You know, Matt, I kinda wish my problem was expanding the story. I have the opposite problem of trying to decide how much to tell and where to end in each book. In my head, the Niuhi Shark Saga is just one loooong story that needs to be told in chunks that make sense to a middle grade/young adult audience. The really challenging part? I see the entire saga as a single thread in a tapestry of interwoven stories that all take place in an imaginary place called Lauele Town on Oahu, Hawaii. Most Lauele Town stories are not for MG/YA and I wear blinders and ear muffs to shut out those other characters’ voices and themes in order to create something that will resonate with the Niuhi Shark Saga’s target audience.
Looking back at book one, One Boy, No Water, I can see that I was still thinking of Zader and his adventures as side plots to a much bigger story. In book 2, One Shark, No Swim, I’ve corrected that and centered the story firmly on Zader and his journey to discover his true nature. The reader is in Zader’s head more and I’ve used that as a device to set up inside jokes that island kids see coming and mainland kids figure out from Zader’s reactions. Zader is also more vulnerable as he questions the answers he used to take for granted. I think the tension and conflict is stronger because of it.
Another thing I realized between books is that middle grade readers need more bread crumbs (and sometimes the whole loaf!) to make intuitive leaps about a character or plot than older readers. Sometimes it takes a neon sign that says, “Pay attention to this detail. You may be quizzed on it later.” Most of them are at the age where they are just learning about symbolism, metaphor, and foreshadowing and if you do too much, you lose them. I’ve found myself writing the story in layers—the straight forward surface adventure, the cultural conflicts, and the coming of age angst all wrapped up like a burrito. (Or laulau, if we’re keeping to the Hawaiian theme.) It’s my hope that the series will also appeal to adult readers who will have a very different experience than the middle graders.
In a nutshell, my biggest challenges were switching gears to write the story that made sense rather than the vision in my head and making sure readers could connect the dots between books. But I gotta admit, I had a lot of fun channeling my inner 12 year old boy who doesn’t want to believe he’s not human because that truth would change everything.
Thanks for hosting me on the One Shark, No Swim blog tour. Both One Boy, No Water and One Shark, No Swim are available online as trade paperbacks, hardcovers, and eBooks through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes. Readers interested in following my adventures in writing can connect with me at--
Blog & Free Short Stories: http://www.lehuaparker.com/
All things Niuhi Shark Saga: http://www.niuhisharksaga.com/
Zader’s got a lot of questions, not the least being why he’s hungry all the time, restless at night, and why he feels a constant itch on the back of his neck. It’s making him feel like teri chicken on a pūpū platter, but Zader doesn’t want to think about chicken, not with his growing compulsion to slip it down his throat--raw.
With Jay busy at surf camp and Uncle Kahana pretending nothing’s happening, Zader’s left alone to figure things out, including why someone--something—is stalking him before it’s too late.
Summer in Lauele Town, Hawaii just got a little more interesting.
So far Lehua has been a live television director, a school teacher, a courseware manager, an instructional designer, a sports coach, a theater critic, a SCUBA instructor, a playwright, a web designer, a book editor, a mother, and a wife. She currently lives in Utah with her husband, two children, three cats, two dogs, six horses, and assorted chickens. During the snowy Utah winters she dreams about the beach.