ABOUT MISSING IN PARADISE
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.
ABOUT LARRY VERSTRAETE:
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.
Connect with the Author: Website | Facebook | Goodreads
Missing in Paradise is a mystery, adventure story about two boys, 14 year old Nate and 12 year old Simon who, after Nate discovers a box of odd items at a garage sale, embark on a search for lost shipment of gold in the far-off town of Paradise, certain they are fulfilling the ghostly request of Nate’s recently deceased grandfather and just as certain that they must find the treasure before Gram’s shifty neighbor, Fortier.
How did you come up with the title?
I wanted something short and dynamic yet mysterious, too. Paradise is the name of a fictional town where much of the story occurs so I felt it had to be in the title. I toyed with a couple of variations. First, Paradise Lost, but then I thought that might be confused with John Milton’s classic by the same name. Next, I tried Lost in Paradise but the characters in the story never really became ‘lost’ so that seemed to send the wrong message. Finally, I settled on Missing in Paradise. The word ‘missing’ not only implied mystery, but it could also be taken a number of different ways. As it turns out, not only does treasure go missing in the book, but so to do a couple of the characters.
Who designed the cover?
Melanie Matheson, Creative Director at Rebelight Publishing Inc. I love the cover and the way Melanie wove so many components of the story into the symbols she chose. She wanted it to be a puzzle that mimicked the treasure hunt in the story, and I think she succeeded in a spectacular way.
How much of the book is realistic?
The story evolved around a couple of true events. For example, the downed aircraft and its missing shipment are based loosely on a Dec. 11, 1931 crash of a Fokker Standard on remote lake in northern Manitoba. The plane became frozen in the ice, then in the spring sank and disappeared under 40 metres of water where it stayed hidden for 73 years before being discovered again. The Whitewater Prisoner of War Camp which serves as a backdrop for the last half of the book is another example. The German POW camp actually existed during WWII and was demolished in 1945, the same time period that treasure vanishes in Missing in Paradise.
Are these experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
As a kid, I was a treasure-seeking fanatic. I dug for treasure in the family garden convinced pirates must have buried booty there. I panned for gold in the muddy river near our home. I started a stamp collection with the single goal of discovering a stamp worth millions. I never did strike it rich with any of these pursuits, but writing the book was one way of fulfilling the dream, I suppose.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I’m pretty satisfied with the end product, but I would change the process of getting the end result. Like anything else, when you’ve done something once, you see ways to do it again that are faster, more efficient or simply better. For me, showing rather than telling is a good example. It took a few swings at the bat before I realized how much information and emotion I could relay to readers with just a few choice gestures or body movements.
What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?.
The book evolved over a ten year period. It started as a simple fictional story I wanted to add to a non-fiction book about treasure hunting that I was working on at the time, 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 mix of fiction with non-fiction never really worked, but the idea of a boy finding a box of clues left by his grandfather stuck. I wrote and rewrote the novel dozens of times between all kinds of other writing projects. One of the biggest challenges was trying to pick up the thread of the story after putting it aside for a year or two at a time. The other big challenge was a confidence one. I’d established myself as a non-fiction writer, but this was something new. Could I write fiction, too? It’s always a bit nerve-wracking to try something different for the first time.
While you were writing, did you ever feel as if you were one of the characters?
As far as temperament goes, I’m closest to Nate, my 14 year old protagonist, so writing in first person through him seemed the most natural way to tell the story. The character I was most at ease with, though, and the one that I related best to, is Nate’s young sidekick, Simon. Simon’s an impulsive, inquisitive, over-the-top kind of guy – a composite of all kinds of friends I had as a kid and many of the students I had when I was teaching. With Simon’s extreme personality, all kinds of twists became possible and that added immensely to the fun of writing the story.
What books have most influenced your life?
As I kid, I read profusely, but many of the books in our household were biographies, scientific or historical books, or books about discoveries and true adventures. Those early reading experiences influenced my writing. My favorite subjects are a meld of history, science and adventure. Even Missing in Paradise has elements of those three.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I stumbled into professional writing almost by accident after I had been teaching for a few years. One day while waiting for a haircut I picked up a magazine and spotted an ad for a correspondence writing course. On a whim, I clipped out the ad and enrolled in the course. One of my first assignments was to write a non-fiction article for children. One thing led to another and I latched on to a topic that fascinated me – accidental discoveries in science. By the end of the course, I had written about 25 short stories, each one telling about a breakthrough in science that owed much to a mistake, mishap, coincidence or spectacular blunder. That became my first Scholastic book – The Serendipity Effect (later re-issued under the title Accidental Discoveries: From Laughing Gas to Dynamite).
Do you write an outline before every book you write?
Yes. For non-fiction, it’s a requirement of the proposal process, but for this novel I drafted an outline, too. Although many of the between parts changed with time, at least I had a solid beginning and a mostly complete end point to target.
What book are you reading now?
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 (sound familiar?). The other is a non-fiction book, The Vatican Diaries by John Tavis.
What are your current projects?
I have a middle grade novel in development and a couple of non-fiction proposals I am working on. As well, one of my earlier science titles is out of print. The rights have reverted to me so I am revising and updating the material, and looking at options for reissuing the book in both print and eBook forms.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Sure. This excerpt comes from Chapter 13, p. 43 when Nate brings the box of mystery objects to Simon, hoping that Simon will help him locate Shipment #35, the treasure Nate is sure Gramps wants him to find.
Simon sat at his computer in front of a flickering screen. He wore a bike helmet wired with Christmas lights and a rabbit-ear antenna from an ancient TV. A long electrical cord ran from the helmet to a set of speakers he’d rescued from an old stereo.
“What are you doing?” I peeked at the monitor. A title in neon colours blazed across the screen: How to Communicate with Aliens. “You can’t be serious.”
“Shh…listen. Can you hear that?”
I put my ear right up to the speaker. “Yeah. It’s called static. What were you expecting? Martians?”
Simon twisted a joy stick and turned up the volume. “Now?”
“More static. Will you just put that down for a minute? I need your help.”
Simon swung his chair around. He pulled off the bike helmet, eyed the box under my arm and craned his neck for a better look at the label. “Garden Supplies?”
I set the box down, pulled out the shirt and briefcase, and laid everything on the floor. Simon’s eyes lit up when I launched into the story about finding the box. They grew wider still when I showed him the map, the location of Shipment #35, and the words Mildred must not know.
Simon ran his fingers over the box. “So your grandfather really was going after a shipment. Gold! A fortune in gold!”
Thanks so much for your interest!
Giveaway Information: Winner will be drawn January 31, 2015
· Two (2) winners will received a signed copy of Missing in Paradise by Larry Verstraete (US/Canada)
· Five (5) winners will receive a digital copy of Missing in Paradise by Larry Verstraete (INT)