Thirteen-year-old Chris and his family are setting up a bungee jump in his backyard. It’s a real large-scale bungee jump off a bridge that connects his backyard to a small island owned by his family. Not only is it going to be the coolest attraction around, but it also provides Chris with an opportunity to watch a real engineer in action. Chris would be excited about it if things didn’t keep going wrong. The rumors of hauntings on the island, once the site of a hospital for children with leprosy, are getting out of control. And there are mysterious mishaps on the bridge. Chris worries that all of these problems will keep customers away. And if the bungee jump isn’t a success, his family will lose everything.
Click here to learn about the story behind the book!
The cool thing about Dirtbike Daredevils is that it happened entirely due to a reader’s suggestion. I was speaking at a school in Kelowna, British Columbia when, after my talk, Nikki Lawrence and her young son Levi came up to me afterwards. “Would you ever consider writing a book about moto-cross racing?” they asked.
“You never know,” I said with a smile.
“Because if you ever do, our entire family is into it and we could help.”
“Okay!” I said. And wouldn’t you know that just weeks later, my publisher announced he was extending my six-book series to ten and asked, “What will be the topic of your next book?”
“Moto-cross racing,” I declared, and got on the phone real fast to the librarian who’d sponsored me at the Kelowna school. She knew exactly which mother and son I was referring to, and as fast as that, I was in touch and working with the Lawrence family.
I attended a moto-cross race with them, carrying my notebook around while asking a stream of questions. I got to see the track they’d constructed on their ranch. I was impressed with the family-oriented get-togethers and the fun the young dirt-bikers were having. I also immersed myself in learning about free-style event and dirt-bike mechanics (luckily I had a neighbor willing to help me with the latter).
Then, while speaking at a school the other side of the country, I had a teacher come up to me and mention that her father-law was a former national champion. So I soon found myself working with Ron Keys as well.
Other notes about Dirtbike Daredevils:
- I had lots of fun naming the llama ranch where the book takes place (Back-of-Beyond Ranch) and the llamas on it: Furball, Hero, Salt and Pepper.
- I immersed myself in information about llamas and their care, including watching videos on llama-cart racing, with help from a friend who owned a few llamas at the time, John Fulker. (When one of his children got married outside on their farm, they arranged ribbon-decorated hay bales for pews. They also put bow-ties on their llamas and allowed them to wander freely about the wedding gathering. When the music started up and the bride began walking up the “aisle,” the llamas snapped to attention and followed ceremoniously behind.)
- The book kicks off with the sound of a rifle going off at dawn from the farmhouse window; the boys soon discover that their eccentric Russian boss just shot a rabbit from there. That’s taken from my father-in-law doing precisely the same on his farm in Somerset, England.
- Having studied Russian in university, I couldn’t resist including some Russian characters and teaching my readers a few words, such as “silly” in Russian, which is pronounced “gloopy.”
- The incident in which an eagle lifts a rooster from the farm, and is rising to take off with it when some well-aimed spit from a llama makes him drop it, is taken from a true incident in a country journal (acknowledged at the end of my book).
- This was one of the most difficult books in the series to write, given that I knew nothing about motorcycles before I started (except for my experience at age 18 of driving my boyfriend’s motorcycle into a tree as he was attempting to teach me to ride — something for which he was not grateful). While most of my books are one-third research and two-thirds writing, this one was the other way around, especially given the need for motorcycle mechanics to play a part.