Story Last modified at 9:02 p.m. on Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Children's author, creator of Chet Gecko, visits library
When Bruce Hale was in third grade, his life changed course. That's when the popular children's author went from being a non-reader who hated books to being a passionate reader.
"I was the classic TV addict. A nonreader who hated books," Hale said in a phone interview from his home in California. "Then one day, the TV died. And my parents didn't have the money to replace it. I was devastated. I didn't know how I could face life without television."
His father's solution "I'm going to read to you." The books he chose for his son were from the Tarzan series meant for adults.
"I discovered the power of story. I was so enthralled that I couldn't wait to hear what came next. I tried to read the books myself. I carried around a big dictionary to look up the words I didn't know."
Years later, Hale decided to be a writer. He sat poised, in typical writer's fashion, his hands at the keyboard. And he waited and waited for inspiration to hit him.
"It occurred to me why not write a mystery and tell the story from the viewpoint of the detective. So suddenly, I knew the main character would be a detective and I knew he'd be a animal."
Gradually he put together the profile of his detective and Chet Gecko, private eye, was born. His Chet Gecko series is a favorite among young readers. He illustrates the story in a self-taught style that draws children into the story and keeps them interested. The creation process, which at first was at first a real struggle, has settled in to a routine for the author.
"First I brainstorm the plot. I do an outline with some chunks missing so I can be surprised by what my characters do sometimes." He has found he must be disciplined about his writing and spends afternoons between lunch and dinner at the keyboard. The illustrations he finds he can work on anytime.
Currently, Chet Gecko is on hiatus while Hale works on a spy novel for older kids, up to seventh grade. "This book features people rather than animals as characters and is more realistic," he said.
Hale, who has written more than 25 children's chapter and picture books, is in Anchorage as part of the library's Summer Reading Celebration. He is scheduled to do presentations at each of the city's neighborhood libraries, and will be at Chugiak-Eagle River's library at 1 p.m. June 16.
"My goal is to engage and inspire the audience and to make them laugh," Hale said. Hale uses storytelling, quick lessons in cartooning, answers question from the audience and draws on his training as an actor to connect with his audiences.
"Every show is different, because every audience is different, and I'm not always the same either," he said. "On a larger scale, my shows are always about following your dreams."
Toni Massari McPherson is Anchorage Public Library's community relations coordinator. Go to anchoragelibrary.org for more details.
This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, June 1, 2011.