On the eve of the publication of Rick Yancey's second book about his extraordinary ordinary hero, Alfred Kropp: The Seal of Solomon (Bloomsbury), PW caught up with the author at his home in Gainesville, Fla.

In your dedication, you thank your sons who "awakened the slumbering boy" in you. Tell us about that.

I got a very late start at fatherhood. I'm a late bloomer in general. It took me seven years to get through college. I was five years away from 40 before I had a family. All of a sudden, I was around three boys all the time. [Yancey has two stepsons, ages 21 and 16, and a 10-year-old son with his wife, Sandy.] I was really thrilled about the way I could let go and be a little boy again.

Are the boys big fans of Alfred?

All three of them are, and they are full of suggestions for what Alfred should do next, some of which I just can't use.

But you have more Alfred Kropp books coming. There may be a place for all those suggestions yet.

True. Everything about this book is accidental. It started out as a story about a detective. I love detective stories. I thought, 'Let me try my hand at that.' So I had a character, but I didn't have a plot. Then this mysterious guy shows up in the story, and he needs help getting an object. I was totally surprised that this object turned out to be a sword, and even more surprised that the sword turned out to be Excalibur.

So I gave the manuscript to my agent and he couldn't sell it. A few months later, my agent said, 'I have an idea. What if you make your detective a kid who's in this same predicament?' I didn't think I could make the voice authentic. I tried it and, lo and behold, it sold.

So how did you come up with the Seal of Solomon?

Surfing the net. As you know, the seal is not a seal but a ring, and I worried about the comparison to The Lord of the Rings, too. There are so many similarities between these two rings that Tolkien must have known about Solomon's ring.

Doesn't Alfred say something like, "I think I saw this movie," when he first hears about Solomon's ring?

He says, 'Have you paged Elijah Wood?' I thought many kids would make the comparison, so I addressed it up front.

How is Alfred's third adventure coming along?

I'm about a third done. The title is The Thirteenth Skull.

Please tell me there's going to be a happy ending.

Well, there's a better developed love interest. And he gets a better guardian.