A: I started reading about Marco Polo when I was in elementary school, and I was especially interested in his adventures along the Silk Road. His tales of encountering new foods, customs, and landscapes really stoked my imagination, and I tried to read everything I could about the history and culture of that part of the world. As I grew older and had the chance to live in and travel to many of the same places Marco had visited, I was even more amazed at the stories he brought back with him to Venice, particularly at a time when Europeans knew so little about Asia.
Q: Writing a long journey can be tricky: If it's too long and detailed, the reader will get bored; but if the trip is too short and easy, the main conflict loses steam, and the stakes don't seem very high. Peter's stories both begin with long, dangerous journeys across the Great Khan's empire. When working on this type of narrative, what do you do to maintain that balance?
A: That is a great question, because I struggled throughout the book to maintain the balance you mention. I tried to break up the journey with moments wherein Peter and his friends encounter dangerous situations, and then sustain the action long enough build a sense of suspense in the reader. After I wrote the scenes, I would try them out on my chief critic—my wife—and often, it was back to the drawing board, based on her advice! The experience really made me appreciate the true masters of writing adventures for young readers.
Q: An important part of any great journey is its end—when characters can either remain where they are, return home, or find some new destination or goal to pursue. If given the choice, which do you think Peter would choose? Would he want to remain in the Great Khan's court, return to his childhood home in Venice, or strike out in search of his own adventures?
A: Another great question! Peter would find himself in a quandary when it comes to where he wants to be, as do many of us at different points in our lives. On the one hand, he is with his friends and brother at the court of the Great Khan in China, and that is certainly where he is happy in the moment. However, in both books, he exhibits a touch of homesickness for Venice, in particular his family and the food, and he daydreams of going back there one day. And then there is his longing to go places where he can make his own mark on the world, just like his brother Marco. That desire keeps him motivated to seek out new adventures with his friends—and it is what will take him to ancient Korea in the next book!
To learn more about Craig, check out his two books, Peter Polo and the Snow Beast of Hunza and Peter Polo and the White Elephant of Lang Xang!