Stormy Sweitzer is a writer, everyday explorer and leadership development guide.
As an exchange student, former Peace Corps volunteer, globe-trotting consultant, and avid traveler, Stormy has had the opportunity to explore, live and work in nearly 40 countries and brings these experiences to her writing as co-author of the Sierra Rouge Adventure novel series for young adults.
Stormy has also written and spoken about food, travel, wonder, and leadership. You can find her in her creative exploratorium: StormySweitzer.com.
Talk about the book you’ve written. What was the first seed of an idea you had for your book? How did it develop?
My writing partner, Will Swanepoel, and I came up with the idea for our heroine, Sierra Rouge, years before the idea for the book ever came into being. I guess you could say that Sierra was “born” during a game of What If? that Will and I played to keep ourselves entertained during a road trip. What if there was a girl who had adventures? What if one of her parents had a job that enabled the girl to travel around the world? What if, in those travels, she came across mysteries/opportunities to make a positive difference? And, what if those opportunities were real-life occurrences that kids today could also address?
But the story behind our book, The Drowning Shark: A Sierra Rouge Adventure, was inspired by a trip we took with friends to South Africa,Will’s home country. Because we had guests, we decided to do things we don’t normally do there, including some we were reluctant to try: like cage diving to view great white sharks. In the process we saw some sharks so close up that we had goosebumps on top of goosebumps. It was thrilling and awe-inspiring. And, when we learned about shark finning and how it is endangering these magnificent creatures and many other species of sharks, we realized that was the topic we had to write about. Many of our experiences on that trip, and prior ones, made appearances in the story.
Sometimes people refer to the process of writing a book like having a child. Do you think of your book or characters in this way?
Absolutely! Not only did it take years for the idea to develop, but our book's main character, Sierra Rouge, feels like our child. She has characteristics that you would find in both of us (her literary parents). We worry about her, have serious discussions about who she should hang out with and the activities she is involved in, and what boundaries we want to set for her. We also have differences of opinion about these things.
In the end, Sierra is her own person. And, as much as we want to be good parents and both challenge her and keep her safe, she has a mind of her own. As “parents” and writers, we sometimes have to step back and let Sierra grow in her own way.
When her mother dies unexpectedly, fifteen-year-old Sierra Rouge travels to South Africa, a country she's never been to, to live with her celebrity chef father, a man she barely knows.
During a boat tour, she learns from local activists that dead sharks are washing up on the shore without their fins.
Sierra decides to take matters into her own hands to find the people responsible. In her efforts