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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

INTERVIEW: Bonnie J. Doerr

Aurora is pleased to have Bonnie J. Doerr with us. Bonnie is an author with the brand new Young Adult publisher Leap Books, and her book Island Sting will be released on January 6, 2010.

Bonnie has always played with words, ideas, and nature. She's taught students from kindergarten to college. Degrees in reading education, combined with a stint as a science teacher, led her to write ecological mysteries starring caring, involved, "green" teens who take action with attitude, along with a touch of romance. Her work has been recommended by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) for use in environmental education and is also included in Milkweed Editions literary field guides.

She loves creating characters that jump wholeheartedly into a struggle to right a wrong and sees teens as being, as she told me, "uniquely passionate and fearless, often sensing injustice in clear, immediate ways that adults miss."
Growing up, Bonnie was always too active and "out-doorsy" to spend much time thinking about writing.

"In junior high," she said, "about the time I became aware that legs covered with bug bites held no appeal, I became a stay-at-home voracious reader. I was always insatiably curious about places and people. Still am. I love being transported to different towns, states, countries, and crawling around inside other people’s heads. It fascinates me to learn how different people are one from the other and to follow their train of thought. I can safely experience dangerous adventures and hang out with wickedly nasty characters when in real life I wouldn’t dare. As a teen, I’d sit on our front porch devouring books while hoping that the boy of my momentary interest would ride by on his bicycle, and in later years, in his car. I didn’t write much until high school when I learned how much fun it was to create characters I could only dream about—especially guys!"

When Bonnie's working she sits where she can see the woods and gardens from two directions. She admits this is not without its downside, however.
"This position can be inspiring or distracting, depending on what the wild critters are up to outside," she told me. "Sometimes I have reference books and papers scattered all around, but I’ve learned that clutter distracts me. I begin a project, see something that reminds me of another task, attack it instead, then notice something undone on a forgotten list only to take care of that to-do item, all the while feeling guilty because I’m not making progress on the main assignment. Not productive behavior. So I try to keep my desk cleared except for my ceramic turtle hatchling, inspiration for work on Stakeout, my next release, and a fresh flower from my garden. The camellia on my desk now is likely the last bloom for a while."

She loved being outdoors as a kid, as she's said, but most of her childhood "wilderness romping" took place in mountains, streams, and fresh water lakes, while she writes about semi-tropical island environments.

Island Sting is set in a Florida wildlife refuge in the Florida Keys—where Bonnie spends a great deal of her time. She also does research for her books, which she loves since it involves travel, exploring an island environment, and spending time with officials and other professionals who protect and care for animals, like Florida wildlife officers and sea turtle hospital personnel.

"Is my research vacation or work?" she asked me. "You decide."

When she's home, she feels guilty if she's not working on her latest manuscript, but while she's working on the manuscript, she feels guilty that she's not working in her house or in the gardens.

"Those home responsibilities are always staring and waving in my face," she said. "Plus, my husband is retired and hangs around doing as he pleases which is usually READING ! Awesome, right? But reading is what I most wish I had more time to do. Reading books is so-ooo much easier than writing them."

"Do you prefer to write longhand, on a typewriter, or on a computer?" I wondered.
"Please don’t make me think about writing on a typewriter," she begged. "Oh, the nightmare memories of such slow, laborious editing--one draft after another. Do my readers even know what a typewriter is?

"I make notes in longhand, but I compose on my laptop. The irony is the computer makes it so easy to edit these days I don’t know when to stop making changes."

I wondered which authors have influenced Bonnie the most.

"For subject matter, I’d have to say Carl Hiassen and Jean Craighead George, authors whose styles have nothing in common, but who share environmental topics," she told me. "I loved Carl’s adult novels and wanted to write similar stories for kids, but darn if he didn’t beat me to it. If only I could create such quirky, funny characters. My brain isn’t large enough to contain half of Ms. George’s knowledge. But don’t I wish? To the gods of writing I issue this plea: give me Carl’s wit and Ms. George’s wisdom!"

She's currently reading Playing for the Ashes by Elizabeth George, as well as Operation Redwood by S. Terrell French.

As far as a book no writer should be without, for Bonnie it depends.

"Every author should have a book of charms and a book of lottery tickets!" she asserted, to begin with, and then continued, "In all honesty, each author must learn what book the writer within needs at any given time. If I need inspiration, I will refer to one book. If I’m struggling with voice, I may pick up another. I’m concentrating on mysteries these days, so I keep Chris Roerden’s Don’t Murder Your Mystery nearby. One book won’t do it. I need an entire library. What does it say about me that a single book is not help enough? You know that was a rhetorical question, right?"

Island Sting is set in the Florida Keys, so Bonnie is launching it at the Southern Most City. The first and second week of February, she will be at several venues in Key West.

On the first Friday, she will share Island Sting at the Walk on Winn Dixie. Sunday afternoon, February 7, she will be at The Key West Wildlife Center hoping to help raise awareness and funds. February 9, at 5:30 pm, she will be talking with students and the community at Florida Keys Community College. She will meet with patrons of the Key West Public Library on the morning of February 11.

"Don't you want to join me February in Key West?" she asked. "Sun, sand, snorkeling, fishing, blue sky, turquoise water… OK, I’ll shut up now."


  1. You have a beautiful workspace. I work in a dark corner office dubbed the "cave" by my family. Perhaps I need to rethink things.

    Wishing you all the best with your release!


  2. Well, I don't know about Key West right now. I imagine it might be in the 20's too! LOL

  3. Key West is having wear-your-socks weather--58 degrees and sunny. Sounds much better than 28 and sunny. I had so much fun doing this interview. Thanks Aurora!

  4. What a great interview! And congrats to you, Bonnie.

  5. I agree with Janet. Nice job and hurray!

  6. I've always wanted to go to Key West! :)

    *When she's home, she feels guilty if she's not working on her latest manuscript, but while she's working on the manuscript, she feels guilty that she's not working in her house or in the gardens*
    Oh, my gosh, that's so me, too. LOL

  7. I would LOVE to go to Key West, even if it's 58 degrees. But for now I'll have to settle for reading great books about it. Can't wait for my copy of ISLAND STING to arrive!

  8. Ah guilt...what do you suppose non-writers feel guilty about? hahaha! Congrats, Bonnie. Great interview Aurora.


  9. Hey, Bonnie, what does it say about you that you need a whole library? That you're curious, intelligent, and able to soak up learning from many sources. Keep it up! Best wishes for your success,

    Don't Murder Your Mystery