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1819 entries.
A wrote on July 2, 2010 at 6:48 PM
Thanks for the advice!

I've started creating each chapter an almost separate story with it's own climax, and it's working out great! It really helped.

I tried to create an outline, but I figured out that I don't have very much knowledge about the story myself. I know what I want to happen at some parts, and I've written excerpts so I can plug them in or piggy back, but other than that, I only know basically: they get in, the find the artifacts, they progress to the next level (they're in a game). Any suggestions?

Another problem I've run into is names. Not normal names for people, but the races of creatures I'm going to have in my story. I've tried google translate, and combining words from a different language, and that helps sometimes, but other times I can't find anything. I'm a perfectionist, and the name has to fit the species' overall personality...How do you come up with names?

And finally, when I'm writing a story, I have a hard time with coming up with a title. I want the title to summarize the book in general in a few words. How do you recommend creating titles?

Thanks again!
Admin Reply:
Well, without knowing your story, it's hard for me to be specific, but here's something that may help: the biggest question is why do they want the artifact? You need to make the stakes VERY high. Life or death. And then think, (1) why does each character want that artifact (if their personalities are clearly laid out, they should have very different reasons), (2) what does each character want from the other character, (3) what are they willing to sacrifice to get what they want, and (4) what do they get in the end? Again, each of these things must have HUGE stakes. Ideally, the answer to (4) should involve a twist. Misdirect the reader to one conclusion, which seems to tie everything up, only to subvert that completely and introduce a surprise that changes the meaning of the whole story. As for names, all I can recommend is to use placeholders (xyz, abc, 456, etc.) for the character names and then, when you're not writing, and your mind is relaxed, start jotting down names that pop into your head -- keep your eye and ear on everything, street signs, shops, conversations, newspaper/magazine articles, etc. Read mythology, etc. It should be fun. If it stops being fun, give yourself a rest & don't force it. As for titles, ooh, true confession, I'm not very good at that. In almost all of my books, my editor always thinks of a better title than I do!
Monica wrote on July 2, 2010 at 6:23 AM
Hi Peter, this is me again, Monica.
Thankyou for your reply. I will ahve a look at the Antarctica books. Could you please, please, please write another sequel to the Spy X series. I would absolutely love that.
Thankyou from Monica
Admin Reply:
Thank you, Monica. If a publisher is interested in continuing the SPY X series, you bet I will write a sequel! My hunch is that they are more likely to want a new series, and you can be sure I will write one with just as much excitement and intrigue! Hope you're enjoying the 4th of July weekend!
Monica wrote on June 30, 2010 at 12:33 PM
Hi Peter,
I am a big, big, humungous fan of yours. I love your books even though I have only read the Spy X series and the 39 Clues series. I absolutely adore the Spy X series, and I could not put the book down. I have just finished the last book of the series "Tunnel Vision." I can't believe that the series is over. Please, please, please, please, please write another sequel to the book. I would be most grateful. I love adventure stories e.g- 39 Clues, Spy X; but could you please suggest some more books of yours that are great adventure stories??? That would be awesome.
Please reply.....
From your biggest fan Monica!
Admin Reply:
Hello, Monica! What a lovely note, and many thanks. Writing Spy X was one of the most fun things I ever did, so it's really gratifying to read your message. OK, if you like adventure, I'd recommend the ANTARCTICA books: Book 1, JOURNEY TO THE POLE, and Book 2, ESCAPE FROM DISASTER. They're a little hard to find but not impossible. Check out the "About the Books" section of this site, where there are descriptions of the book and a link to where you can get them. And keep your eyes peeled for more new projects soon. Have a great summer, and let me know if you like ANTARCTICA!
C.hill wrote on June 27, 2010 at 5:14 PM
I just finished your 'Antarctica' books. I loved them. Could hardly put them down for a moment. It was a very character driven story and I like that.
I did have a question that has been driving my crazy since I first started reading. I was wondering if the character Kosta Kontonikoaos was wondering if Balki Bartokomous from Perfect Strangers was the inspiration. I noticed quite a few similarities in character. For one, their names compare. They both have a very loose grasp on the English language, they use the word 'popo' in the same way. They love animals. Balki's favorite sheep back home was named Dimitri, one of Kosta's dogs was named Dimitriou. Kosta mentioned that 'back home they wouldn't treat a goat this way', something Balki has said before. And that last little jig Kosta did when they were rescued sounded an awful lot like the 'Dance of Joy'.

He was by far my favorite character in that story and I was just wondering if the similarities were intentional. If so I think that's GREAT. If not, it's still cool.
Admin Reply:
No, Kostas wasn't based on Balki, but your observations are very astute! I grew up in a Greek-American family (as a matter of fact, Kontonikolaos was my mother's maiden name), and the character of Kostas came from my own observations of hundreds of Greek relatives and friends. I imagine whoever wrote Balki's character on Perfect Strangers also drew on his or her own personal experiences. So because they are basically drawn from the same ethnic group, there are bound to be coincidental similarities. (And the ones you mention bring a big smile to my face and make me want to go and rent some of those old shows!) Thanks for writing. Very glad you enjoyed ANTARCTICA!
Andrea wrote on June 25, 2010 at 3:42 AM
Hey it's me again. Thanks for replying my entry, that really meant a lot. I read all of the summaries for the books that you've written and one that really interest me the most was The Drama Club series. I'm into the whole high school clique drama kind of thing. So I went to the library today and checked out the first book. So far it is really good. I am on chapter 6. Anyways I wanted to know what inspired you into writing The Drama Club???
Admin Reply:
Great -- DRAMA CLUB was one of my favorites series to write. I was a total drama geek in high school (and afterward). If you go to my bio section on this site you can see some photos from back when I was a professional musical theater actor. So Drama Club came out of that experience, and also from the experience of seeing my two sons go through it also -- both of them were drama kids in high school. Our younger son, in fact, was in a professional children's theater in NYC. And my wife is a musician who is working on writing a Broadway show. So theater has always been a huge part of my life. Anyway, one day a few years back I read an article in the newspaper about a real high school where the musicals had 6-figure budgets and amazing production values -- and it all clicked. I thought it would be cool to write about a group of drama kids in a high school where plays are nearly life-or-death events for the whole community. Really glad you're enjoying the story!
A wrote on June 23, 2010 at 11:45 PM
That was great! Thanks!

One piece of advice you gave was to write about what I love. I do my best to do that, but even then, I start tiring of the story itself. The one I'm working on now I'm adamant will be my first novel. I really want to keep it going, but I keep getting bored of it... Any way to remedy that?
Admin Reply:
That's a good question to ask, and very smart of you to raise a red flag when you're getting bored. If there are problems with the story, go back to your outline. (You do have an outline, don't you?) If you don't, outline the whole story -- very basic, this happens and then that happens, etc. Make character sketches, too -- as much info as you can for each character, both physical and inner life. Read the outline and see which parts bore you, and ask why. Can you create interesting dilemmas for the characters along the way? Are there some plot elements you can shorten, or others you can intensify? The most important elements in any story are what do the characters WANT from each other, and how do they go about getting it? The more intensely they want something, and the stronger the obstacles, the more interesting the story. Can you give one of the characters a secret? Can you change the setting so that it contributes to the story in an interesting way -- set it in a dangerous or exotic locale, or during a weather event that has impact? Can you introduce a new character that will create an emotional triangle with any of your characters? Try to divide your outline into chapters, or sections. How does each section end? If you make each section into a kind of mini-story, with its own emotional climax, that will keep your (and your readers') interest alive. That ought to give you something to work on. Hope this helps!
Andrea wrote on June 23, 2010 at 12:46 AM
Hello. Wow this is my first time writing to an author, so I am a little nervous. I am hooked on the 39 clues, even though I'm 13 and the only person that I know who likes the series is my brother and he's six. I hate the fact that it is ending. Awwww. Well anyways my favorite book is the third one. And you wrote it. Anyways i like your plots in the book like on the third book Ian has a crush on Amy and then he trapped her in the cave. I was shocked. Also on the seventh book how Dan and Amy find out that they are Madrigals. I was double shocked. I mean I thought Amy was going to be on the Ekaterina branch and Dan on the Lucian. But Madrigals. I didn't expected that.

Even though Book 10 is almost coming out and the series being over, I will always love The 39 Clues and when the movie comes out in 2011. I will be one of those people who will see it the first day it comes out. Speaking of the movie I hope you get cast as The Man in Black.

Anyways here are some questions I want to ask you....(If you mind. I'm gonna be a reporter when I grow up)

- Do you play the game online and collect the cards like the 39 clues fans???
- What is your favorite part from the entire series??? I can't decide between Ian saving Amy in book 3 or Isabel Almsot throwing Amy to the sharks in book 6
- what other books (that you wrote) would you recommend for a thirdteen year old???

Please reply...
Admin Reply:
Hi, Andrea! It's a delight to read how much you've enjoyed THE SWORD THIEF and THE VIPER'S NEST and the whole 39 CLUES series. We're all on pins and needles about the movie and can't wait to hear further details, so stay tuned. OK, to your "reporter" questions: I do play the game (although I'm pretty far behind now!) and I believe I have all the cards. As for favorite parts, I like both of the ones you mentioned very much, but there are so many others I can think of too (the chase in Venice in Book 2, the exciting end of Book 5, the tomb scene in Book 4, the escape from the cave and the epilog in Book 3, the propeller scene and the defeat of the Tomas in Book 7, the helicopter scene in Book 8...). Whew. I give up. It's hard to pick a favorite when you're so deep in the mix! As for other books I've written, have you tried the "Spy X" series, or any of the "Watchers" series? Or "Antarctica"? Or if you like historical fiction, "Smiler's Bones"? Some of them are hard to find, but there's plenty of information about them in the "About the Books" section above!
A wrote on June 22, 2010 at 5:17 PM

I'm an aspiring writer, and I was wondering if you had any tips you could give me?

Also, I'd like to know...What do you do when you go into a slump?
Admin Reply:
Hello! Funny you should ask that, because Simon & Schuster just posted a video in which they asked me to answer the same question! You can see how I replied by pasting this text directly into your browser address bar: . I would add a few other things for you: Make sure to write about something that really excites you, because if it does, that excitement will run off on your readers. Some people are perfectionists -- if you are, that's fine. It's okay to worry about "getting it perfect," as long as you understand that you have to do the best you can and move on. You can always go back later and fix things (and you will). Try to finish what you start. Slumps happen. I get them all the time. It often helps to escape into someone else's creative work (a movie, another book), which will sometimes help to loosen up the logjam in your brain and inspire you. The more you bust through your slumps, the more you will be able to say to yourself "I've been through this before, and even though it's hard, I know I'll get through it." Also, don't get too concerned about throwing everything into your first effort. Tell a good story in a clear way and know that you have more stories inside you, and you can write them another time! Hope this helps.
Jenna wrote on June 13, 2010 at 3:40 PM
Hi again, I must be starting to annoy you.

Thanks, I'll watch for that. Next time you go you should see this play called Hephaestus, it's really cool! It's cirque des olei (how do I spell that!) mixed with the story of the Greek god Hephaestus. It might be leaving soon though...Also I wanted to know what your favorite book is that YOU wrote. Not from the writing part from reading them, and you can't say all of them.
Admin Reply:
Thanks! I will look out for Hephaestus on your recommendation. I think generally I tend to love the last book I work on most, which was THE VIPER'S NEST. That was fun finding the mystery in that, and learning about South Africa. And wtf was amazingly fun to write. But if I think back, the project that may be closest to my heart is SMILER'S BONES.
Jenna wrote on June 12, 2010 at 2:37 AM
Well thanks again! Do you know if you'll be around Chicago, Illinois (GO BLACKHAWKS!) any time soon(ish)? Or really anywhere in Illinois? I hope I meet you some day! 🙂
Admin Reply:
Well, I've visited Chicago twice in the last year -- once to visit schools and bookstores, another time to give a presentation at a conference -- plus, I once lived there for 6 months, and it's one of my favorite cities ... plus, my cousin runs a children's theater company there, and I'm on her advisory board, so all things considered, the chances are pretty good I'll be back! Keep an eye on the "Author Visits/Where I'm Going" section of the site. It's quiet now, but things will pick up toward the end of the summer!
Jenna wrote on June 10, 2010 at 12:54 PM
Thank you very much for answering my questions so quickly! For the Vipers Nest I thought of the grave of the warrior. Dan mentions the vines are like dead snakes, and those vines are very important...
Admin Reply:
Jenna, that is amazingly perceptive. (And that also speaks to the great job the cover artist did, for the image to be that evocative.) Thanks!

Jenna wrote on June 9, 2010 at 7:09 PM
I love the third 39 clues book! It's my favorite out of the 9 that are out. I've seen many reviews and say it's their favorite too!!! Everyone loves Ian and Amy... I'm curious to know how the authors of the 39 clues books writing sound somewhat the same (but with their own twist of course). I also wanted to know why you named the title of the seventh book The Vipers Nest. There's a brief mention at one part of a snake but... you know what I mean. I'd like to know the author's point of view.
Admin Reply:
Thanks so much, Jenna! Part of the reason for the consistent voices and styles comes from the fact that we were all picked in advance because the editors thought our natural writing styles matched -- we've all had lots of experience writing fast-paced action, adventure, mystery books with a big dose of humor. So a bit of that is built in from the start. Also, we each take care to read all the books that come before ours, so we can be sure not to introduce anything jarring or out of character. Beyond that, we all love adding our own personalities, our own brands of storytelling, character development, odd twists, etc. Each of us tends to identify with different characters, too. For some reason, I really connect with the character of Alastair. Gordon likes Jonah, Jude identified with Irina, and Pat enjoyed Hamilton Holt. So we tend to develop our favorite characters and introduce those new subplots into the mix. It gets pretty crazy -- each of us raising the bar just a bit more for the next author ... and making the Cahill story a bit more complex! Actually, we're all friends and we enjoy the challenge. As for the title of Book 7, I have to confess something: I am the world's worst title thinker-upper. I usually suggest dozens of potential titles, all of which are rejected! "The Viper's Nest" was my editor's suggestion, and at first I had your reaction -- hmm, no vipers in the story, really; but then the title grew on me. Dan and Amy are plunging into the heart of the Tomas world, the center of Cahill evil ... a viper's nest! It works symbolically and it has a cool sound. Hope that answers your question!

nancy wrote on June 1, 2010 at 9:01 PM
Admin Reply:
Hi, Nancy! I am indeed back now!
Lauren wrote on May 31, 2010 at 11:35 PM
Hi! I just wanted to let you know that I absolutely loved your Spy X books and thought they would look great as movies! Are you planning on turning them into a movie? Maybe four separate ones, or even one big one?
Admin Reply:
Thanks, Lauren! I'm delighted you enjoyed the Spy X books, and I agree they'd make great movies. So far there are no plans but we will keep trying. It helps that there are great fans out there who are excited about the series!
Wendy White wrote on May 27, 2010 at 8:20 PM
Hello Mr. Lerangis,
Your visit to Plum Valley ELementary school on May 18 was wonderful-our students thoroughly enjoyed the presentation. If it's possible, we were given your signed book marks but we are short 3. I talked with the librarian to see if she thought that would be a problem if 3 students didn't receive them but she said the kids have been asking for them so we are wondering if you could possible sign 3 more bookmarkers and send them to us direct. Also, if we were to mail you some large stickers, would you mind signing those also to the Plum Valley Library so that they can be placed in the 6 books that were purchased for our Library as they weren't autographed by you either and in the past we've requested that the author's signed the library edition.
Let me know if that will work for you.
Have a great memorial day weekend!
Wendy White
Business Manager
Plum Valley School
Paynes Creek, CA
(530) 597-2248
Admin Reply:
So great to hear from you -- of course I'd be happy to sign the bookmarks and the stickers. I will write you privately at your email address for details, so please check your inbox!

Rachael Noven wrote on May 26, 2010 at 7:59 PM
Thanks SOOO much for the advice!
Admin Reply:
You're very welcome!
Brooke Lynskey wrote on May 26, 2010 at 6:05 AM
I'm halfway through "WTF" and its like the best book I've ever read !! I'm really excited to find out what happens next that I literally cannot put it down. My friend Rachael Noven suggested me the book and I'm glad she did. Are there any sequels to WTF ? Will their ever be ? Or are there anymore of your books like it ? Thanks !
Admin Reply:
Thanks, Brooke -- I'm really glad you're enjoying the book, and thanks for your interest in other projects! Keep an eye on the "News/Book News" section of my site for upcoming books. Got to run; I'm heading for a gathering of Simon & Schuster writers and editors. Who knows? Maybe we'll come up with some new ideas there!
Rachael Noven wrote on May 26, 2010 at 5:35 AM
Cool, i was thinking of writing a book too . Ive already started it , any advice ?
Admin Reply:
(1) Don't give up. Keep trying, a little bit each day. (2) Join a professional group that will have people who can read your work and give you advice. If you're writing a YA book, you can join the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators). Their site is (3) Be sure to read writers who inspire you. Ask "What is it about this person's writing that makes me want to keep on reading?" What kinds of words does this person use? What words does he or she NOT use? What makes the idea fly off the page? What about the characters/plot/setting/etc. keeps you interested. Steal from the best! (4) Keep trying. Did I say that already?
kaylin wrote on May 25, 2010 at 8:13 PM
have you ever went to woodson in corning to tell about your life
Admin Reply:
Yes, Woodson was the last school I visited when I was in Tehama County!
mariana wrote on May 25, 2010 at 8:08 PM
hey what r u doing r u making more books
Admin Reply:
Hi, Mariana. Yup, I am always working on new books. Click on "News" above, and then "Book News," to see what's up. And I'll be making some new announcements this summer too! Thanks for asking.