With 35 titles to his name, Luper has made his mark in children’s books
Growing up, author Eric Luper was a reluctant reader.
The young adult genre didn’t exist and he could not find much to read that was age appropriate between Ronald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and books by Stephen King.
So, when Luper discovered his love of writing at Rutgers, he set out to help fill that void. He is now the author of 35 books including several series with Scholastic, the well-known publishing, education and media company.
“When I was a teenager there were no teen novels,’’ said Luper, a 1992 Rutgers College graduate who grew up in Springfield, N.J. and now lives in Albany, N.Y. “I had difficulty paring myself with books that I really latched on to, so part of my drive has to do with writing books I wish I had when I was that age.’’
He started college with the goal of becoming a chiropractor after being encouraged by his parents to pursue a lucrative career as a doctor, lawyer or accountant. But everything changed after he took his first creative writing class to fulfill a college requirement.
Luper pursued both careers ever since.
He has written books for Cartoon Network shows including Teen Titans Go and The Amazing World of Gumball and created Scooby-Doo, Pokémon, Star Trek and Star Wars Mad Libs. The latest installment in his chapter book series, Bad Food – which brings to life cafeteria food in an elementary school and chronicles their after-hours adventures – is due out in October.
“If it weren’t for those creative writing classes, I probably wouldn’t have become a writer,’’ said Luper. “I never realized that I was interested in writing until I started writing in earnest and realized it was fun.’’
After graduation, Luper focused at first on establishing his career as a chiropractor. He went to graduate school in upstate New York and worked for a few years before establishing his own practice.
That is when he found he had some downtime and started writing again. It was the era of Harry Potter, when the characters in the books were growing older and the young adult market was exploding. In college, Luper was told he wrote with the voice of a teenager. He found his niche writing for a teen audience.
He started off writing romantic comedies. His first book, Big Slick, published in 2007, featured a teenager with a poker addiction. For his second novel, Bug Boy, he tackled historical fiction, featuring a young jockey in Saratoga in 1934 who was pressured to throw a race.
As Luper’s children grew older, he started writing for a younger audience.
“As they got to be more sophisticated as readers my drive to meet them where they were influenced me,’’ Luper said.
He started writing chapter books that appealed to grade schoolers. The shift also fit in with his schedule managing two careers. He was able to find time to write for 30 minutes to two hours a day – enough time to write one chapter.
That is the time he wrote the Key Hunters series – his first books with illustrations about two fourth graders who are searching for their missing librarian who was sucked into a book in a magic library underneath their school – and the Chocolate Lab books about two children trying to help save their family’s chocolate shop. Both series, published by Scholastic Books, were geared toward 7-10 -year-old readers.
He is currently working on the fifth book in the Bad Food series, which started as a unique collaboration with a 13-year-old artist and Instagram star from England, Joe Whale, known as “Doodle Boy.”
The young teen’s drawings provided Luper with the inspiration for the books. Whale’s drawings focused on snacks, school supplies and musical instruments.
“I thought, where do you find all these things together and realized at an elementary school,’’ Luper said. “The idea for the series is everything comes alive at night and gets into trouble.’’
When he discovered his love of writing at Rutgers, Luper said he never envisioned that he would be a successful author writing more than 30 books, fulfilling a need he saw growing up.
He encourages current students at Rutgers to be open to discovering new areas of interest and to pursue what will make them happy.
“Regardless of what you do, you need to follow your interest or you will burn out,’’ Luper said. “You need to figure out what is going to interest or excite you. If you are really interested in research, you should pursue that. If you are interested in law enforcement, you should pursue that.’’
“If you try to do what is perceived is expected of you, it is not going to lead to a fulfilling existence,’’ he said.