One of the first lessons I used to teach my students about writing is that EVERY story starts with a “what if.” What if there was a boy who found out he was a wizard? What if there was a whole other world on the other side of a wardrobe? What if a boy found a dragon egg in the woods? (That’s Harry Potter, Narnia, and Eragon for those of you who don’t speak book quite as fluently as I do. All of which should be read post haste if you haven’t yet. Because, clearly, you aren’t spending your time correctly.)
My book started the exact same way. With a “what if.” My “what if” just happened to strike at New York’s Museum of Natural History. My mom and I took a short trip to New York during my school’s fall break. That’s us at Central Park. While she would have rather spent the day shopping or seeing a show, I drug her to a museum. Because I’m that brand of nerd I guess. Not only do I adore museums, but I’m also one of those obnoxious people who reads all the plaques. My dad is too, so I guess I come by the obnoxiousness naturally. If you ever have a chance to visit this particular museum. Do it. If for no other reason than that the dinosaur bones displayed there are amazing.
I have no clue what the picture below was of. Prehistoric deer? Bullwinkle’s ancient cousin? Bambi gone bad? For some bizarre reason I thought it was worth taking a picture in front of… No accounting for taste.
While I was gawking (and taking awkward pictures) with the rest of the tourists, I noticed a tiny dinosaur in a glass case off to the side. It was roughly the size of a dog, and pictured protecting a few baby dinosaurs. It immediately caught my imagination, and I snapped a picture. This picture actually.
As I looked at that dinosaur, I wondered…what would happen if we ever developed the technology to bring these creatures back? Would we have dinosaurs as pets? Would we eat them instead of, say, a cow? Or. Would we eventually be the ones who went extinct? Immediately, I pictured a girl running to get the mail, dinosaurs chasing her all the way. The opening scene of Edge of Extinction- The Ark Plan was born.
I pulled out my phone and made a note about the idea. And then, like all good ideas, I promptly forgot about it. (This, by the way is the number one rule if you want to be a writer or anything creative for that matter. When you have a good idea WRITE IT DOWN. The brain is designed to hold on to the mundane, everyday life kind of stuff. The GOOD stuff. The AMAZING IDEA stuff, slips away like my will-power around anything chocolate. So write it down! Legend has it that the idea for Harry Potter was written on a napkin! Tangent over. Sorry. Couldn’t help myself. My inner-teacher won’t shut up sometimes. I’ve tried beating her back with a stick, but she’s freakishly stubborn.) The point is that it wasn’t until months later that I noticed that note on my phone and decided to give the story a try. No note on my phone. No story. And I would probably still be banging my head on the publishing world’s door to no avail.
As a side note, I never read the books or watched any of the movies from the Jurassic Park franchise before starting this book. I knew of the general premise, because I don’t walk around with my head in a bucket, but I didn’t know details. How I missed out on that bit of culture for 20+ years, I’m not sure. I’ll chalk it up to being a general wimp when it comes to anything remotely terrifying. My parents let me watch Dante’s Peak when I was twelve, and I still hold it against them. I also refuse to watch Jaws. I like swimming in the ocean too much.
Anyways, I didn’t watch or read anything Jurassic Park related until the book was completely finished. I didn’t want to “accidentally” steal any of the ideas. As soon as the book was done though, there was a movie marathon at my house. For those of you wondering about the similarities. There are a few. Dinosaurs being the big one. But when I queried the novel, this was the closing paragraph of my query letter.
“The Ark Plan is a middle grade novel geared towards a male audience that would be a lot like Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park if Jurassic Park hadn’t had fences, the dinosaurs had outnumbered the people 10,000 to 1, and the human race had been the endangered species. Actually, scrap that. It’s nothing like Jurassic Park. Thank you for your consideration.”
And it worked. Because Edge of Extinction-The Ark Plan is set to be released May 10, 2016! Now go forth and write down your brilliant ideas. You owe it to yourself.