Currently reading: THE RICE MOTHER by Rani Manicka (Adult Book Club selection)
Welcome back to Writer Wednesday! Today I’m excited to host my Class of 2K10 mate, Bonnie Doerr, whose fabulous book Island Sting came out earlier this year. Bonnie and I have had a lot of fun doing book signings together (even “lightly attended” ones) and I’ve had a great time getting to know her. She’s even given me a new genre: the eco-mystery.
So here’s some info about Bonnie:
Bonnie J. Doerr has always played with words, ideas, and nature. To be separated from nature—to be containerized—would slowly suck the breath from her. For years this therapeutic pursuit manifested itself in poetry. In recent years her play resulted in stories and novels for young adults. A lifetime educator, she has taught students from kindergarten to college in eight states. Degrees in reading education, combined with a brief post as a science teacher, led her to write ecological mysteries. Years of teaching and living in the Florida Keys provided irresistible material. Her novels celebrate caring, involved, “green” teens who take action with attitude and a touch of romance. Her work has been honored by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) with a grant for its use in environmental education and been included in Milkweed Editions literary field guides. When not at home with her heart in the Florida Keys, she lives in a log cabin in North Carolina.
About Island Sting:
Kenzie Ryan’s New York know-how and private girls’ academy education prove useless in the middle of an island wildlife refuge.
Upon arrival in the exotic Florida Keys, she is thrown into the midst of an ecological mystery involving the endangered Florida Key deer. How can she navigate this upside down world? A world deftly maneuvered by Angelo–island native and nerve-wracking hunk. The two team up to accomplish what perplexes law enforcement, but Angelo exposes Kenzie’s insecurities, as well as her inexperience with nature and the opposite sex.
Danger and disagreement follow the pair wherever they go. Enamored with Angelo and his local savvy, Kenzie hopes to secure his loyal friendship. But how can she win Angelo’s trust when what she must tell him will crush his ego?
Island Sting includes notes on the endangered Florida Key Deer and the National Key Deer Refuge.
And on to the interview:
1. There is a big environmental theme in this book and your blog, Bonnie Blogs Green is very environmentally focused. Have you always been interested in this or is this something that came about after you wrote the book?
As a child, I was immersed in the outdoors. Dad was a passionate Boy Scout and we traveled to countless scout events and locations. Our little family camped across the country in our station wagon, pitching tents in state and national parks from PA to CA and ME to FL. We wouldn’t have thought of ourselves as environmentally focused, we were simply awe-inspired by the beauty of the natural world and couldn’t imagine responding in any other way to it than with deep appreciation and respect. When writing, especially for a tween audience, authors are often advised to tap their passion. Apparently, I inherited my father’s passion. I was “green” ages before the term was in common use.
2. Kenzie moves from New York to Florida. Have you ever made a move like this and if so, how did it affect your writing her experience?
Until I left home for college, I’d always lived in the same western Maryland house. So I never experienced the painful rip from lifelong friends that Kenzie was forced to face. But my world changed significantly after graduation. I lived, not by choice, an average period of three years in each of eight states and sometimes two or three locations within the same state. It was that following-a-husband-around thing women so often have to do. My experience was very different from Kenzie’s. Instead of embracing friends, I didn’t allow myself to indulge in close relationships. I knew it would hurt too much when I left. But I enjoyed teaching a range of students from K to college as I moved. And let me tell you, whenever I hear someone say, “Kids don’t act like _________,” or “A teen wouldn’t say or do____________,” I often smile. Yes, in many ways kids all over the country are alike, but it’s interesting how unique they can also be. I gained quite a wide perspective from my travels.
3. What’s the nicest thing someone has said about the book?
One young reader said, “As Kenzie’s feelings became my own, I didn’t want to put this book down. It was as if I was Kenzie. I wanted to get up and go clean up litter and catch that rude poacher. But then I remembered all that’s tough to do with a book in your hand.”
4. Have you gotten any letters or reader reactions that surprised you?
Oh, yes indeed. One in particular. I’m trying to forget that surprise! Still, it opened up a valuable conversation. A fabulous reaction that surprised me was from students who formed an environmental club as a result of reading Island Sting.
5. Where did you grow up? When you were 15, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As I mentioned, I grew up in western Maryland. At fifteen, I wanted to be an artist or performer. I played the guitar (sadly, I no longer do), thought I could sing (I was so wrong), and believed I could act (act I could, but my stage voice was wretched). So, I incorporated all of those interests into my teaching. Poor students… But I also wanted to be a feature reporter for a newspaper. That, at least, was a realistic plan for me. Write I can. And though I am a fiction writer, my work falls mostly in the realistic contemporary genre.
6. Where did you go to college? What was your favorite course there?
I graduated from Towson University (Baltimore, MD) and University of South Carolina (Aiken and Columbia, SC). My favorite courses were psychology and anthropology. I’ve always been fascinated with the human mind and behavior, cultural similarities and differences, and how humans adapt to their environment. Now that I think of it, these interests have definitely informed my writing.
7. Besides writing, what do you do to fill your days?
It’s not easy for me to sit at the computer for long periods of time. I constantly get up and go outdoors to clear my head. I live on three casually landscaped acres in the middle of woods, so there is always work to be done. Weeding is the most challenging responsibility. We reclaimed space from the forest, but the woodlands remind me who’s boss on a daily basis. When I’m not battling botanical invasion, I’m trimming, thinning, cultivating, harvesting, planting, transplanting, watering, fertilizing, feeding critters, shooing other critters, or simply observing critters. And when I’ve been engrossed in writing for what my little dog, Itchy, decides is too long, he demands I quit to take him outside so he can sniff and chase all those critters.
I also do a good bit of cooking. My husband and I enjoy having friends over to grill something yummy.
8. If I told you tonight’s dinner was your last meal ever, what would you request? (appetizer, main course, dessert).
Appetizer: Florida stone crabs, Main course: Florida spiny lobster, Key West pink shrimp, and a fresh, fresh baby green salad with a fabulous bottle of pino grigio or maybe chardonnay. Hey, it’s my last meal—BOTH! Dessert: Key lime pie.
9. And the important question: Favorite Chocolate–Dark, Milk or White?
Sometimes I just can’t make a decision. This is one of those times because I love them all. And that’s why I especially like those Hershey Kisses that swirl white and milk chocolate together.
Thanks, Bonnie. Look for Bonnie’s next book, Stakeout, next year. You can find Bonnie on the web here.
Mirrored from Shari Maurer.