An Interview with Carl Hiaasen

By Kaitlyn Spotts | September 15 2023 | GeneralEnglish Language ArtsHigh SchoolMiddle School

Carl Hiaasen, author of best sellers like Hoot, Flush, Scat, ChompSkink, and Squirm answered our questions about his latest book, Wrecker.

You have written books for both adults and kids. What inspired you to become a writer, and what helped you decide that you wanted to write for a young reader audience? 

Carl Hiaasen: I loved to read when I was a kid, and I knew from early on that I wanted to be a writer, or at least try. The idea of doing novels for a younger audience came from an editor in New York. At the time I thought it was a little crazy, but it turned out pretty well. Hoot was the first one, and it’s still one of my sentimental favorites.

Did you have a favorite teacher? What made them stand out to you, how did they impact your life and writing? 

Carl Hiaasen: My eighth-grade English teacher was very encouraging, and writing for her class gave me some confidence. That’s very important when you’re just starting out. She also had a good sense of humor, which I think is necessary to appreciate my satirical style of writing.

When did you become a reader? What are some of your favorite books that you read when you were growing up? 

Carl Hiaasen: Like a lot of boys, I got hooked on the Hardy Boys series. As I got older I became a fan of John Steinbeck, Joseph Heller, and J.D. Salinger, of course. It was hard not to be affected by Catcher in the Rye.

Your books for young readers all take place in your home state of Florida. In what ways does the setting impact the stories you are telling? 

Carl Hiaasen: Florida is a fertile setting for fiction because real life here is so bizarre. The kind of stories I write couldn’t take place anywhere else.

What was your inspiration for writing Wrecker?  

Carl Hiaasen: I wanted to do a book set in Key West because of its old outlaw reputation, and the unique vibe that the island still has today. I would have enjoyed growing up there myself, like Wrecker.

There is no shortage of laughs in Wrecker but it doesn’t shy away from tackling thought-provoking real world topics. How do you think humor helps introduce bigger topics to young readers? 

Carl Hiaasen: I don’t consciously set out to tackle specific social issues in my novels, but they shape the world we live in, which is the world that my characters occupy. Obviously I want the books to be funny, but I want them to be authentic, too.

Can you share a little about your writing process? When and where do you prefer to write? 

Carl Hiaasen: I try to get into the office early and I’m usually home by 4 p.m. Not every minute is spent writing. There is a lot of hard thinking and teeth-grinding that goes into the process.

And how long do you spend rewriting?  

Carl Hiaasen: I do plenty of revising. By the time I send the finished manuscript off, I’ve probably read every chapter thirty or forty times. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.

What are some of the research methods and tools you bring from your investigative journalism background to your writing? 

Carl Hiaasen: Good journalism is investigative journalism, and I was lucky to have a long career at the Miami Herald. I fact-check everything in the novels (street names, geography, historical accuracy) as I would a news story. Google and other search browsers have made that part easy.

How long do you spend researching compared to writing? 

Carl Hiaasen: Every book is different. I did more research for Wrecker than most of the other novels, because the characters found themselves shaped by long-ago events. I needed to get the history right, or as close to right as possible.

What message or call-to-action do you want readers to take away from Wrecker?  

Carl Hiaasen: My job isn’t to preach. If you create a good story with memorable characters, readers will get on board. Your main duty as a writer is to keep them turning the pages. The characters carry their own messages.

What’s something about you that people might be surprised to learn? 

Carl Hiaasen: Readers always seem amused to learn that my uncle was a priest and my aunt was a nun. Clearly I took my life in a different direction.

If you could invite any three people for dinner, who would you invite? 

Carl Hiaasen: Hank Aaron, Tom Petty, and Joseph Heller. Unfortunately, they’re not with us anymore, so it would be a very short, quiet dinner.


Check out the educator guide for Wrecker.

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Wrecker needs to deal with smugglers, grave robbers, and pooping iguanas—just as soon as he finishes Zoom school. Welcome to another wild adventure in Carl Hiaasen's Florida!
$18.99 US
Sep 26, 2023
336 Pages
Knopf Books for Young Readers