Carol Garden has been writing for a living as a journalist and communications manager for many years. In the 2020 Covid lockdown she wrote Kidnap at Mystery Island, her first children’s novel. A keen sailor, Carol used the beautiful islands of the Mercury Bay area as the novel’s setting. Kidnap at Mystery Island won the Storylines Tom Fitzgibbon Award In 2021 for best novel by an unpublished author. When Carol is not writing or sailing, she tutors students in NCEA English, writing and literacy. Carol talks to NZ Booklovers.
Tell us a little about Kidnap at Mystery Island.
Kidnap at Mystery Island is set in a future New Zealand where climate change has been addressed, and people are focused on living in a way that protects the earth. Main character Dom’s father, Dezi Krate, is a billionaire who wants to illegally mine the sea floor near the Coromandel Peninsula.
When Dezi kidnaps a young girl to blackmail the coastal rangers to ‘look the other way’, Dom has to choose between doing the right thing, or supporting his father. Dom is a human chameleon and all the kids in the book have ‘special talents’ which make the rescue mission extra exciting.
What inspired you to write this book?
I had been hearing reports about increasing levels of anxiety in children, worried that the world would end if climate change wasn’t addressed. Greta Thunberg had just accused world leaders of failing to deal with climate change. Most books set in the future are dystopic and depressing. I wanted to write a book that showed people living sustainably, having tackled climate change. A book that gave children hope and showed them actively maintaining a healthy planet together with adults.
What research was involved?
So much research! I’ve learned about submarines, mining, how dolphins communicate, how tasers work…heaps of science and technology stuff. Because I’ve done a lot of sailing with my husband, the book gave me a reason to revisit great places like Mercury Bay as well.
What was your routine or process when writing this book?
The first lockdown in 2020 gave me the space to work on the book and most of the first draft was written then. All the subsequent revisions happened whenever time allowed. I do my best writing in the morning, so I try to make the rest of life happen in the afternoons.
If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.
What a Wonderful World, by Louis Armstrong.
Anything’s Possible, by Lea-Michelle
It’s My Life, by Bon Jovi
If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the lead characters?
There are loads of talented young teens in New Zealand who would make great leads. I wrote Uncle Blake with Dwayne Johnson in mind though. I loved the idea of a big muscly dude baking cookies in an apron.
What did you enjoy the most about writing this novel?
The feedback from my first young test-readers was really gratifying, as they all loved it. Learning to become a better writer and meeting other writers has been great too. After one writing seminar I realised that my main character wasn’t who I thought it was. So I had to rewrite the perspective of the whole story. If I hadn’t joined Tauranga Writers, I’d never have found out about the Storylines competition.
What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?
Once I’d sent it off to the Storylines competition, I got busy with Christmas and then our sailing trip. We were rounding a rough patch of water at the end of one of the Marlborough Sounds when I got the call to say I’d won. Once we’d gotten safely to a bay for the night, we cracked open some bubbly we’d packed ‘just in case’.
What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?
Two books stand out for me so far. Lianne Moriarty’s Apples Never Fall, unpacked the image of a happy family and showed how one mistreated child can wreak havoc as an adult. I’m also very excited by David Attenborough’s A Life on Our Planet, which outlines a vision and a blueprint for a future that deals with climate change.
What’s next on the agenda for you?
I have been busy writing a second adventure for my main characters, which is set on Aotea (Great Barrier Island). This one has them exposing environmental crooks in the beautiful rainforest and marine paradise up there, with the help of some local kids. If children enjoy Kidnap at Mystery Island, hopefully they’ll want to read this one too. I’ve also been writing short stories and the odd poem.
Author photo by Moana Bianchin