The Drake Equation: Bart King Interview and a Giveaway!

Welcome to From the Mixed Up Files, Bart! We’re happy to have you. Congratulations on the release of The Drake Equation!


I have to admit that I am such a birdbrain myself that I jumped at the chance to read a book about a bird-watching kid, and to interview you, and to give away a copy of your book to one of our lucky readers. Are you ready? Here we go!

MUF: Did you get the idea for this character because of an interest in birdwatching yourself, or did it come from another place?

Bart: “I love all animals (seriously!), birds included. But while I’m not a birdwatcher myself, I have the greatest respect for birders. They tend to be the most wonderful, civic-minded, polite people among us.

I also love reading. About two years ago, I finished a book about black swifts, and was amazed to learn about this mysterious, rare little bird that nests behind waterfalls. So I imagined a boy-birder (who’s based on my nephew) who thinks he *might* have seen a black swift… and the story took off from there!”

MUF: Love this inspiration, thanks for sharing. And okay, birdwatching… with – um… some strange twists. I’m all about protecting endangered species, so this story spoke to me. I’ve read many books on this topic, but I must say, this is the first one I’ve ever encountered with – erm… yes, well, no spoilers here! But seriously, where did you get this sci-fi birdwatcher mash-up idea, anyway?

Bart: “Well, since we humans are quietly watching birds, why wouldn’t there be other beings that are quietly watching us humans? Maybe they even have field guides on how to best observe us.

And if extraterrestrials really ARE watching us, it’s a little scary thinking about what conclusions they’d draw about our species!”

MUF: Now I’m feeling a little nervous…

Say, I’m always curious about how authors find their writing paths. What made you choose to write for a middle grade audience?

Bart: “The short answer is “teaching.” See, I taught middle school language arts for many years, and reluctant readers were my primary focus. Since I was constantly searching for just the right book for those kids, at some point I thought: “Hey, why don’t I just WRITE one?”

Those reluctant readers have been a terrific motivation for me. I ended up writing a dozen nonfiction titles with them in mind, and now I have a novel that I hope they like, too. :-)”

MUF: How wonderful! I think readers at many places in their reading journey will love it, for sure.

Do you have any other titles in progress right now?

Bart: “Yes! The Drake Equation was conceived with a large story arc with a natural halfway point. That point is where the novel ends. If the story attracts enough readers, then I’ll get a chance to finish the tale I envisioned. (Oh please oh please)

I’ve also just finished a funny novel called Three Weeks to Live (Give or Take). Among other things, it’s a “SickLit” satire about a teen girl named Jackie who nearly gets hit by a meteorite in her PE class. (Her tennis partner is not so lucky.) Jackie finds herself becoming a reluctant celebrity—but she may not be around long enough to enjoy her new status.

Lastly, I’m writing a book of poems about some well-known teenaged franchise characters who must—for the moment—go unnamed. :-)”

MUF: We’ll be watching for those for sure!

And now for one last question. I always have to ask authors about their own reading lives, and books that might interest our readers, so here we go: can you please share a few of your favorite middle grade titles with us?

Bart: “I have a soft spot for funny MG and YA books, but I don’t like to read too many of them. This isn’t because they’re not great (they are). But it’s really intimidating to read other authors in the field, because it’s like, “They’re SO good, who do I think I am? Oh, just forget the whole thing!” 😛

That said, one recent MG book I really liked was Dave Barry’s Worst Class Trip. In a more YA vein, I was very impressed by Patrick Ness’s The Rest of Us Just Live Here.”

Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing with us.

You can find Bart in a variety of places: Website/Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr/Instagram  

Now we’d love to give away a copy of your book, so it’s time for a little fun! I see you’re ready, Bart!


Often we use Rafflecopter around here to draw a winner. Instead,  I’m going to use an “Alien Landing” to choose the lucky winner of a copy of Bart King’s The Drake Equation.  

To enter: 

Comment on this post by 5 p.m. Pacific Time Thursday, May 12 to enter. I’ll announce the winner on Saturday, by sharing our “Alien Landing” in a bonus post. 

In fourth grade, Valerie Stein touched an ancient artifact from an archaeological dig. Though she never got to travel the world in search of buried treasure, she ended up journeying to new and exciting places between the pages of books. Now she spends her time researching history, in museums and libraries, which is like archaeology but without the dirt. Valerie’s book, The Best of It: A Journal of Life, Love and Dying, was published in 2009.  Both her current work and an upcoming middle grade series are historical fiction set in Washington State. Valerie is Publisher at Homeostasis Press, and blogs at Gatherings, the blog of Gather Here: History for Young People



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Valerie Stein
In fourth grade, Valerie Stein touched an ancient artifact from an archaeological dig. Though she never got to travel the world in search of buried treasure, she ended up journeying to new and exciting places between the pages of books. Now she spends her time researching history, in museums and libraries, which is like archaeology but without the dirt. Valerie’s book, THE BEST OF IT: A JOURNAL OF LIFE, LOVE AND DYING, was published in 2009. Her current work focuses on historical fiction set in Washington State. Valerie is proprietor of Homeostasis Press, and blogs at The Best of It. She manages Gather Here, an online history site for middle grade readers and teachers.
  1. Hi everyone! I wanted to thank you so much for your kind comments and interest in The Drake Equation—and I also wanted to congratulate whoever that “lucky” winner is. 🙂

    • Thanks for stopping by to say hi and wish our readers luck, Bart!

  2. Crows are my favourite!

    • Cool! We get so many different birds at our house that I have a different favorite every week.

  3. I’d love to win! My son would love it!

    • Good luck! This was plain fun.

  4. I really enjoyed this interview. The book sounds very interesting!

    • I’m glad you liked the interview, Eric! Bart is fun to converse with.

  5. Thank you for a fun interview — can’t wait to read the book!

    • Glad you liked it, Amanda! I had a lot of fun with it.

  6. This sounds like a book my daughter would love.

    • Birds and aliens…. how can you lose, Tonya? 😉

  7. Sounds fascinating and fun – combines two interesting topics!! My students would love it.

    • I enjoyed learning new things about birds, and wish I had students to read it to again, Beth. 🙂

  8. Looks awesome! So anxious to read and will pass along to my granddaughter! Congratulations!

    • We think you’ll really enjoy sharing it, Linda!

  9. Sounds like a great book. It would be nice to read about a young person who likes birdwatching. Thanks for the post!

    • I agree, Penny. Glad you liked the post! I enjoyed meeting Bart.

  10. I think my students would love this book!

    • I think so, too, Brooke! I’d love to read it aloud with students.

  11. Sounds like a fun, exciting read! I want a copy 🙂 Congrats to Bart! Happy book birthday!

    • Fun is right, Mark! Maybe you’ll win. 😉 But only the Alien Invasion will tell.

  12. This sounds like a great book. My students love birds and birdwatching. We have a pair of pigeons that often peek into our classroom, and my students are always so excited to see them.

    • That’s fun, Jennifer! They would like to read this one, for sure.

  13. This sounds like a great book. I love learning about new things.

    • I know quite a lot about birds, Sheila, but I learned some new things for sure (and not just about birds!).

  14. This sounds like a great book. My classroom library doesn’t have another book about a birdwatcher. Thanks for the great interview.

    • Good luck, Stacey! Did you see my last post here on the site? It’s all about books that feature birds and birdwatchers! That is why I wanted to read this one.