Her books might center around mysteries, but it’s no secret that middle-grade children’s book author Fleur Bradley is at the top of her game. With a host of awards for her murder mystery, Midnight at the Barclay Hotel, Bradley has garnered an audience of fans from across the globe. Her highly-anticipated new novel, Daybreak on Raven Island, debuts on August 23 from Viking Children’s Books, and it’s poised to be another thrilling adventure. A writer for more than 15 years, Bradley released in 2012 her spy adventure series Double Vision, which delivers fast-paced action with a humorous edge. She attributes her flair for writing mysteries to reading Agatha Christie books at a young age. Her recipe for a successful story includes a good mystery, several suspects and an interesting, closed-off space. In fact, she says that creating a fictional setting from a real-life location is one of her favorite things to do. When she’s not writing, you might find her at home in Colorado Springs planning speaking engagements with educators and librarians on strategic ways to help reluctant readers.
I chatted with Fleur to ask eleven questions that will give you an inside look at the author behind the books.
1. You mention that one in 28 kids has had an incarcerated parent and hope that Daybreak on Raven Island sparks some conversation, so those kids don’t feel so alone in carrying the burden. Can you expand on this topic a bit in terms of how your character Tori helps shed some light on this?
This was a topic I wasn’t expecting to dig up when I started writing Daybreak on Raven Island. But my research into Alcatraz and the three kids’ visit to the Raven Island version of the prison definitely sheds light on the topic of incarceration in the U.S. It’s a complex political topic, but what struck me most was that statistic. It means that there’s roughly one kid in every classroom who has dealt with their parent being locked up. I can’t imagine how lonely that must feel, but I tried my best to convey this in Tori. Her brother is in prison, and she has a lot of anger about that. Throughout the book as the three kids become friends, she opens up a little. It’s a tough topic, but I wanted to cover it within the framework of this middle-grade mystery as best as I could.
2. You indicate Alcatraz sparked your imagination for the setting of your new book Daybreak on Raven Island. Can you elaborate briefly on the setting or give a few hints as to what readers might expect to see on the island?
I always start my books with an interesting (and scary…) setting, one that is interesting in real-life. Alcatraz is fascinating to me. Just like with my previous middle-grade where I used the Stanley Hotel as my inspiration, with this book I chose Alcatraz to create Raven Island. What’s nice is that could really amplify the scary factor.
Raven Island has an abandoned prison, and there’s an unsolved mystery: three men escaped the island when the prison was still operational, and no one knows if they made it to the mainland. The Island is having its first field trip visit, and Marvin, Noah and Tori end up stuck overnight when they miss the last ferry. Raven Island has a prison (of course), a lighthouse, a cemetery, a morgue... And a very scary forest that seems alive with the spirits of the prisoners who once occupied Raven Island.
3. In Daybreak on Raven Island, Noah struggles with anxiety. You mention that you drew from your daughters' struggles and looked for ways to turn Noah into a hero of his own story. Why was that important for this book?
I don’t think we talk enough about anxiety or mental health issues in general when it comes to kids. Lots of kids walk around with all these secrets (much like Raven Island itself…) that they bottle up and keep inside. We as adults can sometimes dismiss kids’ problems as being trivial, which only makes this worse.
With Noah’s character, I hope that kids see that it’s okay to have anxiety and fears. We all do. Being honest and talking about how you’re feeling is half the battle sometimes.
4. What are your top three tips for parents who have reluctant readers?
My favorite topic! I’ll keep it brief:
Start with choice. We don’t always realize how much is decided for kids, and that includes reading choices. If kids get to read a book of their choosing—whatever that is—you’ll go a long way toward making reading fun.
Ask their opinion. During school visits, I always ask for book recommendations. Kids love to share their favorite book! Valuing their voice and opinion is so important. Plus, you may just pick up a great book recommendation—I always do.
Take books off the page. Try to find ways where books can be a community or shared event. Find activities related to the book or read a book together. What was so great with Midnight at the Barclay Hotel was seeing parents and kids (and whole classrooms!) read the book together. Make a book something other than a solitary endeavor, and you’ll reach reluctant readers for sure.
5. You give quite a bit of talks to teachers and librarians about how to help reluctant readers. How does reading benefit kids in general?
The statistics when it comes to reading are mind-blowing, but it’s hard to believe them until you see the results in action. I had this happen with my own daughter, who struggled to read, and we found has a reading disability. One summer, she read throughout—nothing huge but just every day a little bit. By the end of summer and the beginning of the school year, she picked right back up where she left off academically—so there was no ‘summer slide’ which is common in kids. Seeing that really opened my eyes on a personal level as to how important reading is.
6. Why do you think mysteries or spooky stories appeal to reluctant readers?
They’re fun! Mysteries are just puzzles to solve, which is simply a lot of fun. Scary stories make us wait for the next jump, the next monster. Mystery teaches kids that you can solve a problem by using logic and critical thinking. Horror shows kids that you can face monsters, which is why I think those books are so important.
7. What is your writing process like?
I spend a lot of time thinking about a writing project or concept—sometimes it takes me years for the pieces to fall into place. I’ve learned to be patient with myself. Once I figure out my recipe (so to speak) for a book, I outline carefully. Then I take a few months to write, and another few to edit, before sending it to my agent. She’s an amazing editor, so we work together for a few rounds, to get the story ready to send to editors.
Patience is the hardest thing sometimes when it comes to the writing process, but I’ve learned to embrace the small steps that add up to big results.
8. Are you a plotter or pantser?
Plotter for sure! I love to plot a good mystery with a twist. I think it’s just easier to edit if you have a good outline.
9. Do you have any advice for writers in the querying stage?
Don’t give up! It’s the typical advice, but it’s true. If you get any useful feedback, work on making your story better. And while you’re querying, go write the next thing so you’re not constantly checking your email.
10. If you had the opportunity to help investigate any alleged haunted locations in the world, would you do it? Where would it be?
Alcatraz would be really fun. That island has so many stories to tell! I also hope to make it back to the Stanley Hotel again someday. Their ghost tours are such fun—I did one once, but only caught dust particles. There are too many locations to count!
11. Your new book Daybreak on Raven Island launches tomorrow, do you have anything special planned?
Lots of stuff! My in-person events don’t start until later in the week, but I’m having a virtual launch party at Murder by the Book, an independent mystery bookstore in Houston. I have several author friends joining me, so I’m very excited about the event.
So many people, all around the world, have supported me. I can’t wait to share with everyone. And have some cake to celebrate, of course.
For more information about Fleur's books, visit http://www.ftbradley.com or linktr.ee/fleurbradley
Connect with her on Instagram @fleurbradley
On Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/FTBradleyAuthor
Journey to Zentobia
When ten-year-old Maggie and her older brother Peter discover a portal inside a rainbow, they stumble through it and end up in another world. But Zentobia is not what it seems. A sinister plot is brewing, and the amateur detectives are the only ones who can stop it. With danger on their trail and mysteries emerging, can they keep Zentobia safe before time runs out?
Perfect for fans of The Land of Stories series.
All magic is banished in Zentobia, but when an evil leader wants to bring back dark magic, Maggie and Peter risk it all to stop him. They join forces with the villain’s sneaky daughter who possesses a powerful secret. When Maggie’s instincts prompt her to investigate a hidden underground tunnel, she discovers a mysterious book carving that holds the answer to the future of magic. Before long, the siblings unravel more clues about Zentobia, including why it’s connected to their hometown by a rainbow. Can they stop the biggest threat Zentobia has ever faced and make it back to Hailsville, or will dark magic destroy the world forever?
With exciting twists and turns around every corner of this children's book, the journey for Maggie and Peter is just beginning.
Return to Zentobia
The action-packed sequel available now on Amazon!
Ten-year-old Maggie Miller discovers the Book of Magic is the key to defeating a villain and embarks on a quest to stop a sinister plot in this sequel that’s perfect for fans of The Land of Stories series.
After foiling a villain’s attempt to bring back dark magic in the mysterious world of Zentobia, Maggie and Peter learn a new threat exists. When the villain’s daughter sends Maggie a plea for help to locate the Book of Magic and save her mom, the siblings travel through the rainbow portal to rescue their friends in this action-packed sequel to Journey to Zentobia.
Securing the Book of Magic is no easy task, even for a seasoned amateur detective like Maggie. The book contains a powerful spell that will prevent dark magic from destroying Zentobia and spreading to Maggie and Peter’s home, but it’s buried deep in a maze of enchanted tunnels.
During their quest, dangerous beasts hunt them, vines transform to monstrous creatures, and rising flood water blocks their path. A wrong turn dumps the group into a secret world that’s evaporating by the minute. Casting a spell with an ingredient that’s hidden in an enchanted boneyard offers their only hope to return to Zentobia.
And when the villain’s daughter discovers she is the heir to the Book of Magic, will she deliver the spell to defeat her father? Or will someone unleash a bigger scheme with Maggie and Peter’s hometown as the target?
The Jessa Becker Files on Kindle Vella
Read the first three episodes for free!
New episodes each week.
When mysterious hit-and-runs rattle neighboring towns, investigative reporter Jessa Becker fights for a front-page story. After the bodies vanish, Homicide Detective Chase Donovan recruits Jessa to help solve the case and restore his disastrous love life. But danger emerges when they infiltrate the secret auction of a devious scientist who claims to raise the dead. Worse yet, Jessa is exposed as a target. With the biggest story of her career on the line, will she land it, or die trying?
Journey to Zentobia Five Star Reviews!
"What an enchanting, magical adventure! I had so much fun!
I absolutely loved this. I loved the sibling relationship b/n Maggie & Peter, & it made me miss my own brother. Lol I also loved the idea of the portal being in the end of a rainbow! So creative. The world building was amazing, & I felt like I was flying around w/them in Zentobia in my own flying shoes! Very atmospheric! I LOVE Zentobia-the rainbow, the waterfalls, the shoes, the talking animals, & so much more all sound so amazing! The story flowed so nicely, & there was always something happening, & high stakes as well-which make for a fast-paced read. Themes of friendship, family, never giving up, & doing what’s right. Highly recommend! Such a fun, exciting read. That ending has me needing a book 2 now! Loved it & want more. Can’t wait to see what happens-I’m assuming there will be a book 2🤞🏻Absolutely beautiful cover by Kim Dingwall as well!💜"
- Reviewed by Belle's Middle Grade
"Journey to Zentobia by Stacy D'Alessandro is an exciting, colorful sci-fi fantasy adventure that children will fall in love with. This author sifts together all the elements kids love, and some adults will find this engaging and entertaining as well. The writing is full of energy and emotion, with unexpected plot points and encounters. The pacing is just right, and young readers will instantly be locked into the story, thanks to the author's imagination and good instincts for what kids look for in a sci-fi fantasy adventure. For a pulse-pounding read, young audiences will love Journey to Zentobia by Stacy D'Alessandro.
It is a must-read."
- Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Readers’ Favorite
"This is such a brilliant middle grade read! I dove straight into it, after reading the blurb and think it is a brilliant story for young readers. It has a great level of detail, with fun and exciting characters. The story flowed so well and stayed exciting and fun throughout. I read portions of it to my daughter, and she loved it, thinking it was loads of fun. It is definitely one that I want her to read, as her reading level rises. Overall a great read and definitely one I recommend!"
-Natural Bri's Reviews
"Aimed at middle readers, the book has plenty of action and a lively style. Young readers will find this a reader-friendly selection, with the occasional vocabulary-building challenge to keep them on their toes."
- The BookLIfe Prize
"I bought this for my 10 year old son as he loves fantasy and adventure stories and I thought he'd like to read this. This book has got him completely absorbed it's amazing. He's not a particularly quick reader, gets bored very easily and drops things very quickly but NOT with this book! It's been days now and he is completely absorbed it so great to see he is getting so much enjoyment out of it. I've got my daughter asking if she can read it next... absolutely!! All I can say to you is, do buy it they'll love!" - Amazon review
"If your child loves fantasy fiction this is a great book to choose. My 9 year old loves the colorful characters and storyline. She's a big fan of The Land of Stories series (Chris Colfer) so Journey to Zentobia was a great find to compliment her taste."
- Amazon review
"My daughter really enjoyed reading Journey to Zentobia so much, and she didn't want to stop reading it!!! It was such a fun, intriguing, and captivating story with so much excitement and adventure! While reading this magical fantasy book, you feel like you are joining the main characters as they embark on such an enthralling and enchanting journey! Author Stacy D'Alessandro incorporates so much creativity, vivid imagination, and thrilling adventure into this lively and animated story. It is a wonderful and fantastic book for both kids and adults, and we really hope that there will be a sequel in the future!"
- Amazon review
Journey to Zentobia Book Trailer
Return to Zentobia Book Trailer
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