Devonport setting for cosmic adventure
Writing The Secret of Ghost Moon Bay - a galactic adventure stretching from Devonport to the edges of the solar system - meant lots of late night research and narrative challenges for two new North Shore children's authors.
Sue Gray and Jenni Little dreamed up their entrancing plot and set of kooky characters, then turned to their own back yards, literally, for inspiration for the setting.
Under the twinkling stars that mesmerise character 10-year-old Jake, is the mysterious 'House of Turrets'. It’s based on a real house of eerie demeanour in Devonport, where Jake meets a strange Italian countess with a celestial secret.
Ghost Moon Bay, alias Devonport on Auckland’s North Shore, is the fictional starting point for Jake and his adventurous, circus-raised cousin Carla's unexpected, hair-raising journey. Several weeks after a Russian satellite crashes into the harbour, they find themselves fleeing a host of crazed ufologists and scoop-hungry media as they go.
Sue and Jenni seized upon the idea of an adventure story with an extraterrestrial theme several years ago with their sons Jamie and Jesse in mind. By the time the book was written, they were the perfect age to follow the wild and wacky events that unfold in Ghost Moon Bay, a sleepy maritime suburb whose familiar volcanic geography and naval base feature in the story.
Published by Kotuku Media in Wellington, the book is partly a tribute to the wonders of space - the planets and cosmic phenomena we know about, and mysteries yet-to-be discovered, says Sue.
The publication of The Secret of Ghost Moon Bay coincided with a host of astronomy anniversaries.
It is just over 400 years since Galileo made his first celestial observations, and 47 years since American astronauts became the first men to land on the moon, as well as since Joni Mitchell recorded 'Woodstock", with its famous "we are stardust" lyric.
"The song, and that line in particular, evoke a poetic and scientific truth - that we really are made from the carbon particles of stars created billions of years ago," says Jenni. "Jake's astonishment at this idea is at the heart of our story."
Sue, a lawyer, and Jenni, a journalist, met when their respective and eldest daughters Claudia and Gaby started kindergarten nearly 20 years ago. Both have more children, including Sue’s son Jamie and twin daughters Amelia and Kate, and Jenni’s son Jesse.
The friends' regular chats about the books they'd been reading one day evolved into discussion on writing a children's story. The decision to work on novel together grew from their mutual musings on a possible plot, and a shared vision was borne.
"We had fun working out crazy plot twists and how to incorporate our astronomy research - from asteroids and worm holes to stardust - into the text," says Jenni.
Having developed a synopsis and detailed chapter summaries, they both wrote sections then reviewed the results, with Jenni merging the best of their separate efforts. The story took shape late at night after their children were in bed, or very early morning before the work and school day begun.
"Once we our characters took shape, there was no turning back," says Sue. We wanted to create an action-filled story hooked into that a primal feeling of amazement you get from simply looking up at the night sky. You can't help thinking about the vastness of the Universe, and at what might be out there. Its something people of all ages get a buzz from".
Where to find Jenni LIttle online
The Secret of Ghost Moon Bay
by Jenni LIttle
In Ghost Moon Bay cousins Jake and Carla discover extra-terrestrial creatures in a quiet neighbourhood after a satellite crashes into the nearby harbour. Their mission to protect the fragile visitors hurls them – and a host of kooky characters – on a wild adventure from the edge of the earth in New Zealand to the edge of the galaxy, dodging police, the navy, alien hunter, alien hunters and media.
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