NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC KIDS: Explorer Academy: The Nebula Secret is a fiction book, so all of this is totally made up, right?
TRUDI TRUEIT: Hah! Actually, most of the science fiction is based on what real National Geographic explorers are working on, and I’ve just taken things a little bit further. For instance, Cruz’s mom is working on a way to use animal venom when she dies in a mysterious lab accident. That was inspired by a Nat Geo explorer—a herpetologist named Zoltan Takacs—who really does collect venom from animals that might one day be used in medicine.
NAT GEO KIDS: But the gadgets are so futuristic. Surely those are complete science fiction.
TRUDI: Sometimes I would come up with a gadget that I knew had to be totally made up because it was so crazy. Then I’d do some research and find out that scientists are actually doing these things!
For instance, you know Emmett’s emoto-glasses, which change color and shape depending on how he’s feeling? I thought I completely made that up, but it turns out there’s a Nat Geo explorer, an engineer named Skylar Tibbits, who’s experimenting with materials that will change based on the environment.
NAT GEO KIDS: If you could have one piece of technology from The Nebula Secret, what would it be?
TRUDI: Emmett’s emoto-glasses. But I’d want other people to wear them so I could see if my friends have had a hard day and need some extra kindness.
NAT GEO KIDS: If you had a honeybee drone like Mell, what would you make it do?
TRUDI: I love photography, so I think I’d send my drone to take pictures of amazing places—the Northern Lights, snow leopards in Nepal. I could see the world from a different perspective.
Interview by Rachel Buchholz