Bestselling author of nearly 30 novels for adults, including the Dirk Pitt series, Cussler's first work for children is The Adventures of Vin Fiz (Philomel). In the novel, twins fly cross-country in a plane which has been transformed by a magical device from a toy to a life-size aircraft.
What was the inspiration for your story?
Well, not many people realize that Ian Fleming based his novel, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, on actual planes built in the 1920s. And my novel is based on a real plane, too. There really was a Vin Fiz, a biplane built by the Wright brothers in their small factory in Akron, Ohio. I dedicate the book to the memory of Cal Rodgers, who in 1911 made the first transcontinental flight in this plane. He crashed about 30 times along the way, but finally made it from New York to Pasadena. Rodgers was sponsored by a company that made a soft drink called Vin Fiz and the company used the plane to advertise the drink. The story line about the twins and the magical machine is based on an ongoing story I made up for my children and my grandchildren.
After creating so many books for adults, did you find it difficult to write for children?
It took me about three months to get into the new writing style, but I eventually did. I asked three librarians who purchase children's books to read the manuscript for me, and they were very helpful letting me know when I used words that a six to 10 year-old wouldn't understand.
Do you have any plans to write more children's books?
I have no other children's book in the works, but if this is a success I'm sure they'll be after me to turn it into a series. Maybe I'll have these same twins use the magical machine to enlarge other toys and go on different adventures. Since my son is taking over writing the Dirk Pitt series, that kind of gives me a chance to fool around. I wrote this kids' book and I did a coffee table book about my auto collection and I'm currently in the middle of a Western.
My son's name is Dirk—I named Dirk Pitt after him when he was about three years old. He still laughs about the fact that when I started writing, in the mid-1960s, I had my desk in his bedroom and he fell asleep every night listening to the sound of my typewriter.
So maybe his inheriting this creative task was meant to be?
Yes, I suppose it was