Join us in celebrating the TURTLES of the MIDNIGHT MOON book birthday! We sat down with María José Fitzgerald to learn all about the inspiration behind the book!
But first, a little bit about this new middle grade novel:
Twelve-year-old Barana lives in a coastal village in Honduras, where she spends every spare minute visiting the sea turtles that nest on the beach. Abby is feeling adrift in sixth grade, trying to figure out who she is and where she belongs after her best friend moved away from New Jersey.
When Abby’s papi plans a work trip to Honduras, she is finally given the opportunity to see his homeland—with Barana as her tour guide. But Barana has other plans: someone has been poaching turtle eggs, and she’s determined to catch them! Before long, Abby and Barana are both consumed by the mystery, chasing down suspects, gathering clues, and staking out the beach in the dead of night. . . . Will they find a way to stop the poachers before it’s too late?
What three words would you use to describe your book?
Compassion, friendship, and home.
Where did you get the idea to write this particular story?
Many life experiences and personal interests shaped the characters, plot, setting, and themes in Turtles of the Midnight Moon. I have always loved nature, ecology, and the interconnectedness of our world. My parents instilled in me an appreciation for all creatures, our planet, and its resources. Growing up in Honduras, its beaches were a magical and special place for me, as you can see in my childhood photos below! Snorkeling and scuba diving amongst the fish and the coral (while looking out for sharks!) or simply taking a walk on the beach are some of my happiest childhood memories. I am passionate about environmental issues and conservation, so part of the inspiration was to center the story around ecology. Once Barana and Abby were fully formed characters in my mind, the story took shape and an eco-mystery unfolded!
Images courtesy of María José Fitzgerald.
What was your favorite part of the publication process of this story?
I loved having a say in the cover art and map! It’s funny how these little things meant so much to me. I felt like my team at Knopf was always willing to take my feedback and included me in every part of the process. As a new author, I appreciated collaborating with my editor on not only these “external” things, but I also enjoyed those early stages of the process where we talked about the character arcs, plot twists, and even the title. Receiving my hard cover author copies was also a pretty memorable moment in the publishing journey!
What is the most important lesson you have learned as a writer until now?
I learned that practicing patience is a prerequisite to being in this industry. Things happen slowly, and learning to stay busy during those periods of “waiting” was a huge lesson. I learned that staying busy with my writing, continuing to nurture my writing community friendships, and making time for other hobbies was crucial to help make the years feel less long!
What message are you hoping that readers can take away from this story?
I hope readers can feel a little more connected to the natural world around them, and that they will be empowered to make little changes in their local community that will have larger ripple effects for the planet. I also hope readers will come away with a better understanding of Honduras, its people, its food, and its natural beauty.
What comes next for you as an author?
I am busy finishing a second middle grade eco-mystery (also set in Honduras!). I cannot wait to be able to share more about it!
María José is a writer of children’s books. Her favorite stories usually include animals, friendships, family, and magic. She grew up snorkeling and hiking in her homeland of Honduras, where nature and culture nourished her soul. Turtles of the Midnight Moon is her debut novel. When she’s not writing, you can find Maria teaching, reading, walking her dogs, relaxing on the couch with her family, or maybe out on a walk or a mountain bike ride. She is represented by Sara Crowe at Pippin Properties.
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