Raymond Huber has written 2 books for children aged 6 to 12: ‘Sting’ and ‘Wings’. Not only are these books about bees, they are adventure story books!
I thought I’d catch up with Raymond, and find out more about the stories, and why he chose to write about bees. Below are Raymond’s great answers to my questions.
BuzzAboutBees: You’ve written a number of books, but for obvious reasons, the books ‘Sting’ and ‘Wings’ are of interest here - both are stories in which the main characters are bees! That’s unusual (and refreshing) in an adventure. What made you decide to choose bees for characters?
Raymond Huber: I was given a beehive on my 40th birthday and became fascinated. But bees were also a gift to me as a children's writer – here was a creature that talked by dancing; had magnetic crystals and a selfless weapon; and kept the human race alive. I still had to shape characters but different species suggested personalities: eg. meditative bumblebees, edgy wasps.
BuzzAboutBees: Can you give us a brief outline – what are the books about?
Raymond Huber: Sting and Wings are children’s novels about Ziggy, a young honey bee. He’s rejected by his beehive, kidnapped by the human military and eventually discovers his real family are a team of super bees (think Mission Impossible with bees). When bees start disappearing, Ziggy and his family face their biggest challenges: a deadly pesticide and a gang of Giant Hornets. Animal fantasy meets sci-fi.
BuzzAboutBees: What was the inspiration for developing the stories?
Raymond Huber: I wanted to write the kind of book I loved as a kid — mixing thrills, humour and a very small hero (I loved The Hobbit). My plots grew from news reports about the worldwide bee crisis and US military training bees (true); and seeing some of my bees die from pesticide poisoning.
BuzzAboutBees: Which are your favourite characters in the books, and why?
Raymond Huber: Torgo the hornet grew from my love of sci-fi movie monsters; Fang the snake reflects my love of puzzles; and Ziggy the bee is optimistic despite the odds. I suppose they're all bits of me.
BuzzAboutBees: Whilst reading the book,
will the reader learn anything about the life of bees and the problems
and challenges they face?
Raymond Huber: The story is told in first person/bee so the reader sees life through his eyes. I tried to keep the biology 'reality-based' (the bees don't drive cars, they navigate) and there's an appendix with bee facts. But the characters' emotions are essentially human – I think young readers need characters they care about and an exciting story; and they absorb the facts.
BuzzAboutBees: Are there any funny bits in the books?
Raymond Huber: I do enjoy word play – so much that my editor made me cut half the puns. There's also some satire: the pesticide corporation is called Slayer for good reason. There are also some geeky TV geeks references, such as the bees' farewell, "Bee seeing you", from The Prisoner.
BuzzAboutBees: I see you are a beekeeper. How long have you been keeping bees, and what do you like most about them?
Raymond Huber: I got my hobby hive about 10 years ago. I like watching them flying, building, eating, cooking, defending. I love that something so small can be so much: ”The little things are infinitely the most important” said Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (probably why Sherlock Holmes took up beekeeping).
BuzzAboutBees: What’s your favourite fascinating bee fact?
Raymond Huber: Bee dance is the second most complex language of all living creatures on Earth.
BuzzAboutBees: What’s your favourite honey recipe?
Raymond Huber: Honey baked lentils from the More With Less Cookbook (Google it). Makes monotonous lentils mellifluous.
BuzzAboutBees: What would be your top 5 tips for helping bees?
BuzzAboutBees: Thank you Raymond for your time!
Links to books I have reviewed and Q&As with authors.