If you’ve ever secretly imagined that you were a pirate while tracing your metal detector across the sand at the beach, or pretended that life and death were in the balance while you eagerly went diving for bright, neon rings at the bottom of your neighborhood swimming pool, then we’ve got a new game for you: geocaching!
Here to tell you more about the writing process and this treasure hunting game at the center of her new book, Hide and Seek, is Peachtree Publishers’ author, Katy Grant. Be sure to read to the end to find out how to win a signed copy of her new book!
1. How did you get the idea for Hide and Seek? What made you want to write this book?
Two things, really. Ever since my family and I had tried geocaching, I kept thinking it would make a great backdrop for an adolescent novel. You’re outdoors, using a GPS, looking for “hidden treasure” that no one else knows about. That was the first inspiration.
The second was when my family and I spent a long weekend in the White Mountains of Arizona. We did a few geocaches, one quite late in the afternoon in a remote area. I realized we hadn’t brought along flashlights. We were concerned about being out in the wilderness after dark, but fortunately we made it back to our car without incident. That weekend we saw elk, deer, and Canada geese. We also took along Dexter, our German shepherd, and even though he’s a city dog, he LOVED every minute of that weekend, except for when he got a fishing hook stuck between the pads of his paw.
I came home and could not stop thinking about writing a novel featuring geocaching. But it’s such a benign activity. There’s no danger involved, just fun, so what would the conflict be? Then I got the idea that the protagonist would find mysterious messages in the cache. And it just started falling into place. Quite a few events from that weekend made their way into the novel.
2. Do you have a writing system or routine to help you focus on your writing?
I think a lot of writers have a routine, and we tend to be rather fussy about it to the point that it is almost a ritual. I like to do my initial note taking, outlining, and early drafting in longhand. I have a certain type of legal pad with a spiral binding that I like, and my pens are a certain brand, and they must be black ink. Then I start basically journaling, writing notes to myself: “I have an idea for a book about geocaching. I think the protagonist is a boy about 13 or 14. Don’t know his name yet but . . . .” And I just write everything I know at that point about the idea. Lots of times in the beginning, there’s a flood of ideas, and it’s very exciting and invigorating—like having a good workout when you haven’t exercised in a while. By the time I’m ready to begin actually writing a chapter, I usually switch to the computer and start composing there. But whenever I get stuck or blocked, I’ll go back to the legal pad and just talk myself through it on paper. This particular novel came quite easily for me. I think I began writing in September and I had a complete draft by December.
3. A lot of the readers of our blog are interested in the process that goes into editing a book. Can you explain a little about what the editor/author relationship is like and your editorial process?
The editor/author relationship is very collaborative. Both the editor and the author have a vision for the book that this manuscript could evolve into, and ideally they will have similar visions. By the time I reach the editing stage, I am lazy. In my mind, the book is “finished,” because it’s a complete draft. Oftentimes, I don’t want to make any changes. It’s the editor’s job to remind the author that the manuscript just isn’t there yet in terms of being a finished novel.
5. Geocaching plays an important role in the advancement of the plot. Can you tell us a little bit about what exactly that is and how you got into it?
Geocaching is a kind of treasure hunting activity where some people hide caches for others to find later. The cache is a small container with various trinkets inside. There’s also some paper and a pen for logging a record of everyone who has found the cache.
The person who hides the cache marks the location with a GPS and then enters the coordinates on a geocaching website. Sometimes he or she will leave clues, riddles, or verses on the website to make things interesting for the prospective treasure hunters.
If you want to find geocaches in your area, you first log onto a geocaching website and enter your location (that is, your coordinates from your GPS) to get a list of nearby caches. Once you’ve enter the coordinates of nearby caches, you’re ready to start your search. Caches can be anywhere—in busy cities with crowds of people nearby or out on a remote hiking trail. When you’re searching, you try to be a little secretive. Non-geocachers are called “muggles,” and if you’ve hidden a cache, you don’t want muggles to accidentally find it, and if you’re searching, you don’t want muggles to know what you’re up to. Once you find a cache, you can take one or two of the items inside, as long as you leave something in exchange. My brother introduced my family to geocaching when my boys were young.
I think it taps into everyone’s desire to hunt for hidden treasure, even if the treasure is just a small metal box full of trinkets. There’s the challenge of finding the hidden cache, the thrill once you’ve finally discovered it, and then the fun of leaving it in the same place so someone else can find it later. And even though geocachers don’t have actual contact with each other, there’s still a sense of community. You know there are people out there hiding caches and others out there looking for them.
Thanks to Katy for the great interview. This book has been great to read all through the editorial process.
And now for a GIVEAWAY! Since the Annual American Library Association Conference is this week, we’ve decided to give away TEN SIGNED COPIES of Hide and Seek to our blog readers and attendees of ALA. Fill out the form below to enter! Be sure to include your e-mail address at the end of your response!