Monday, April 30, 2012

TBR welcomes Bonnie J. Doerr

TBR: Welcome to TBR, Bonnie. Will you share a little bit about yourself?
Bonnie: I’m happy to be with you. It’s always a pleasure to connect with new readers. If you allow the following words to create mental images, you’ll have a good idea of who I am: green, nature, wildlife, environmentalist, gardener, reader, traveler, educator. I’ve lived in eight states in the USA and have finally landed in a log cabin in western North Carolina, though I spend weeks each year in the Florida Keys researching and writing.

TBR: Tell us about StakeOut and where it's available.
Bonnie: The second book in my eco-mystery/adventure series is StakeOut, finalist for the 2012 Green Earth Award. It’s available from the publisher and on Amazon.

TBR: Please tantalize us with a story blurb or excerpt.
Bonnie: StakeOut’s back story begins in NYC before young teen Kenzie Ryan moves to the Florida Keys. Here’s a blurb to provide the big picture.

[On a field trip to the NY aquarium]

 A surreal encounter with an ancient sea turtle propels Kenzie into peril in the Florida Keys....
A haunting promise compels Kenzie to save sea turtles by ending a rash of nest robberies. Fearless, wheelchair-bound Ana and savvy, troubled Angelo assist Kenzie in an undercover operation that grows increasingly complicated and treacherous. Problems compound as Kenzie fears losing her first romance, her mother's trust, and her own life.
Stakeout includes notes on the endangered hawksbill and loggerhead turtles as well as information about the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida.

TBR: What inspired you to write about the theme?
Bonnie:  My dad, a life-long scout leader and recipient of many distinguished service awards, was the biggest inspiration for the books I write. He shaped my values, interests, and passion for the outdoors while leading our family around the country on countless camping adventures. We had a blast exploring mountains, deserts, plains, lakes and oceans. I was fascinated by every creature I encountered: wild buffalo, moose, bears, prairie dogs, eagles, and even snakes. The endless variety of trees, plants, and flowers I encountered on our travels amazed me. The lists could go on and on.

Every facet of family life reflected scouting’s values—worship, patriotism, friendship, outdoor exploration, community involvement, and environmental stewardship. Dad especially understood the value of connecting with nature. My writing is a way of passing on these values, especially respect for the environment.
I’m astounded by how many people are missing the gene that connects them to nature. In recent years my astonishment has turned into alarm. This dissociation from nature, I believe, is in many ways at the core of our environmental crisis. If we have no knowledge of the outdoors or experience with nature, how can we learn to care about it?

Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods (Algonquin, 2005), defines this as “Nature Deficit Disorder”. As a result of a lifetime indoors, children have limited respect for their immediate natural surroundings. According to Louv, “An increasing pace in the last three decades, approximately, of a rapid disengagement between children and direct experiences in nature… has profound implications, not only for the health of future generations but for the health of the Earth itself.” 

Not every child can visit a wilderness, or explore a National Refuge, but every child can feel like they have when immersed in my novels. Teens can learn how much fun it is to be outdoors, how sensitive the environment is, and how they can set a good example for the adults in their world. They can virtually join other teens as they work to improve the Earth and save its creatures. It’s one small thing I can do to inspire environmental stewardship.

TBR: Are you a plotter or pantser?
Bonnie: Both! I begin with a rough plot in my head. Then I try very hard to outline this plot in greater detail before I start tapping on the keys. But I can’t seem to make that work. In the end, I find I’m doing both at once. A bit of plot comes to flesh out the outline, then several scenes, then a bit more on the outline, and additional scenes for who knows how long before I add more plot points to the outline. I always keep an outline going while I work. So I’ve begun to define myself as a plotser.

TBR: How do you develop your characters?
Bonnie: Before I develop characters, I choose a contemporary environmental issue that focuses on wildlife—an issue that is being addressed by an actual organization like the Sea Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Fl which is featured in StakeOut.  I take a small piece of that problem and form a plot. Only then do I decide what characters are needed to shape the story.

What qualities does the protagonist need in order to solve the mystery or take on the challenge? What passions does the protagonist need to have in order to even care about the problem? Is intelligence or curiosity more important? Wit or stealth? Courage or leadership? What physical prowess? That sort of thing. And then comes the back story: how is it my characters have developed these traits? Even though I’ve kept the same major characters for three books, they develop and change as a result of new experiences as does the relationship between them.

The antagonists must have qualities that stump the good guys. So I create villains who, because of their personalities; positions; skills; and/or interests, can foil and fool my heroes. And of course, I develop red herring characters that have similar characteristics to the bad guys, just not the same motives. I always enjoy creating quirky characters who could easily be construed as good or bad. And I love creating friends who serve as sounding boards and mirrors for my protagonists.

TBR: Which of your characters would you most/least like to invite to dinner, and why?
Bonnie: I’d love to invite two supporting characters, Mike Kaczynski, the Florida Wildlife Officer and Fisher (no one seems to know his last name), the old sponge fisherman.

I’d invite Mike because he could update me on the welfare of refuge wildlife. I can imagine many questions. Did anyone ever discover what caused the pelican die off?  Have there been any sea turtle eggs poached lately?  What about whale or dolphin strandings? Have the lobster trap thieves been caught?

He’d also have stories about people breaking laws that protect wildlife and the environment, firsthand accounts of people deliberately maiming or killing protected species. What was their motive, and how did you catch them? Mike’s stories would offer details to inform my work.

When I was last in Key West, I witnessed people repeatedly breaking laws that protect pelicans. Birds were dying because of this behavior. I wanted to call Mike. He’s so real to me. But—reality check—actual live officers had to be informed. I’m convinced Mike would have arrived more quickly!

I’d want Fisher at the table because I’d enjoy hearing about Fisher’s childhood. He grew up in the Florida Keys when the islands were mostly undeveloped and there was no school for him to attend. His tales of living on an isolated island, surviving hurricanes, and then adjusting to life on a boat would be fascinating. I’d love to imagine playing with little-boy Fisher in a pristine sea teaming with fish and vibrant coral reefs. I’m sure I could coax him, in his unique theatrical manner, to recite lines his actress mother practiced, or to imitate his British father’s oral reading accent. Perhaps even more fun would be listening to Fisher, now in his 70s, share present day stories. Islanders love to talk with Fisher as he bikes around the islands. He makes regular forays to hunt for “treasures,” as he calls the items he salvages from recycling bins. What he isn’t told, he sees or overhears. Trust me. His stories are more colorful than any gossip magazine.

What could make better dinner conversation than guests who both educate and entertain?

TBR: While creating your books, what was one of the most surprising things you learned?
Bonnie: Sadly, I learned that in real life there are people even more wicked than the ones I imagine. When I research atrocities inflicted on wildlife, I find accounts of events that break my heart. But I concentrate on the heroes that care for wildlife and the environment. There are far more good people in life and in my stories than wicked ones.

TBR: What's next for you?
Bonnie: I’m working on the third book in the series, tentatively titled Busted. Angelo and Kenzie have entered high school now and must travel a long way from their small islands to attend class in the city of Key West. Their personal relationship grows complicated, and the ecological challenges they take on are more intricate and dangerous.

TBR: Any other published works?
Bonnie: Island Sting (Leap Books, 2010) was the first in this series. Now also available as an eBook, it won the 2011 EPIC eBook award for Outstanding Children’s Book.

TBR: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Most rewarding?
For me the challenge is balancing promotion; invitations to speak, appear, or write; reading; and outdoor distractions with the actual work of putting words on the page.

The most rewarding part of being an author is meeting readers or hearing from them, especially those who have been entertained before realizing they learned something. I write for others, not myself.

TBR: What’s the most interesting comment you have received about your books?
Bonnie: Off the top of my head, this comment comes to mind. I bet Kenzie would love to know she reminds a reader of Batman!

... Kenzie's motivation for saving animals, is what Doerr wisely focuses on. It turns out Kenzie feels responsible for the death of her dog and has vowed never to allow another animal to die on her watch. This is Batman vowing never to let what happened to his parents happen to other citizens of Gotham. This is the hero cop whose partner is gunned down in the opening scenes of the movie, and now it's personal.” Middle Grade Ninja

TBR: Where can readers find you on the web?
I love friends. Join me on Facebook!
I don’t tweet much, but I squeak now and again:!/bonniedoerr.
I occasionally post on my own blog.  
Teachers, parents, and students will find way too much information on my website. . I hope to update and streamline it soon.

TBR: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Bonnie: I do have a question for your followers who own an eReader:
About what percentage of the books you read are eBooks?


  1. Welcome, Bonnie! I so admire your efforts to make YA readers environmentally conscious. Keep up the great work!

  2. This is just awesome. There are not as many stories about environmental consciousness. Thanks, Bonnie, for publishing stories with such pertinent content.


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