Sunday, December 27, 2009

YAedge Author Feature: Bonnie J. Doerr

Time to feature another wonderful Class of 2k10 author! Bonnie J. Doerr is an author with a mission. Her love of our vast earth shines through her writing and is reflected in the themes she chooses to tackle. Without further ado - here's Bonnie and her January 6, 2010 YA release, Island Sting:

Kenzie didn’t expect her first summer in the Florida Keys to be murder. Cute guys, awesome boats, endangered species, gun-toting thugs. When city girl Kenzie Ryan moves to a Florida wildlife refuge, she plunges straight into an eco-mystery. Kenzie trades New York streets for Keys pollution cleanup, and now, instead of hailing cabs, she’s tracking down a poacher of endangered Key deer.

Her new home does have some benefits—mainly Angelo, an island native, who teams up with her to nab the culprit. But will they both survive when the killer turns from stalking deer to hunting humans?

Island Sting includes notes on the endangered Florida Key deer and the National Key Deer Refuge.

Author Bio:
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 children’s book Kenzie’s Key was honored by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) with a grant for its use in environmental education. Her work has 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.

And now for the questions:

Island Sting features the Key Deer, a species of deer that evolved in isolation and is much smaller than its mainland cousins. What compelled you to write about this particular protected species?

The Florida Key deer do manage to be major characters in Island Sting don’t they? I didn’t set out to write about them, but I lived in their environment for quite a few years so it was difficult to ignore them. Since Angelo and Kenzie were badgering me to get their outrage over environmental damage to their island on the page, the tiny deer seemed the perfect focal point for the teens’ tale. People are often a serious threat to these deer, but people also saved them from extinction. This endangered species story (perhaps soon to be listed as a threatened species) is a manifestation of the best and the worst ways we humans interact with Mother Nature. The Key deer’s survival demonstrates hope. When Kenzie, a new island resident, joins Angelo’s efforts to clean up the island environment and catch the deer poacher, I believe it is this hope that fuels her action.

On your website and through your blog, it's obvious you aim to foster environmental awareness and spark activism in your readers. Besides the Key Deer, do you have any other environmental issues you'd like to tackle in your writing and bring to your readers attention?

It’s a challenge to answer this question. Earth is under assault on so many fronts it becomes overwhelming if one thinks about it too deeply. In the face of it all, the tendency is to feel we can do nothing. Air and water pollution, deforestation, global warming… It’s all interconnected, and a major answer is conservation in all respects. But honestly, I don’t think about one particular issue when I write. I think about respect for the gifts Earth has given us, and I hope that more people will learn to appreciate and understand how those gifts sustain us body and soul. Without that comprehension we will be lost.

I believe that we need to get outside more. Enjoy undeveloped spaces no matter how small. We need to reconnect with nature to understand our physical life source. So I write about places where the land is not covered with concrete, where people are not stuck inside four walls staring out windows at other walls. I write hoping that readers, like my characters, will search out one small place on Earth where they can make a difference—plant a few trees or care for a community garden. Like Kenzie, I’m simply tossing a pebble while praying it will make many ripples.

What authors have inspired your work?

I have been greatly inspired by Carl Hiassen, Randy Wayne White, and Jean Craighead George. Carl’s love for the Florida Keys and his indignation over environmental destruction form the backbone of his work. He does it with a sharp wit so mesmerizing that the issues can sneak up on you—the first time you read him. After that you can’t wait to see how the next dimwit eco-destroyers will be outsmarted by the eco-avengers. I’d give anything to have an ounce of his sense of humor.

Randy Wayne White’s knowledge of marine biology, his waterman’s wisdom, and his mastery of the mystery demonstrate an unequaled force. I love reading his work, and though I’m not sure how it has influenced my writing, I want to believe I’ve learned something from him by spending hours and hours holding his books (including his cookbook) and diving into his world. Talent can seep into your fingers from contact with the printed page, right?

Oh the body of work Jean Craighead George has produced in praise of, and fear for, Earth! Her studies, combined with her sense of adventure, have thrilled readers for years. She made me believe there are readers out there who admire characters who take a stand for Earth. She gave me courage to write my stories.

If you could return an animal from extinction, what would it be?

The Pheonix! No, wait, unicorns. Oh, you’re serious. Okay. Let me think…

The dodo. I wish it would return to show us there’s no shame to being a Dodo! In a way I’m getting my wish. Tim Burton is bringing it back to life in Alice in Wonderland! That still wasn’t a very serious answer was it?

Okay, I would like the Baiji river dolphin to return. Dolphins are such sweet, intelligent, playful creatures. And when they’re in trouble, humans rush to save them. It’s painful to accept that any one of their family could have been wiped out by industrialization. But it’s true. If China could clean up pollution to the degree that the Baiji river dolphin somehow returned and thrived…well, that would be indescribable bliss.

What's your favorite time/location to write?

I write best in the morning before my brain gets overloaded with daily chores and responsibilities. I must have three mugs of coffee though or even that plan won’t work. I also don’t do well without a mouse so I write at my desk if I’m using my computer. (I only have a laptop.) But this can be distracting because my desk sits in front of a large window overlooking gardens, woods and birdfeeders. You wouldn’t believe the entertaining activity that goes on out there. Right now, on a skim of ice topping six inches of snow, three squirrels are battling a feisty bluejay over some cheese grits.

Do you have any events coming up that you’d like to mention?

Oh yes! I invite everyone to come to Key West for the second week in February. You know you want to. Key West is where I’ll launch Island Sting. (Now the squirrels are chasing each other. Gotta say it’s easier to look at snow and ice when I’m thinking Key West.)

Here’s the schedule:

• February 5th—Friday evening—I’ll be at the Walk on Winn Dixie on Big Pine Key.
• February 7th—Sunday afternoon—I’ll be at the Key West Wildlife Center.
• February 9th—Tuesday at 5:30—I’ll be at Florida Keys Community College in Key West.
• February 11th—Thursday morning—I’ll be at the Key West Public library.
• And I plan on showing up for Green Drinks (eco-green, not creme de menthe) in the Keys all month long.

Come on down!

Thanks for asking me some questions I haven’t thought about before. I enjoyed being with you, and I wish you much success with your exciting new release, Under My Skin.

No, thank YOU for hanging with us here at YAedge. ;) Learn more about Bonnie at her website:


Irene Latham said...

Congrats to Bonnie, and thanks, Judith for the lovely interview! My son will be in the Keys in March with his class for a week...should I tell his teachers to look you up?? :) So excited about Island Sting!

Janet Fox said...

Yay, Bonnie! I can't wait to read Island Sting! Wonderful interview, Judith.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful interview! Congrats to you, Bonnie. I love that you are using your writing to make kids more aware of important environmental issues.

Denise Jaden said...

Great interview, and YAY Bonnie! I can't wait to see your novel on the shelves (and yes I DO want to come to Key West in Feb!)

rhondahayter1 said...

Congratulations Bonnie. Sounds like a great read.

Tracy Belsher said...

Gotta love that 2k10 show of support. ;) Thanks for dropping by guys!

Tracy/Judith/Hey You!

Jame said...

Great interview guys! Bonnie, I'm gonna tell my old man about Green Drinks! He's a compost fanatic (maybe he needs "brown drinks" haha, coffee, soda, tea...) Thanks for the tip!

Maggie said...

Wonderful interview! I can't wait to read Island Sting. Are there any more books in the works, Bonnie?

Tami Klockau said...

Thanks for stopping by everyone!

Tracy, awesome interview. Can't wait to read this one. It sounds great!

Jeri said...

Bonnie, it's so wonderful to see books about environmental issues get published (sadly, my two "trunk" novels are in that category ;-). Carl Hiaasen is one of my favorites, too, for exactly the reasons you mentioned.

Can't wait to read ISLAND STING! Great interview, Judith!

Laurie J. Edwards said...

What great questions! Loved reading the answers, and I'm eagerly awaiting the release date!