Q&A with Mannion

“Under the temple of Chahk” by Trevor

Why did you decide to write about the Maya culture? (asked by Joshua, Megan, Matthew, Joseph, Faith, Brandon, Sydney, Chawnee, Jeffrey, Alexis, Emily,  Mariah, Alexandra, Katlyn, Noah & Madison)

Jon grew up in Latin America, so the book was always going to be set in that region. When he produced his first draft, the pyramids were originally just a cool background for the action. As we started to research the people who built the pyramids, we got sucked deeper and deeper into this fascinating culture until the Maya took over the book. What’s particularly exciting about studying the Maya right now is that there’s still so much the experts don’t know. There are thousands of pyramids still to be excavated, and the archaeologists are making new discoveries all the time. It’s thrilling to be a part of that, even in a small way.

What inspired you to write the Jaguar Stone series? Is it based on real people and places? (Kaden, Alexandra, Clarisa, Cooper, Lauren, Joseph, Marco, Taylor, Conner, Madison, Cameron & Kylie)

The Jaguar Stones as a story was inspired by Jon’s wild childhood growing up in Central and South America. The character of Lola came out of a bedtime story he used to tell the children, called The Monkey Girl. She lived on a pyramid, her best friends were monkeys and every night she would outwit some different bad guys.

The jaguar stones in the books were partly inspired by a jade carving that was found in a tomb at Altun Ha in Belize. This volleyball sized head is carved out of a single piece of jade and is the largest jade object ever discovered in the Maya area. Its crossed eyes, fangs and the ahaw glyph on its forehead identify it as a representation of the Maya sun god Kinich Ahaw.  In our books, the five (fictional) jaguar stones embody the key pillars of ancient Maya society: agriculture, astronomy, creativity, military prowess, and kingship.

Is San Xavier a real place? Are the ancient temples real? Where did you come up with the names of the temples? Do all those secret passage ways exist? (Taylor, Katlyn, Katelyn, Michael, Marco, Conner, Kealiiholookoa, Breanna, Haly, Seth, Noah, Clarisa, Cooper & Parker)

San Xavier is a fictional country based on present-day Belize. We chose Belize, because almost everyone there speaks English. Many people also speak a Maya language and/or Spanish.

Each of the five pyramids is based on a different real-life Maya pyramid.   The Temple of Chahk (Red Jaguar Stone) is based on the Pyramid of the Magician at Uxmal, the Temple of Ixchel (White Jaguar Stone) is based on El Castillo (and the Cenote) at Chichen Itza, the Temple of Itzamna (Blue/Green Jaguar Stone) is based on the Temple of the Inscriptions at Palenque and the Pyramid of Ah Pukuh (Black Jaguar Stone) is based on Temple 1 at Tikal. The Temple of K'awiil (Yellow Jaguar Stone) is the only one not really based on a specific pyramid. However, the castle it is placed in is based on a combination of castles we visited on research trips to Spain for book two. The temples are named after the gods from ancient Maya mythology.

There are quite a few Maya temples/pyramids that have spooky secret passageways, hidden tombs and even ones with twisting dark labyrinths. Temples in the Rio Bec region are often entered through huge scary monster mouths. And the Maya did build pyramids one on top of each other (as described about Ah Pukuh) like the layers of an onion.  Archaeologists often dig between these layers discovering tombs, hidden artifacts and amazing carvings still covered in their original paint. 

What we put into the pyramid of Chahk and Itzamna - the weather control table and the time machine - are not real. However, archaeologist Bill Saturno has just discovered a room in a pyramid at Xultun where ancient Maya astronomers tracked the planets, calculated time and projected a range of calendars.  This is the same concept as the time machine room at Itzamna, but using human calculation, not a machine.

Do the pyramids in the book really appear like the colors yellow, black, green white and red? (Chawnee)

The pyramids in the books are ruins and just like the pyramids in Central America today, the color on their surfaces disappeared long ago. We do imagine that the pyramids in the books were painted the color of their matching stone. In fact, most ancient Maya pyramids were  brightly painted - (usually red with accents of other color).

Is Xibalba a real thing supported in the Maya culture? (Kaleb)

Xibalba is the K’iche Maya name for the underworld and means “well of fear”.  In Maya mythology the underworld was a cold and damp place.  It is described in the Popol Vuh as a court ruled by the Lords of Death.

Are all of the Mayan words you used actual, or completely false? (Faith)

The Mayan words we use in the book are all actual Yucatec Mayan.

How did you collect all the information about the Maya? Did you visit all the places you wrote about? (Illiana, Shelby, Nicholas, Conner)

The Maya are a fascinating people and we've enjoyed learning about them. First of all we read every book on the ancient Maya that we could lay our hands on. Then Jon did a course at Harvard on reading and writing Maya glyphs. But our most important research has been the many trips we've made down to Belize, Guatemala and Mexico, where we’ve talked to contemporary Maya people, canoed underground rivers, tracked howler monkeys, explored cave systems and visited about 40 ancient Maya sites. We also attend conferences where the leading Maya archaeologist present their latest discoveries.

When will the third book come out? (Kaleb, Andrew)

The writing and illustrations for Book 3, ”The River of No Return”, are completely finished and it's in the publisher's hands now. It will be out in September. For a sneak peak of some of the illustrations click here.

Have you written any other series? (Clarisa)

No, the Jaguar Stones books are the first books we’ve written.

Are you going to write another series similar to this one? (Kaden, Colton)

We’re working so hard on finishing the Jaguar Stones series that we haven’t given the future that much thought. But we do have a few interesting ideas of what we might do ...

Will the Jaguar Stones be a movie? (Quinton, Katherine, Tanner, Matthew, Shelby, Ashlend & Andrew)

Fingers crossed! We'd love to have the film be made into a movie - and while we have had a number of approaches from production companies, we haven't seen any contracts yet. We do think it would be better to sell the rights after the last book comes out so that the film makers would know where the story is going. There will be a number of big surprises along the way. Do you think it should be animated, or live action?

Do you two write different parts of the book, or just help and come up with it together? (Tanner)

It’s been a lot of fun working together and we make a good team. Where most writers have to argue things through with the voices in their heads, we get to argue out loud with someone who knows the characters every bit as well as we do. At first we’d switch off and pass the manuscript back and forth between us.  Now Pamela does most of the writing and Jon does most of the illustrating, but we plot everything together. We like to challenge and surprise each other, and we hope that comes through in the story.  There are times when we argue about it, but we can usually find a solution that makes us both happy – and that neither of us would have come up with individually.

Are the yellow butterflies showing Max where the yellow jaguar stone is? Do they signify the yellow jaguar stone? (Summer, Dervin)

Many cultures identify butterflies with the spirits of the dead and, in Middleworld, the yellow butterflies are the souls of the ancestors who help Max and Lola in their fight against evil. If you ever go to the Yucatan, you are almost sure to see a cloud of Orange Yellow Sulphur butterflies  - they're one of the most common and most beautiful butterflies of Central America.

Is it true that the snakes in the jungle can actually kill you with one bite. (Parker)

The snake Max meets in the book is the fer-de-lance (Och-Chan in Yucatec Mayan).  It’s a highly venomous and aggressive pit viper and causes more deaths than any other snake in South America.  It can kill with just one bite.

At the end of the book, did the hologram take all the Jaguar Stones? (Megan)

The hologram of Lord Muan took the three stones that Hermanjilio/Tzelek had used on top the Black pyramid  - the black jaguar, the green jaguar and the red jaguar stone.

Were Santino and Anastasia actual characters, or death Lords in disguise? (Trevor)

That’s an intriguing idea.  They are actual characters. However, you never know when a Death Lord might disguise themselves as someone else.

Is Hermanjilio aware of Tzelek being in his body or is he oblivious until the end of the book? (Ashlend)

He is unaware, until Tzelek takes over.

The questions below are really good questions, unfortunately if we were to answer them here we’d be giving away what happens in future books.  You’ll have to keep reading to find out the answers. (Asked by Samuel, Zachery, Kylie, Dallin, Madison, Summer, Emily, Mariah, Dervin, Iliana, Katelyn, Jennifer, Natalia)

Why have the Maya gods chosen Max?

Where is the yellow Jaguar Stone?  

What happens to Lady Coco and Lord 6-Rabbit?

Will Tzelek rule the world? Will Tzelek be defeated by Max?

Will Frank Murphy and Uncle Ted stop hating each other each other?

Will Lucky Jim get out of Xibalba?

What happens to Zia?

Who was this girl that influenced Uncle Ted to stop painting?  What happened to the girl?

What was the background of Lucky Jim? Why does he want to be so detached from the Maya?  And does he have royal lineage?  

What happened to Uncle Ted’s lost love?

I would really enjoy knowing more about Lola’s past? What happened to Lola’s parents, and who are they?

Will Tzelek ever come out of Hermanjilio Bol?  

Who killed Tzelek?  

Will Ah Pukuh ever come back to harm Max for surviving his temple?

Why is Count Antonio De Landa obsessed with Lola?

Will Max end up with Lola?

We loved these Quotes

Usually when I read all I see is typed words, but with your book it was like I was standing in the background of the setting watching the story from a distance, almost like I was the narrator. “Middleworld” and “The End of the World Club” are almost more like movies than actual books because they really paint a picture in your mind.  Trevor

A wonderful blend of action, adventure, nature and a hint of mystery.  Maia

I absolutely was in love with your book from the minute I read the preface.  It was action packed throughout the whole book.  My heart was racing until the very last page. I would like to thank you for writing this book and giving me an excitement to want to go to class every day.  


It kept me on the edge of my seat, chapter by chapter, page by page,  sentence by sentence. Dallin

Although I don’t read much I could not put this book down.  Reading “Middleworld” made me realize how much I like reading. I loved this book thank you for inspiring me to read again. Since finishing your book I have read two books and am on a third.  Lauren

May I say I am not the biggest fan of reading, but the book “Middleworld” opened my eyes. I particularly enjoyed “Middleworld” because it had spectacular cliff hangers at the end of each chapter making me not want to put the book down.  This book made me feel like I was actually standing right next to Max Murphy facing all the adventures.  I can’t wait to read your second book. Alexandra

I normally never read because after the first chapter I’m bored.  But with your book I was glued after the first chapter.  I completely love how you changed Max from selfish to sweet and caring.  I also love how you mixed an adventure book with a learning book.  Every time Max learned something I learned it too.  Tanner

I loved the journey that Max and Lola went on together.  I loved the suspense in it.  I never knew what was coming next. Do you have any other books out because if you do I would really like to read them?  I loved the book.  Katelyn

I love your writings.  It felt like you took me on an exotic, twisty, back stabbing roller coaster while I was reading “Middleworld”.  Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop.  I wanted to read and read and read. This is coming from someone who hated reading and wanted nothing to do with books.  Then my class started reading it and I thought I would give it a try. Next thing I knew, I was flipping pages like crazy.  You are amazing writers and I can’t wait until your third book comes out. Mariah

“Middleworld”, was a very intriguing book, which relentlessly kept me on the edge the entire time I was reading it.  I couldn’t read it fast enough! It taught me things I would die of boredom reading out of a text book.  You did something most authors can’t accomplish, sure you filled a book with tons of facts, but you left out the boringness of the facts and brought amusing, charismatic, adventure instead.  

“Middleworld” was very inspirational to me, because I want to one day have the world read my books and love them as much as I loved yours.  And your series also inspired me to write something primitive, something no one has already written about. Thank you for your inspiration, I hope one day you will read my book and think it’s just as wonderful as I think yours is.  Jennifer

I have just completed your fantastic book “Middleworld”.  Anxiety is taking over and I can not wait to read the second book.  Dervin

At first, I was kind of wary of reading “Middleworld” because I don’t read many books that are based on historical events but once I started to read it, it suddenly became interesting and would like to read the rest of the series as well. I also loved how you used advanced vocabulary throughout the book. One of the main reasons I love the book is that it was based around the Maya culture and how you incorporated it into the story.  Alexis

This book had suspense and adventure in every page.  I couldn’t stop reading.  Haly

I wanted you to know that I think the book “Middleworld” is the most thrilling book I’ve ever read.  At home, instead of going straight to being lazy and watching TV, I kept turning pages all the way to the end of the book.  Colton

I have just finished “Middleworld”, my new favorite book.  I was literally getting in trouble at home for reading and not doing my chores.  My aunt and mom are both reading it - after my free time was spent with my face implanted in your book.  Zachery

Intriguing suspense, mysterious history, and out of this world Maya vocabulary made “Middleworld” one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read.  Natalia

Your Book, “Middleworld” was an entertaining read; it kept my eyes peeled and my heart racing. Thank you for giving me my new favorite book.  


I just got finished with your first book “Middleworld” and my mind is still blowing from the brilliant ending. Conner

There were many things I adored in “Middleworld”, but what I like the most are the characters and their traits.  Max’s loyalty and devotion, Lady Coco’s goofiness, Lord 6-Rabbit’s leadership and manners all fascinated me in the end.  Alicia