Sandra Markle’s new Arachnid World series is so amazing we decided it deserved a full week on the blog! Welcome to Arachnid World Week!
Each day this week we will give you a behind the scenes look at the series and if you leave a comment on the blog or tweet “I love @lernerbooks and Arachnid World Week on http://www.lernerbooks.blogspot.com! #arachnidweek” on Twitter, you will be entered to win a library bound set of all six books!
Without further ado, here is the first behind the scenes look at Arachnid World with award-winning author Sandra Markle:
BEHIND THE SCENES OF WRITING ARACHNID WORLD
Every book I write starts by my being curious about something—in this series it was about those amazing arachnids. Then writing the book becomes a journey of discovery which is also my goal for readers—to make them feel like every page is a fresh, exciting discovery they’re sharing with me.
The journey of discovery for the Arachnid World series involved a worldwide search for experts. Then calling and talking to those people, learning firsthand from them about the arachnids, about the expert’s special research, and finally checking back with that expert to be sure the information I was sharing with my readers was completely correct.
For example, Dr. Todd Blackledge is an expert on how spiders build their webs. He shared the step-by-step process a web-building spider goes through from silk production to constructing the supporting framework and spinning sticky strands—called gum-footed lines—for catching flying or jumping prey.
Not every fact I discover while I’m writing makes it into the finished book. Like extra scenes cut from movies, there’s just not enough space to share all of the fascinating information I collect. Here’s one there wasn’t an opportunity to include in Black Widows: Deadly Biters.
Dr. Blackledge is studying whether a hungry black widow spider builds exactly the same web as a well-fed black widow. He said, “I learned that a hungry black widow spider’s web may have as many as 30 gum-footed traplines. But after a couple of days of successfully catching prey and eating, that same black widow is likely to build a web that’s almost entirely dry silk. This web may not take as much energy to build. It certainly won’t catch much. The spider uses it as a place to run around and a place to hide behind while it rests in a crevice.”
I had an opportunity to interview and work with Dr. Doug Gaffin while writing Scorpions: Armored Stingers. He has spent his entire career traveling the world to study scorpions and graciously shared his wealth of knowledge. One of the things there wasn’t room to go into in-depth in the book was what he’s currently researching—the scorpion’s pectines. These are sensory organs used during mating, but Dr. Gaffin believes they’re so much more. He says, “I think of a scorpion’s pectine as being like a tongue. I’ve learned it’s made up of tens of thousands of sensory units and each of these contains like a hundred thousand neurons [nerve cells]. I’m still trying to get a handle on how a scorpion uses its pectines, but it’s probably to tell prey from mate and even to retrace its own steps back to its burrow. I’ve also found that male scorpions have bigger pectines than females. I think the males are using these to find and track the pheromones [communication chemicals] the females are laying down.”
My favorite moments in talking to experts are when someone says, “I think…” That implies there are questions still to be answered. Another example of a moment like this came from Dr. Nadia Ayoub who is an expert on spider silk. She said, “We don’t know if black widows eat their silk before they build a new web the way orb web weavers do. Nobody’s witnessed them doing that.” The fact that there is still something to be discovered is implied, opening the door for someone to investigate and find out.
Besides taking young readers along on my journey of discovery, I want to tickle kids’ natural curiosity as they read the books in the ARACHNID WORLD Series. I’d love readers to finish each book in this series saying, “Wow! That was cool, but I wonder…”
Visit Sandra Markle’s Blog at http://sandra-markle.blogspot.com for free lesson plans and more!