Connor White and Annabeth Bondor-Stone
Stealing Some Time with the YA Authors
By George Seth Wagner
They say that a good marriage is often based upon shared passions. Annabeth Bondor-Stone and Connor White are a married couple whose love for writing, reading and teaching kids about reading is evident from the second you start to talk with them.
Although both got their starts in other aspects of writing, they have found their calling (and their success) in the thriving field of novels for children and young adults. Their latest book is Time Tracers, which takes the reader on a sci-fi adventure about a boy named Taj Carter who tries to find the monster time thieves who stole his entire summer break.
White and Bondor-Stone also have written two previous popular books about Shivers the Pirate, called The Pirate Who’s Afraid of Everything and The Pirate Who Is Back with Bunny Slippers. The Shivers series will be continuing soon.
When not writing, eating pizza, wearing bunny slippers, or playing basketball, Bondor-Stone and White travel to schools all over the country to teach kids about reading and writing. Their quirkiness keeps kids interested about the fun side of reading – as does their funny books aimed towards children.
Recently, we caught up with the couple on the beach of Santa Monica. We discussed their books, their love of spreading literacy to children, and even got them to show off some of their gymnastics skills.
How are you guys today?
Connor White: We’re great!
Annabeth Bondor-Stone: We’re good!
Connor White: Sitting on the beach, doesn’t get much better!
How did you guys decide you wanted to write fiction for young adults and teenagers?
Connor White: Great question. We were both working separate jobs. Annabeth was writing for TV, and I was teaching creative writing to kids. Then we got an email from a nine-year-old that really changed our lives.
Annabeth Bondor-Stone: Yeah, my nine-year-old cousin, Harrison, sent us an email completely out of the blue. He just said, “I’ve read all the funny books for kids my age. Can you write me one about a pirate named Shivers who’s afraid of everything?” We thought that was an awesome idea, it’s super clever. So, we wrote that for him as a present. That was our first book and that became our first book series, Shivers! The Pirate Who’s Afraid of Everything.
Which we will get into later. (laughs) When you guys were growing up, what books inspired you to start writing?
Connor White: Oh, great, great question. I guess I’m going to say great question for every question. (laughs) Annabeth and I grew up far apart. She’s from New York. I’m from New Mexico. But we felt we had similar tastes in books growing up. One of those books that meant a lot to us was Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar.
Annabeth Bondor-Stone: That’s one of the funniest books ever written. It’s so clever. All the wordplay really influenced us.
Over the past few decades, we’ve seen the young adult fiction section blow up in the book industry. How do you feel that it has become so important in the world of novels today?
Annabeth Bondor-Stone: What I love is the trend of adults reading books that are marketed for kids or for teens. It used to be this secret. I feel that everyone was hiding their book cover on the train or whatever. Now, everyone is accepting the fact that these books are amazing for all ages. The older we get, the more we want to read stories that are universal and fun for all ages.
Connor White: Yeah. I think that it gives a good insight to the teenager’s secret world. It can be a really positive thing for parents and kids to be reading the same book and discussing them.
Your website says you use comedy to inspire kids to read and write. Why do you feel that’s important?
Connor White: We love telling jokes and writing funny stories. We think that getting kids laughing and getting kids excited about reading goes hand in hand. The more fun kids are having at school, or at home with a book in their hands, the more likely they’re going to be to pick up a new book. We know that our book is not for everyone, but getting kids invested in the reading process can really carry them a long way in their education.
Annabeth Bondor-Stone: Yeah… I agree! (laughs)
You guys go to different schools to promote literacy. Why is that important to you?
Annabeth Bondor-Stone: Reading changed my life. That was always my way of learning about the world growing up. Writing is what I do now and basically, if you want to be a writer, the best thing to do is read. The more we can get everyone excited about reading, the more writers and thinkers we can put in the world.
Connor White: We get this cool opportunity to tell the story of Annabeth’s cousin, who came up with our first book idea. Even though the audience is children and young people, you still have ideas that are good enough to become published works already.
What are some of the funnier things that have happened on one of those trips?
Annabeth Bondor-Stone: Oh, wow! We do these assemblies. At the end, we give the kids a chance to ask us questions. We do a Q and A. Recently we had the most philosophical question from a five-year-old.
Connor White: That’s right.
Annabeth Bondor Stone: We go, “Okay, so you guys have a chance to ask us any question you want.” This little five-year-old…
Connor White: His hand shoots straight up. I said yes? And he said, “what’s a question?” (laughs)
Annabeth Bondor-Stone: It was a stumper.
Connor White: It really was. I was like, “It’s that! It’s that thing! The thing that just came out of your mouth! That’s a question!” So, sometimes they’re not that hard to answer. We get a lot of people asking me why I’m so crazy?
Annabeth Bondor-Stone: Yes.
Connor White: In fact, at that same assembly a little girl raised her hand and asked me, “Why are you cray cray?” I had to say the truth of the matter is, every day I get up and look myself in the mirror and say “Connor, today you can be really boring or really cray cray.” (laughs) I think it’s important to be as cray cray as possible and get the kids involved in the reading process.
I recently saw the Mr. Rogers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? He discussed the responsibility in what he creates for children; to make a positive impact. Do you feel the same responsibility?
Connor White and Annabeth Bondor-Stone: (in unison) Absolutely.
Annabeth Bondor-Stone: He’s definitely a hero to us. To everyone. What an amazing force in the world. We have a little bit of a different approach because our angle is so silly, our style is so silly.
Connor White: (mock incredulous) WHAT! Are you serious?
Annabeth Bondor-Stone: Connor, we’re quite strange.
Connor White: All right, I guess. I don’t have as many zip-up cardigans.
Annabeth Bondor-Stone: But, absolutely, he was such a trailblazer.
From a comic background, how does the plotting of a book for children feel different than your previous writings?
Connor White and Annabeth Bondor-Stone: (in unison) Great question.
Connor White: It’s another great question! (laughs) It’s not that different in plotting. There’s some difference in what you can do and get away with. As hopefully funny people, we want to walk that line of what you’re allowed to say and what you’re not allowed to say. However, when you’re working with kids, crossing that line has some serious ramifications. Right? We never want to say anything that we shouldn’t in a school setting or in a book. It’s really about figuring out what feels edgy for the kids while still is appropriate and is sending the right message to both the kids and the parents.
Annabeth Bondor-Stone: The difference between a book like Shivers, that’s very goofy and silly and for a slightly younger audience and a book like Time Tracers is that we tried to push the envelope as much as we could. Putting as many jokes in as possible while making it still feel real. Time Tracers is about a real kid – at least in our imaginations – so we tried to ground it as much as possible and make it feel believable while all these crazy things are happening.
Connor White: Even though it’s in a totally fantasy world, a sci-fi world, where your whole summer vacation can get stolen. No, it’s bad. But we want to make it feel as real as possible to our protagonist.
Do you think there is any nightmare worse than going to sleep on the first day of summer and waking up on the first day of school?
Connor White and Annabeth Bondor-Stone: (in unison) Certainly not.
Connor White: We think that summer is the most valuable chunk of fun time known to kid kind. We figured that if that got taken, there is no more valuable chunk of time that could go missing. We started out writing this book with the question, “When time flies, where does it go?” We started thinking; what if it doesn’t just fly away, what if it gets stolen? That’s what led us to this jackpot of the summer vacation.
Annabeth Bondor-Stone: That’s it!
Connor White: (Overlapping) Did it again! Knocked it out! Nailed it! (laughs)
What do you think the Time Stealers would take from you?
Annabeth Bondor-Stone: I’m in a rec league basketball team. I play Tuesday night. I feel that when I’m playing sports – especially basketball – time flies so quickly, I’m definitely surrounded by time thieves.
I play basketball as well and in the middle of games I’m like ok it’s the first quarter and then I get to the end and I’m like wait a second… but we’re normally down by 20.
Annabeth Bondor-Stone: Same! But it’s still really fun.
Connor White: But if you’re still having fun, time flies away.
Why did you feel that the Time Stealers would show in the forms of huge, gross bugs?
Connor White: We wanted to get this feel. We were very inspired by the movie Men in Black, which we both loved growing up. We wanted to have that almost alien-like, bug-like feeling to these time thieves, which made them real villains. There’s nothing wrong with… don’t show this to PETA… there’s nothing wrong with crushing a bug. (laughs) If the bugs are the time thieves, then they can really get nasty and evil…
Connor White and Annabeth Bondor-Stone: (in unison) Then we can really go after them.
Annabeth Bondor-Stone: The other thing that we thought of is: Why would anyone want to steal time? They would need to get something out of it. So, we created these creatures that need this time, it’s their food. To us, the logical next step is to make them giant bugs.
Of course, it’s the obvious route.
Connor White: Of course, it’s the next logical step. (laughs)
If you had a time watch, what would you use it for?
Connor White: To be honest, there are some nights where I would just stop time and sleep as long as I could. And start it again and get another whole night sleep. That was another time for me, when we put a time thief called the snoozer. The snoozer, he steals your sleep time. Especially when you’re having good fun dreams. It always feels like as we all know sleep just flies by every night. I think we could all use a good night’s sleep.
Annabeth Bondor-Stone: Absolutely. I mean I wouldn’t mind freezing time right now and just hitting the beach. (laughs)
Which would be harder to give up; a summer, or a year without pizza?
Connor White: Ooohhhh.
Annabeth Bondor-Stone: Wow.
Connor White: He went there.
Annabeth Bondor-Stone: I would have to give up pizza. Because I have to value time over pizza. But, it’s a tough choice.
Connor White: I’ll take the opposite. I think I would go with summer… (Someone randomly walks on the wall right behind them.) What just happened? (laughs) I don’t know what I’d… (confused) I do love pizza. I was like what just happened? (laughs again)
You’re married, so you obviously know each other well and spend a lot of time together. What is the writing process like? Do each of you do certain parts and then work on them together, or do you collaborate on the whole thing?
Annabeth Bondor-Stone: We write every single sentence together, which is not the fastest way to write but it’s the way that works best for us. We have really different voices and styles, so if we split stuff up, it’s too different. We really have to sit in the room together, we work out every word together. If we come to a disagreement our unspoken rule is that instead of arguing the pros and cons, we just throw both ideas out. (laughs) Come up with a new one so we don’t have to dwell on it for too long.
Connor White: Not a lot of arguments, but the process can definitely take a long time.
You’ve also written books about Shivers the Pirate that your nine-year-old cousin gave you the idea for, like you said. What are those like?
Annabeth Bondor-Stone: Shivers is a series. There are going to be four Shivers books and the first two are out already. It’s just been so cool. We actually visited Harrison’s elementary school and did an assembly there. We were able to say that the idea came from a kid who went to this school. It’s so rewarding.
Connor White: He’s like 17 now, so he’s “like, whatever, I came up with a book.”
Annabeth Bondor-Stone: He thought it was really cool for like two years.
Then he starts to grow up…
Connor White: … And gets a little older. But, yeah, we love writing Shivers and taking Shivers to schools. It’s so in contrast to Time Tracers, which we tried to be realistic in the characters. Shivers is totally cartoony. He’s bouncing off the walls. He’s screaming at everything. He’s afraid of popcorn, pepperoni pizza, strawberries and the ocean and everything in between. It can be a delight to write it because it’s so wildly silly. We’ve heard from a lot of parents and teachers that it’s great for hooking reluctant readers and kids who don’t necessarily know that reading or books can be this silly. We want to lean into that extreme silliness.
Time Tracers is for a slightly older audience than Shivers is. Do you plan on continuing to write books for older and older audiences, or stay in this age range?
Annabeth Bondor-Stone: We’re going younger.
Connor White: Yeah.
Annabeth Bondor-Stone: We’re actually doing it all. We have one more book coming out next year for teens. We are starting our first picture book now. We’re trying to write for all ages. It’s all fun as long as we are writing comedy and action. We’re happy for any age group.
For more information on the books of Annabeth Bondor-Stone and Connor White, visit: annabethandconnor.com
Copyright ©2018 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: August 13, 2018.
Photos ©2018 Jay S. Jacobs. All rights reserved.