Science Book a Day Interviews Glenn Murphy

Special thanks to Glenn Murphy for answering 5 questions about his recently featured book – Why Is Snot Green?: And Other Extremely Important Questions (and Answers)

Glenn Murphy received his masters in science communication from London’s Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine. He wrote Why is Snot Green? whilst managing the Explainer team at the Science Museum in London. In 2007 he moved to the United States. He now lives and works in North Carolina, with his wife Heather and an increasingly large and ill-tempered cat. – From LoveReading4Kids

Glenn’s Homepage:

#1 – What was the impetus for Why is snot green??

Having recently completed my masters in Science Communication at Imperial College, I was working at the Science Museum, London, as manager of its learning-focused Interactive Galleries. From time to time, I consulted on exhibition designs and edited books (written by other authors at MacMillan Children’s Books) on science subjects. Their editor, Gaby Morgan, asked if I’d be interested in writing my own. So I did. Why Is Snot Green? Took me about 6 months to write, all-told, and another 2 months to edit, with the help of Science Museum experts and curators. It went on sale in the spring of 2007, and became a best-seller. It is now in its 2nd edition, and had been republished in over 16 languages, and over 20 countries.

#2 – How did you collect/research the gross array of answers that you have in your book?

I compiled the questions from kids and adults who frequented the Science Museum – mostly in its Launch Pad gallery – while I was working as an Interactive Galleries Explainer, and later, as a Manager of the galleries and 60-strong Explainer team. I knew many of the answers already, having studied biology, zoology, anatomy, genetics, microbiology and astronomy at the University of Aberdeen. Some of the engineering ones, I referred to the Science Museum curators, or did my own research via the Internet, science journals, and popular science books.

#3 – Your book has been celebrated for not patronising your audience. Was this important to you?

Very. Before I wrote Snot, I felt that most science books aimed at kids were either dull, uninteresting textbooks or silly, patronizing “wheeee look at science!!” books, with very little depth or accuracy. I wanted to create something that would occupy the middle ground – something fact-filed, fascinating, and fun. Judging by the popularity of Snot, all these years on, it seems I succeeded. Now, there are many more popular science writers writing books aimed at kids and adults in a less patronizing manner. I like to think I helped to spur that trend, with my daft little book.

#4 – Did you road-test your responses with a ‘test audience’ to ensure they were gross enough? How did you know they would work in the book?

I tested them on my nieces, on my editor’s son, and on the children of several friends. I didn’t have my own kids back then. To be honest, I didn’t know for sure they would work. I just trusted that my voice – which proved engaging enough in live shows and audience interactions at the Science Museum – would carry through to the printed word. I think it did, and still does.

#5 – Are you working on any other projects/books you can tell us about?

I’ve just finished a book called Predators: the Whole Tooth and Claw Story, which comes out in the UK in June.  I was inspired to write it by my part-time job at the Conservator’s Center, North Carolina, where I work every Friday, leading educational tours about the animals. The Center houses over 70 lions, tigers, leopards, wolves and other carnivores – may rescued from illegal breeders or zoos that couldn’t look after their animals. The book centers on predators from the prehistoric age (dinosaurs, cave bears, super-crocs) through the modern age (big cats, wolves, polar bears, birds of prey), comparing and contrasting each family of animals, and exploring how they got to be the way they are. It was a lot of fun to write, and features photographs of the animals I work with at the CC – including our lions, tigers, leopards, wolves, servals, caracals, ocelots, Geoffroy’s cats and more. I hope that everyone enjoys reading it as much as I did working on it.

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Categories: General Science, Interviews, Kids

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