Twelve-year-old Max and his younger sister Marie love having an unspoiled island all to themselves. So when they learn it’s being turned into a paintball park, they’re torn between enjoying their schoolmates’ envy, and worrying about the game wrecking their home. It’s time for them to rally their friends and put all they’ve learned about paintball strategy and teamwork into protecting their land and its wildlife.
Write enough books and one project is bound to fall into the category of a nightmare. Welcome to my story behind writing Paintball Island.
This was originally assigned as the first in a new series of outdoor-sports novels that would be called The Thrill Island Series.
To begin with, I initially decided – idiotically – to make Paintball Island a fantasy. Trouble is, I have never written fantasy and I don’t read fantasy, so I couldn’t pull it off. When my husband read it on completion, he told me to ditch the fantasy part. Stubbornly, I submitted it anyway. My publisher told me to ditch the fantasy. So I did. That was rewrite No. 1.
When I resubmitted it sans fantasy, my editor – one with whom I’d been working for years with no problems at all – told me she could not edit it because she felt that paintball is a war game and promotes violence, something against her beliefs.
Fine. I found another editor – a well-respected male – and asked my publisher if I could work with him. Permission granted. He had no problem with the topic, but delivered a list of recommended changes to improve the writing. A long list. That was rewrite No. 2.
Just as I completed the changes, my publisher decided to get out of the children’s book business, and notified all authors with children’s or teen’s works in progress that they and their projects were kaput.
(I had by then already outlined and partially written the second in The Thrill Island Series, a book I am now converting to a stand-alone; it will of course go to another publisher.)
Dismayed that my publisher would no longer fund the editor with whom I’d been working to assess whether my rewrite had met his expectations, I opted to pay him out-of-pocket myself (thereby squelching any possible profit on the book). He said “good job,” but of course that made no difference to the book’s status, which was back to square one.
My agent shopped it around and found a publisher who said he was interested if I cut its length by about thirty percent. Ouch. After no further responses from other publishers, I proceeded to cut my work to the bone: rewrite No. 3, and the toughest one at that (even with the generous help of my agent).
After reviewing the new shorter version, the publisher informed my agent that, sorry, it wasn’t what he wanted after all.
By now, I was convinced that Paintball Islandwas cursed. I considered shredding it, cutting my losses. But my agent persuaded me to self-publish it, and I even got to choose the cover photo, which is one of my favorite covers. (Adrenalin Ride’s cover is my other favorite.)
On a more positive note, the book was originally inspired by a deaf interpreter I met at a publishing conference, who commented that there were almost no books for teens with deaf characters. I took her business card, met her later for coffee and ended up working closely with her in creating the character of Tony. I also had local teachers help me find two deaf students to vet Tony’s character after the book was written.
Other trivia regarding Paintball Island:
- Garth the goat was inspired by my cabin’s next-door neighbours’ goats, which I got to watch frolicking every day.
- I played paintball as part of my research, got hit by friendly fire and returned home with a quarter-sized bruise on my backside, which my husband thought was hilarious. This was despite the fact that I wore my son’s hockey padding under my clothing.
- Marie’s chemistry experiments were vetted by my chemistry professor husband, Steve.
- The island, the hot springs and the antagonist’s name Impagliazzo were inspired by a vacation with my family on the island of Ischia, near Naples, Italy. Of course, Paintball Island was also inspired by Mayne Island, British Columbia, where I spend much of my time — although there are no coyotes there.
- I had to read lots of paintball books as part of my research, and had several paintball experts help as well.
- The fantasy element I deleted: The hot springs had magical properties.
- Once I’d slashed the length by thirty percent, I left it at that for the final version.
- This is the second book in which I have featured night-vision goggles. BMX Tunnel Run was the other one.
- Do dogs really have an equivalent to catnip? My portrayal of stinking goosefoot weed as “dog nip” is not to be taken too seriously. Likewise, don’t try turning bath beads into paintball pellets in real life.
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