Gunner J. Duck, an award-winning young author, began writing the “Ninja Puppy” series at age five. Gunner is the recipient of eight PBS Kids Writers awards.
While doing work on my blog, I came across a post about a young author named Gunner J. Duck. Gunner wrote his first award-winning book, “Ninja Puppy” at age five and is currently the winner of eight PBS Kids Writers awards.
Gunner is a great kid. It is no small feat to write a book at any age, and I am so impressed with his drive and dedication. I wanted to learn more about Gunner, so I asked mom if I could interview him, and to my surprise, she said, “Yes”!
Meet Gunner J. Duck, Author of “Ninja Puppy”
Hobbies & Interests
Valerie: Tell me about yourself. What are your other hobbies? What are your favorite things? What is your favorite dog breed? Do you like pirates, too?
Gunner: Well, my name is Gunner and I write books! I also do jiu-jitsu, play piano, take art class, play a little bass guitar, write music, make things on my 3D printer, learn new stuff, do robotics, design video games, and READ!
I love to hang out with my family members (especially my baby brother), my cousins, my best friends (who also happen to be the members of the Ninja Puppy Co club), going to church, and visiting places where I can learn about physics, technology, and engineering.
My favorite dog breed is Standard Poodle because that is what my dog is.
I don’t like pirates quite as much as I like Ninjas but my baby brother thinks he is a pirate and that is super cute.
Valerie: What inspired you to create the “Ninja Puppy” series?
Gunner: I love ninjas and I love puppies. One day, when I was 5 years old, my kindergarten teacher suggested that I enter a statewide book writing contest and I said yes.
I had just been given a new standard poodle puppy by my parents, and they had signed me up for jiu-jitsu classes, so I decided to write about a little boy who got a new puppy and became a ninja.
My book won 1st place in the Arkansas PBS Kids Writers Contest.
Valerie: Can you walk us through your creative process? How do you come up with the stories and illustrations?
Gunner: I usually have a title in my head that I want to use. Sometimes I have two or three titles in my head waiting to come to life. Then, when my mom says it’s time for another book contest, I open up the memo pad on my mom’s phone and start typing my thoughts out. By the time I start typing it out, I usually have a whole lot of ideas so my books develops pretty fast.
I like to read the different sections to my mom as I write them and she always says “Ha! How did you come up with that idea!?” and “That’s so good Gunner!” Then, when I feel like I have all of the parts to my books written, I get a blank storybook (that my mom got from Target) and start writing my words on the pages.
After I write all the words on the pages, I look at each page and think of a picture that goes with that part of the story. Then, I draw the picture that’s in my mind and color it with fancy markers.
After I’m done with the writing and illustrating, we take my book to a place to get scanned on the computer. We send a copy of it to the contest and then after the contest is over, we can use the scans to distribute copies of my books to other people who like to read them. I have written a new book each year for the past 5 years.
Valerie: You’ve won 8 PBS Kids Writers awards. How did it feel to receive these accolades at such a young age?
Gunner: It was awesome! It makes me very happy that I can win these awards and show other kids that they can win awards like that too if they work really hard. I also really like traveling around with my family to different places across the country to accept the awards I have gotten.
Valerie: What can your readers expect next from the “Ninja Puppy” series?
Gunner: Well, I am beginning to write my next book in the series which will be about Ninja Puppy going into Outer Space! I have also started writing a Ninja Puppy chapter book with my mom.
I love making video games so someday I’d like to have an awesome Ninja Puppy video game available. I also think it would be really exciting to have my series turned into a TV show or a movie.
Favorite Book Written (So Far)
Valerie: Out of all the books you’ve written, do you have a favorite? Why?
Gunner: My favorite book from my series would probably be Ninja Puppy in China because I love my illustrations, I love that it has ice cream, and I love that Ninja Puppy gets to visit China, where he can see so many interesting historical places.
Favorite Books & Authors
Valerie: What are some of your favorite books or authors that you enjoy reading?
Gunner: J.K. Rowling, Chris Colfer, Pseudonymous Bosch, and D.J. MacHale are some of my favorites so far, but I pretty much love every book I have ever read so there are probably a lot of great authors I have left out.
Valerie: What advice would you give to other young aspiring authors?
Gunner: Anyone can be an author, they just have to want to do it and work hard at it. Creativity is key so you really have to let your imagination take over. Also, never stop reading because it’s good for you and good for your imagination and reading can help you come up with great new ideas.
Questions for Mom
Valerie: How do you support Gunner in his creative endeavors?
Mom: When Gunner was very young, he wanted to learn to read. If there was something to learn/figure out, Gunner just had to understand it. He was reading books at age 3 and by the time he entered school, his academic performance was many grade levels above his own. He also had a knack for being creative and coming up with stories. We have always tried to let Gunner experience whatever he gets his mind on, so when his kindergarten teacher asked if he wanted to enter a book writing contest, and he said yes, we were very supportive. That goes with everything in his life. He has been interested in music, art, jiu-jitsu, biblical studies, and anything STEM.
So, as we are able, we have given our best effort in nurturing those interests by doing things like: sending him to Camp Invention, Robotics camp, Space Camp, visiting NASA, visiting with the amazing teaching staff in the Astronomy and Physics department at Texas A&M, and years of countless classes/lessons in his various special interests.
Valerie: Have there been any challenges in balancing school and Gunner’s writing?
Mom: I feel like we are a very busy family. Some weeks I wonder how we will get it all done but we always do. Gunner is involved in so many activities, plus our family just loves to be on the go and doing things like visiting our favorite theme park, or riding go-carts, etc.
We also sometimes travel for Gunner’s book awards and he does readings/book signings for schools and other events. Sometimes we do have to play catch up on school work or take care of Ninja Puppy business. Gunner is impressively good at having so many things going on.
Gunner wants to do it all! He never wants to let any of his activities go so we just go at his pace. I have dropped down to 3 days a week at my counseling job due to having a 2 year old at home and to Gunner’s Ninja Puppy business. I don’t think any of us would have it any other way though.
This has been such a fun and exciting time in our lives and we appreciate each little interview, or book sale, or trip for an award, because we know someday, this may all just be memories. I just always think about what a special period of Gunner’s life this is right now!
Valerie: What has been your proudest moment as a parent watching Gunner achieve his goals?
Mom: A very special moment comes to my mind immediately with this question. Gunner was recently honored as the Jerry McFarland Outstanding Youth Award recipient by our local Chamber of Commerce. This made my momma heart so proud because they said he got the award for being an inspiration to other children in our area. I may have had a few tears when he accepted his award all by himself on that big stage.
In his acceptance speech, he said something about how he hopes his books can inspire the world to be more like his book character and spread kindness and friendliness. What more could a mother hope for? I will never forget that moment.
Advice for Parents
Valerie: What advice would you give to other parents who have children with creative talents?
Mom: Follow your child’s lead! Even if you are on a tight schedule or budget, find ways every day to show them that their ideas and interests are valid and that you will support them. Get them involved in a school GT program or programs available through your local library. If you are able, sign them up for classes in their special interest such as art, writing, dance, music etc.
If your child is an aspiring author/illustrator, have some blank story books or construction paper and crayons readily available and encourage them to explore their imagination. And I can’t stress this enough… read, read, read! The gift of reading is one of the best gifts you can give a child. If your child isn’t yet a confident reader, find someone who can regularly read to/with them.
Most importantly, just love them and let them know they can do anything they put their mind to. A parent’s love and support can make all the difference in whether a child chases their dreams or not.
Conclusion: Add “Ninja Puppy” To Your Reading List!
One of the things I found most inspiring about this interview was the gentle way the family supports Gunner and his endeavors. I think it’s so important for families to foster their children’s passions. The world can be so harsh but when a family is supportive, children believe they can do anything – and if they believe they can, they will.
I’d like to thank Gunner and his mom for graciously accepting my interview request. I’m looking forward to more books!