Long and Short Reviews welcomes Bonnie J. Doerr, whose latest eco-mystery StakeOut received a 5 star rating from Long and Short Reviews.
At the time of this interview, Bonnie was in Key West researching her next book Busted, the third book in her series. It will feature the Key West Wildlife Center. She visited the rescue center when they were working on a short-tail hawk that had been electrocuted. Busted won't feature a hawk; however, it will feature a big bird.
"I don’t want to jinx anything by going into details at this time. But since each of my books features problems and crimes associated with an endangered and/or threatened animal, you can likely guess what bird it will be," she said.
National Key Deer Refuge Center and the tiny Florida Key deer. StakeOut champions the Turtle Hospital along with the Save-a-Turtle volunteers and featured the sea turtles they rescue.
Bonnie's passion for the natural environment combined with her sadness over youth's separation from nature inspired her writing—contemporary, realistic adventure/mysteries with ecological themes.
"Perhaps not the most lucrative choice given the penchant today’s YA readership has for paranormal and sci-fi genres," she admitted. "But I prefer hands on research, and I’d rather research with and among the living. So many children spend their lives inside of boxes. These boxes may be houses, apartments, or a computer which is a box within a box. Through little fault of their own, many kids have had no interaction with the outdoors. No interaction with wild animals other than in zoo. No experience breathing fresh, unpolluted air or understanding of how the food that keeps them alive lives and grows. It’s something Richard Louv defines as 'nature deficit disorder.'
"It’s difficult to care about something we have no experience with. Is it any wonder kids living in tight, cramped spaces don’t care about the beauty of wide open spaces or the health of rivers, oceans, trees, and the air they breathe? Any wonder they don’t see the connection between their circumstances, their quality of life, indeed life itself, and that of—say a frog or a sea turtle?
"My work offers readers a non-threatening adventure fighting crime and solving mysteries while immersed in a virtual natural environment. My hope is that this experience will inspire youngsters to enter the genuine world of nature where they will make connections and become caring, environmental stewards."
Bonnie first chooses environment circumstances that have the potential for drama, mystery, action, and adventure. Then she gathers lots of information—reading news articles, research, and books about her themes. She will visit the settings she utilizes and observes the animals she writes about—their habitats and interactions with humans.
"I even investigate actual legal and ethical problems, as well as interview the heroic volunteers and staff members of wildlife rescue organizations," she told me.
Then, she decides on a plot that will incorporate the things she's learned—a plot that will appeal to young readers and that could involve a crime teens could really solve on their own.
"Sometimes the research has to come before I can come up with an environmental topic that could incorporate the necessary elements. Of course, my heroic characters have to embody the skills and personality traits to pull all of this off. So, though I write about some of the same characters in each book, any new protagonist characters must be developed with traits that support the winning team," she said. "And the villains (usually adults) must be developed with the traits to thwart the teens at every opportunity. So I’m mostly a plot first, characters second writer."
At the time of this interview, Bonnie was on a combined research trip and writing retreat in Key West. She was working at a tidy glass-top computer desk that looked out an open window. There was a lovely tropical breeze and she could see traveler palms, hibiscus, bougainvillea, and a key lime tree. However, when she's at home in North Carolina, things are much different.
"At home, I have a much more cluttered space. Though I do try to organize it before I get down to serious business because I’m easily distracted. My desk is a wooden work space that was once my grandmother’s lacquered red and black kitchen table. My great grandfather hand built it. When I was in college my grandmother had it stripped and decorated with hand painted flowers on its corners. I love its history and the grounded sensation I have while working at this desk. It sits by a window looking out on the rolling North Carolina woods outside my log cabin home. I’m surrounded by book shelves on three walls and tropical art in every form as well as shells (remember I write about the Florida Keys) and other inspirational artifacts on every conceivable surface. You could say my writing space is organized chaos."
"How do you keep your writing different from all the others that write in this particular genre?" I asked.
"This question points out a kind of catch 22 for me. I don’t write in a common genre. So keeping my work unique isn’t a big issue. But that quality also makes my books a bit hard to find. Who searches for tween eco-mystery/adventures in a bookstore or library? In truth there are other authors who write contemporary realistic stories with environmental undertones. We just don’t get lumped together. Still, no matter who writes what, I need to come up with a unique plot and research my facts very seriously because though I write fiction, any reference to environmental issues has to be spot on."
The best writing advice she's received is not to compare her writing or publish path with other authors.
" The worst is advice heard all too often, Write what you know. To that my character, Kenzie Ryan, would reply, 'Bee boogers.' What you don’t know, you can learn. And guess what? After you learn it, then you do know," she said. "I don’t hear that recommendation as much as I used to so I think today’s writers are too sharp to accept that advice. I say write what you enjoy. That’s common sense. You’re going to have to live with it a very long time. Who wants to be unhappy while pounding out text. Obviously, you can’t make a reader happy if you don’t enjoy your own work."
About the Author:
Find the author online at:
twitter handle: @bonniedoerr
StakeOut is a stand alone sequel to Island Sting and includes notes on the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida and sea turtle conservation around the world. For readers ages 10 to adult.