you should make sure that the premise of yours is unique. Second, you should also ask many people to read your book and provide both positive and negative feedback. These readers should be from your target reader group. If you’re writing a children’s book, your fifty-year old Aunt Sally is NOT your target reader! Sometimes the criticisms are hard to take, but they are important. You’ll be spending a lot of time and money developing and printing your self-published book and you want to make sure that it will sell.
What's next for Elizabeth Singer Hunt?
I’ve recently entered the exciting world of podcasting with an episodic production of my Swamp Mysteries: The Treasure of Jean Lafitte story. I'm also serving as consultant for the Secret Agent Jack Stalwart animated TV series, which is currently in production. At some point in the near future, I plan to take a crack at writing a feature film screenplay!