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Title: Missing in Paradise
Publication date: November 3, 2014
Publisher: Rebelight Publishing Inc.
Author: Larry Verstraete
Four months after Gramp’s mysterious death, Nate helps out at Gram’s garage sale. An eerie feeling, as if Gramps were reaching beyond the grave to send Nate a message, leads Nate to a box full of clues. A missing plane. A secret to keep. A map highlighting the route where Gramps died and the message, “Shipment #35-Gold.” Nate and his best friend, Simon, are convinced that Gramps was on a treasure hunt when he died. They’re just as convinced that Gram’s shifty next door neighbour, Fortier, is after the gold too. Nate and Simon sneak away on a Greyhound bus for the small town of Paradise where Nate is sure treasure awaits. Can they find the gold before Fortier gets his thieving hands on a treasure that rightfully belongs to Gramps?
Larry Verstraete is an award winning author of 13 non-fiction books for young people. This is his first work of fiction.
When did you start writing?
I started writing professionally about 25 years ago while I was still teaching full time and raising a young family. To squeeze extra time out of the day, I got up an hour earlier. Mornings are still my best time to write.
What makes you want to write?
Partly it’s a well established habit by now. I simply have to write in the morning or the day seems off somehow. As for the subjects I write about, topics come in different ways, but usually I catch wind of something in the news or experience something that raises questions. Writing about it is my way of figuring it out for myself and hopefully for readers too.
Do you ever get writer's block and what do you do to get over it?
Some days are more productive than others, but writer’s block is a rare occurrence. Usually, I have several writing projects going at once so I shift gears and jump on to another one. Any problems I might have seem to resolve themselves with time. Having a structured writing day helps, too. Each morning I start the same way and write in the same place at the same time. It’s a well conditioned habit by now.
Do you have a special way of going about writing?
I usually start by re-reading what I’ve written the day before and then adding to it. For new non-fiction stories, I take notes from all kinds of sources before I write a thing. I look for a starting point to the story – an enticing lead – and write 2 or 3 different beginnings. Afterwards, I put all of the research material away and rely only on my notes to write the rest. That way, I’m more likely to tell the story in my own voice.
For fiction, I do a lot of background writing. I write personal histories for each character, and because I’m a very visual person, I search for photos that match characters and settings. For Missing in Paradise, I also went on a road trip to points in the story and made stops along the way.
Do you have any works in progress?
I have a middle grade novel in development and a couple of non-fiction proposals I am working on.
What are your hobbies?
Travel, hiking & biking whenever possible. I also love woodworking, and creating panels and garden stones with stained glass.
How did you choose the character names for Missing in Paradise?
Simon’s name appeared out of the blue and from the start it seemed like the perfect fit for his youngish, impulsive character. Other names evolved over time. I wanted something short and upbeat for Nate; something more traditional for his grandmother, Mildred; and something a little unusual for Marnie, a hip teen still grounded in family values. I consulted baby-naming sites
for options. For Nate’s great-grandfather, I wanted a last name that was easily pronounced, but one that was a bit generic and traditional, too. To find it, I wandered among tombstones in a nearby cemetery until I spotted the name “Hendricks”.
Who is your favourite character in Missing in Paradise?
No problem there. Definitely Simon. He’s an inquisitive, adventure-bound lad – very creative and never short of wild ideas. He added all kinds of latitude to the story and allowed me to spin the tale in several different directions.
How did you get the idea for Missing in Paradise?
About 10 years ago, when I was working on a non-fiction book called Lost Treasures: True Stories of Discovery, I thought of adding a fictional component to it where a boy finds a box of postcards sent by a grandfather who’d gone missing on a round-the-world trip years before. The way I envisioned it, each postcard would be linked to a place where a world famous treasure could be seen, and this would lead to a non-fiction story about its actual discovery. By following the trail of postcards, the boy discovers the whereabouts of his grandfather by the end of the book. The blend of fiction with non-fiction never really worked for Lost Treasures, but the idea of a boy finding a box of clues left by his grandfather stuck.
What was your favourite part of writing Missing in Paradise?
While I lived a much tamer life as a boy than the protagonists in the story, writing the book gave me a chance to romp vicariously on a grand adventure with my characters, doing things that I would never dream of doing myself, but wishing I could. It doesn’t get any better.
What are you currently reading?
Right now, I am reading two books. One is Loot by Jude Watson. It’s a fictional story for youngsters about four kids out to find their fortune. The other is a non-fiction book, The Vatican Diaries by John Tavis.
What is your favourite book?
Hard question to answer because I have so many favourites, but here are two. One is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee which I’ve read several times and will likely read again. The other is Erik Larson’s Isaac’s Storm which covers the Galveston, Texas hurricane of 1900. Larson packs in so much detail and tells the story in such a vivid way I felt that I was riding the storm along with everyone else.
Who is your favourite author?
Another tough question. There’s so much talent out there, but Erik Larson is one I’d put on the list.
What is your favourite film?
I like courtroom dramas and films that address complex issues, but I also like completely off-the-wall humorous ones. Pick one? I don’t think I can.
What is your favourite TV show?
I’m a great fan of Amazing Race and never miss an episode.
Chocolate or ice cream? Chocolate.
Paperback or ebook? Paperback.
Dogs or cats? Dogs.
Go out or stay in? Out by day, inside by evening.
Summer or winter? Summer.
About the Author
Larry Verstraete, a retired teacher, has authored thirteen non-fiction books for young people and won multiple awards including the 2012 McNally Robinson Book for Young People Award and the 2010 Silver Birch Non-fiction Award.
Missing in Paradise is his first work of fiction.
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