If you ask me where the story for Missing in Paradise came from, you’ll have me scratching my head. It’s not because I don’t have an answer. It’s more the case that I have too many.
Missing in Paradise is a mystery, adventure story about two boys, 14 year old Nate and 12 year old Simon who, after discovering a box of odd items at a garage sale, embark on a search for lost shipment of gold, certain they are fulfilling the ghostly request of Nate’s recently deceased grandfather.
As a boy, I wasted many a glorious afternoon digging in the family garden, convinced I’d find pirate treasure between rows of tomatoes. So some of the story line probably comes from those early experiences. But I can also draw a direct line to the news items like these that I uncovered during my research for an earlier non-fiction book, Lost Treasures: True Stories of Discovery.
- A truck driver, making a road stop in 1998, discovered a box of clothes abandoned in a rickety shack in Nevada. Among the items inside – a grimy, tattered pair of jeans from the 1880s. Auction on eBay as the oldest Levis ever, they were purchased by Levi Strauss & Company for a cool $46,532.
- Two paintings bought by bargain hunter Carl Rice, at a 1996 Tucson, Arizona garage sale – one of roses purchased for $10, another of magnolias purchased for $50 – bore the initials M.J.H. in the corner. Turns out they were works by well known 19th century painter, Martin Johnson Heade. Sold at auction in 1998 for a whopping $1 million.
Daydreaming in English class one day in 2000, ten year old Bingham Bryant, a grade 5 student at Old Lyme Central School in Connecticut, studied a gloomy painting that had been hanging in the library for 80 years. “I was certain it was old,” he said. He told his father, an art dealer, about it. End result: Fate of Persephone, a long lost original by famous artist Walter Crane, sold at auction for more than half a million dollars.
Stories like these fed my imagination while I worked on Missing in Paradise. While I lived a much tamer life as a boy than the protagonists in the story, writing the book gave me a chance to romp vicariously on a grand adventure with my characters, doing things that I would never dream of doing myself, but wishing I could. It doesn’t get any better.