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By Brenda Goldstein

Interview with children's book author Nathaniel Wyckoff

Good day, Mr. Wyckoff!

Thank you for this opportunity to tell you about my book and my writing.

You're welcome. Tell us about "Yaakov the Pirate Hunter."

"Yaakov the Pirate Hunter" is my first novel. It is basically a children's adventure novel for the middle-grade crowd with a science fiction element. The story is set in Los Angeles, in an imagined near future, an era in which much of our manual labor force has been replaced by robots.

On one fine summer morning in the year 2025, two brothers named Yaakov and Yosef Peretz are outside playing Frisbee. The Frisbee gets thrown onto the roof, and 11-year-old Yaakov decides to send his family's climbing robot to get it. This decision vexes his younger brother, Yosef, who isn't very impressed with robots and is annoyed by Yaakov's constant fascination with them.
Yosef gets impatient, and decides to knock the Frisbee off the roof with a baseball instead of waiting for a plodding climbing machine to retrieve it. When he throws the ball, however, he accidentally hits the robot, knocking it down and jarring its internal circuitry.
When the boys, aided by the their father and younger sister, open the robot and attempt to repair it themselves, they unexpectedly discover a treasure map that was somehow stored in the robot's memory. A quick call to their robot dealer, Dilip Sitoop, reveals that Dilip placed the map in the robot after escaping the scene of a jewel heist in Santa Barbara perpetrated by a gang of pirates.
The Peretz children and their father, guided by the treasure map and by their navigational robot, drive to the Mojave desert to locate the stolen treasure. They discover the exact spot indicated on the map, do some digging, find a buried treasure chest, and remove it from the ground. Then, they set off to Santa Barbara to return the chest to its billionaire owner.
There, they are forced to confront the pirates who stole the treasure. Yaakov manages to outwit them and to return the jewels.
The Peretz children and their parents are then sent off on another adventure to thwart a missing member of the pirate gang. This remaining rogue threatens to steal an ancient religious artifact on the other side of the globe: the old Torah scroll in the El-Ghriba synagogue on the Tunisian island of Djerba.

What inspired you to write this novel?

My children provided the initial inspiration for this book. I love to tell them stories, and often invent stories for them. Many times, they give me story ideas and ask me to create stories around those ideas.

One morning, as I drove the kids to school, one of my sons asked me to tell a story about a bunch of very tall robots. I made up a story that involved some action and adventure but was quite different from "Yaakov the Pirate Hunter."
Later, I decided to write a more family-oriented story, involving children who use their family's robots for good purposes. At the time, I was taking a correspondence course on writing for children, and decided that a story about kids who return stolen treasure, despite the difficulty involved, would be a good one; the idea of overcoming obstacles to do the right thing is a positive message that I would like to impart to children.The original story that I wrote morphed into the first three chapters of "Yaakov the Pirate Hunter."
I also was enthralled with the archaeology of the Middle East. Around that time, a magazine featured an article on the Jewish community of Djerba, which has thrived continually for at least 1,900 years; some Djerban Jews date their community's existence even earlier, to the time of the First Temple's destruction.
I learned that the site of Djerba's El-Ghriba synagogue has been used for religious services for many centuries, and that a Torah scroll housed there is believed to be the oldest in the world. All of those elements coalesced into the concept of my novel, and I tried to weave them into a coherent plot.

Tell us about your writing experience.

My experience as a writer goes back to my childhood to about the time that I first learned to write. I have always enjoyed writing stories. Much of that enjoyment was inspired by my father, our family's grand storyteller.

I remember going to bed with my father's invented stories, full of colorful characters, funny voices, creative scenarios … the works. He provided it all: plot, setting, dramatization – all of the elements of an enjoyable story and world-class delivery to boot. He fed my imagination with his fantastic tales, and inspired me to dream big.
I was also an avid reader, and learned grammar, sentence structure and the like more from reading books than from formal instruction. As I progressed through the school system, creative writing was always one of my favorite activities. Writing assignments related to assigned books and stories usually felt natural to me; I rarely remember getting stuck and wondering what in the world I was supposed to learn from a story or novel.
As a young adult, I wrote a number of pieces for my university's Jewish newsmagazine. It was quite interesting and fun. Though I tried to focus on the science courses that I thought necessary for my eventual technical career, I never abandoned my love of literature and writing, and took courses on detective fiction and Jewish-American fiction for enjoyment.
When my eldest child reached the age of 2 or so, I started making up and telling her stories to entertain her. As our family grew, so did my awareness of the world that children inhabit; my experience as a father has fed my storytelling and writing.

In what forms is 'Yaakov' available, and where can we purchase it?

"Yaakov the Pirate Hunter" is available in paperback and eBook formats. has both, and Barnes & Noble now has the paperback edition. I would like to try to get it into their Nook format, too. Another way to buy my novel is by visiting my website,, which links to the book's sales channels.

The eBook now sells for just 99 cents. I know, that's not "fair;" famous authors have to hawk their wares for $9.95 or $10.95 AS determined by their publishing houses, and here I am undercutting them by $9 or $10. I like to think of it this way, as explained by John Locke (the 21st century author of the Donovan Creed crime novels, which sell for 99 cents in Amazon Kindle format, not the 17th century philosopher).
When a famous author and I both sell our novels for $9.95 apiece, I have to prove to potential customers that I'm as good as the famous author. When my novels sell for 99 cents each, however, the famous author now has to prove that he's 10 times as good as I am. Anyway, visit the website for book excerpts, information about me, book reviews, a link to my blog (, and contact information.
As thePeretz family adventures continue, the website will keep readers informed. Please feel free to get in touch with me through thewebsite's contact form, or simply by emailing me at [email protected].

Thank you, Mr. Wyckoff. The book's sequel, "Yaakov and the Treasures of Timna Valley," is now also available for purchase at

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