Terry Lynn Johnson’s latest book Rescue at Lake Wild is about about a 12-year-old girl named Madison, who brings home two beaver kits whose parents were killed. Madison and her friends Aaron and Jack, know more beavers will die “unless someone can solve the local environmental crisis that is brewing.”
I speak with Terry about this middle grade book, her love of beavers and the desire to write about wildlife rehabilitators.
Congratulations on your latest book Rescue at Lake Wild.
Q. When we spoke in June 2017, you mentioned working on a “junior game warden idea, a cross between Ranger Rick and Nancy Drew with a dog.” Is this the book you were thinking of?
A. Yes! This is the book! Lol. That seems like ages ago.
Q. In your author’s note, you talk about the various sources you used when coming up with some of the action in this book, including when one beaver kits plugs the bathtub drain with another beaver kit (fantastic), but it was your own experiences where Madi’s story was born. How much is Madi like you as a child? Explain?
A. Madison is probably the character most like me, out of all my characters I’ve written. I’m not sure why that happened. I write a lot about dogsledding because that is what I know. But I also write about wildlife – all of my books have them. With Rescue at Lake Wild, wildlife rehab is a subject I’ve wanted to write about for a while, probably because it’s a subject that has always been important to me. Since I was young, growing up on a lake, running feral outside, I’ve had a fascination with wildlife and nature. It’s the reason I became a conservation officer.
Q. In the same week my son and I read your book, friends talked about rehoming beavers because of the destruction they cause and another friend talked about a road being washed out due to beaver activity. I find beavers fascinating, although the only ones I have seen are the ones at Science North that you also mention in your author’s note. Why do people dislike beavers so much? What do you find so interesting about them?
A. Beavers are so important to the ecosystem! They can create habitat for other wildlife, and protect areas from drought and flooding, which seems to become even more critical each year. But this is exactly why they are disliked – when their efforts conflict with our own plans.
Q. What was your favourite part about writing this book? Any other favourite character? Why?
A. I’ve wanted to write about beavers for so long, and I think my favourite part was the research. I talked with lots of rehabbers who’ve looked after beaver kits and got to hear their stories. Beavers have a distinct personality, that’s for sure. Besides the beaver kits, my favourite character would be Lid. That might be an obvious answer from me. He cracked me up, and was such fun to write.
Q. Do you think Madi and her friends will return to the page? What sort of adventure do you think she would go on next?
A. I would love to be able to write the next book. I have lots of ideas for it. I hope Rescue at Lake Wild does well so that I have a chance to write more.
Q. You have written three books about sled dogs (we really enjoyed Dog Driven) and four survivor diaries books and now an animal rescue one. What do you like writing about each of these types of books?
A. I feel that outdoor adventure is very important. I always want to encourage readers to get outside and discover themselves.
Q. Can you please explain your writing process? Do you plan your stories? Do characters come first, followed by plot? How much are books changed from beginning to final book?
A. I wish I knew! Ha ha! Each book has been a different experience to write. I don’t have one process. Some I write chronologically, some I write in scenes and then try to fit the scenes together. Usually plot comes first, but then, as I say that, I recall one where the character came to me first (a story about skijoring, that may one day be published). Editor’s note: Sjijoring is a winter sport where a person is pulled across ice or snow by a horse, dog or vehicle. One common thing though, they all do change during the editing process. The first draft is driving in the dark without headlights. You are discovering what the story is about. Then you can go back and figure out how to write it.
Q. Are you working on anything right now?
A. A skijoring adventure with electric guitar and free verse. It’s a strange little hybrid.
Rescue at Lake Wild is $15.66 and is from Raincoast Books.