Books And More

Keeper of the Secrets

An interview with Trenton Lee Stewart

October 18, 2016
WHITNEY LOIBER/NATAKI HEWLING

Author Trenton Lee Stewart’s new book, The Secret Keepers, takes readers on a thrilling adventure.

Last month, a crowd of eager young readers packed the Arlington Heights Memorial Library outside of Chicago for a chance to meet author Trenton Lee Stewart. He is the author of The Mysterious Benedict Society, which was released in 2007. What brought him to this library was his latest book, The Secret Keepers.

The hero of The Secret Keepers is 11-year-old Reuben. He’s a normal kid going through some rough times with him upbeat mom. But everything changes when he discovers a mysterious watch with magical powers. Before he knows it, Reuben is in the middle of an action-packed adventure that will change his life forever.

During his visit to the library, Stewart spoke with TIME for Kids about The Secret Keepers. He shared his inspiration for the book, how he developed his characters, and what he’s working on now.

TIME FOR KIDS:

What is The Secret Keepers about?

TRENTON LEE STEWART:

The Secret Keepers is about a boy who, when his mom is at work, spends his days exploring the alleys of the backstreets. One day, he finds an antique watch that can turn him invisible and he sets off on a big adventure.

TFK:

How did you come up with the idea for The Secret Keepers?

STEWART:

I knew I wanted to write a story about somebody, a boy or girl, who finds something that makes them special, in some way. And I had a lot of ideas. But invisibility was one that stood out to me when I was younger. And I thought that if you were invisible, you were a secret yourself. That was pretty interesting.

TFK:

How would you describe Reuben, the main character of the book? Is he similar to any of the characters in The Mysterious Benedict Society?

STEWART:

A little bit. He's a good-natured kid and he's intelligent, but he is pretty shy and keeps to himself. At the start of the story, he would rather go unnoticed than interact with people. But he changes as the story unfolds.

TFK:

Reuben's mom is upbeat despite facing difficult circumstances. Why did you choose to create such an upbeat character?

STEWART:

In most adventure books featuring children as heroes, the creator of the book has to have the parents out of the way. This is because you can't have the children go on a big adventure, a dangerous mission, without the parents worrying. So, childrens' writers have to figure out what to do with the parents. In my last book, all the children were orphans and runaways. But in this book I wanted to try the kid having a parent, having a good relationship with her.

TFK:

What challenges does Reuben face in the book? What does he learn?

STEWART:

He faces a lot of challenges, most of them facing dishonest, greedy people. He learns to trust people and he really has to learn about the consequences of keeping a secret that is really thrilling but not telling people.

TFK:

What do you want kids to learn from The Secret Keepers?

STEWART:

When I write a story I don't focus much on the moral, but I want my stories to leave kids knowing what to do in certain situations. In this case, I wanted kids to learn about responsibilities and keeping secrets away—not only keeping them away from their enemies but also about keeping them away from people you trust as well. That's what kids will learn. But first and foremost, I want this to be a fun mystery story.

TFK:

Do you have any other books in the works? Will there be a sequel to The Secret Keepers?

STEWART:

I am trying to start another book, but it has no relation to my other books. I have no plans for a sequel, but there are a couple of possibilities for sequels. I just have to see if the wind blows that way somewhere in my mind. But now I want to work on this other book with new characters.


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