Bookingly Yours recently asked me to write a 500-800 word guest post about my inspiration for the Skylar Robbins mystery series:
I’ve devoured books since discovering Goodnight Moon as a young child, and when I was four years old I decided I wanted to write. My first “book,” Blackie the Little Black Dog and the Flying Washing Machine (composed in crayon), was surprisingly never published. But I’ve written ever since, inspired by a variety of disparate authors. Many of my favorite books were those I read as a ‘tween. All-time #1 fave? Judy Blume’s, Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret. Others include Harriet the Spy, Happy Hollisters mysteries, The Secret Garden, and Zipha Keatley Snyder’s, The Changeling and The Velvet Room. My current influences are Lee Child, Deb Caletti, Sarah Dessen, and Ayn Rand. The series I’m writing features an intelligent thirteen-year-old sleuth named Skylar Robbins, similar to Nancy Drew, but more modern, quirky, and fun. Skylar is rational, independent, and smart, like Ayn Rand’s heroes and heroines. As in Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels, Skylar Robbins is the brave, strong-willed protagonist in each book, although every mystery is it’s own separate entity that picks up where the prior novel leaves off.
The initial seedling of inspiration for Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills–the first book in the series–occurred when I was six. My parents decided we needed to move into a bigger house, and we looked at an ancient fixer-upper in Santa Monica canyon. While playing hide-and-seek with the little girl who lived there, I discovered secret passageways and hid inside little closets that opened into other rooms. I never forgot that house and later wondered, “What if there were clues or coded messages hidden in those secret passageways?” And the idea for the Skylar Robbins mystery series blossomed.
I’m an only child, and when I was a young girl I spent a lot of time creating scenarios to act out by myself or with a friend. In middle school we liked to experiment with witchcraft. My friends and I would cook up love potions out of witchy ingredients like peaches, candle wax, and 7-Up, and mutter spells while we flushed burning scraps of paper down the toilet. Truthfully, we weren’t surprised when our spells didn’t have any effect on the cute boys in our class.
But what if they had?
This thought was another nugget of inspiration for the Skylar Robbins series. What if a rational teenage sleuth grudgingly agreed to cast spells with an odd classmate in an abandoned garden–and the witchcraft actually started to work? What if their incantations gave the school bully a serious illness? Or enabled them to grow something unbelievable from seeds they found in a dank cave on the beach at midnight? Imagine the look of horror on that brainy detective’s face when the unimaginable happened. What would that do to a smart 13-year-old who was brought up to believe that there is always a logical explanation for everything? I decided to start fireworks by pairing up this practical sleuth with a feisty teen witch who started to convince her that magic could actually work. And then I lit the fuse.
The Mystery of Shadow Hills inspired several of its beta readers to buy detective tools, and a group of sixth-graders in Oregon even started their own detective agency. Ten of them use the secret codes and detective skills they learned from Skylar to solve mysteries and crack cases at their school. I hope the Skylar Robbins series will continue to inspire readers to use their brains to look for clues, solve problems, and have fun in creative ways. Please stay tuned. Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of the Hidden Jewels comes out next June.