NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC KIDS: Explorer Academy: The Nebula Secret introduces readers to a school that trains kids to be explorers. What do you think it means to be an explorer?
TRUDI TRUEIT: I think an explorer is someone who wants a deeper understanding of the world—whether they’re searching for knowledge or exploring underwater caves. It’s someone who pursues his or her passion to make a difference. That’s what I wanted in this series: not just for Cruz and his friends to learn about the world, but to figure out what they’re passionate about and how they can use that to make a difference.
NGK: What’s your favorite animal?
TRUDI: I really like weird animals like slugs, snails, and octopuses. And I like that these weird creatures might help improve our lives. For instance, scientists are studying how slugs move—they actually glide along mucus that they excrete—to improve robot locomotion.
NGK: Cruz has Mexican heritage, Emmett is Chinese-Canadian, Sailor is from New Zealand, Bryndis is from Iceland … basically all of the Explorer Academy students are from all over the world. Which of those places would you most like to visit, and why?
TRUDI: Iceland. The landscapes are so beautiful, with the glaciers and volcanos and everything. I’d love to see it.
NGK: Do you have pets?
TRUDI: Yes! Three cats, and at least one is usually sitting on my desk when I’m writing. Pippin is just the sweetest boy. Woody got his name after a vet found him living in a woodpile. And Emmylou is still a kitten and loves taking naps with her brothers.
NGK: When you were 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
TRUDI: I’ve always wanted to write. I was on my school newspaper when I was 12, and my teacher encouraged me to ask the local newspaper editor if I could write for her. And she let me! I started writing a column about things that were important to kids. It just shows that you can always find ways to express your passion no matter where you are.
NGK: What are your favorite fiction books for tweens?
TRUDI: When I was a kid, I loved this book called Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me by E.L. Konigsburg. It was all about friendship and really inspired me to write books in which friendship is a very powerful thing.
I also love Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, The Giver by Lois Lowry, Holes by Louis Sachar, and Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White.
NGK: If you could give advice to your 10-year-old self, what would it be?
TRUDI: I was the tallest kid in my class, wore glasses, had crazy hair, and played the saxophone and the clarinet. So I never felt like I belonged, and I always wanted to be someone else. But all those things made me who I am today, and I like myself today! So I would tell my 10-year-old self to hold on to who you are. Don’t try to fit in—the world should fit to you, not the other way around.
Interview by Rachel Buchholz