Why is tiny Opera Island for sale? As the four young characters in M.A. (Michael) Wilson’s latest mystery soon discover, it’s because there’s much more on the island than seals, seagulls and an old abandoned lighthouse.
SOS at Night is the third book in the Gibsons author’s fictional series, following The Mystery of the Missing Mask and the first novel, Adventure on Whalebone Island, which was short-listed for awards in B.C. and Saskatchewan.
The four main characters, two brother-and-sister pairs who are cousins, always seem to find themselves in adventures in and around the recognizable but fictional B.C. coastal community of Maple Harbour.
“Maple Harbour is loosely based on Gibsons,” Wilson said in an interview prior to the book’s release this week. “Although it’s a lot like Ganges or Comox, too.”
The books’ protagonists, Ryan, Kendra, Claire and Nathan, “are completely fiction, but have the characteristics of some kids I know. The only character in the books who was real was Meg. She was our family dog.”
Wilson is a consulting engineer who works from home, affording him, he said, “the flexibility to do other things on the side, like writing.”
An engineer who writes books aimed at kids aged eight and up (grades 3 to 5) – how did that come about? Wilson said he had a lot of technical writing practice in his engineering work.
“Clients and colleagues would tell me, ‘Hey, you write pretty well for an engineer,’” he recalled with a laugh.
Wilson decided to try his hand at tapping out a novella-length story in which his daughter was a character. Then he dreamed up Maple Harbour and quietly wrote a novel in 2015, which turned out to be the first in the current series.
“I originally wrote it for my daughter’s ninth birthday,” Wilson said. “It was just intended to be a family thing, but once some other people saw it and liked it, we decided maybe we’d put it out there.”
When Adventure on Whalebone Island then was short-listed for the Chocolate Lily Award for B.C. children’s books, and also the Saskatchewan equivalent, the Diamond Willow Award, it was an easy decision to turn the adventures of the four youngsters into a series.
Will there be more Maple Harbour novels to come? “We’ll see,” Wilson said. “I had one kid at a reading tell me the official number for a series is eight! I’ll take that under advisement.”
You can learn more about the availability of SOS at Night and the other books in the series at rainybaypress.ca