How I Wrote My New Teen Novel, Stowaway

How I Wrote My New Teen Novel, Stowaway

Posted on August 23 by Pam Withers in Fiction, Recent Releases, Teens
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We’d just bought a cabin on a small island off the west coast of Vancouver, British Columbia, and it had a dock.

The contract concerning the dock had this line: “Section 6.1c, Moorage Law Covenants: You must provide without compensation temporary accommodation to any vessel that is disabled or that seeks shelter in weather conditions that would render it unseaworthy.”

My imagination immediately went into overdrive: What kind of weather conditions? You mean some strange boat might appear and tie up on our dock right beneath us some dark and stormy night? Carrying whom? Staying for how long? Going where? What shadowy things might they be up to? And what if I were alone?

It was indeed a dark and stormy night at the cabin that my novel Stowaway came to me. I could almost hear Arturo (the story’s first-mate) rapping on my window, as he does in the story.

 Of course, at the time the media was thick with stories of desperate illegal immigrants, especially in the Mediterranean, including those who washed up dead from over-full, leaky, and rickety escape vessels, and one that really was a former livestock freighter abandoned by heartless crew members.

As for Arturo’s plight and character, I have been to South America numerous times, where fellow travellers have told me about vigilantes literally shooting street kids at night. I’d had my shoes polished by street kids there. Though getting into Arturo’s mind was a challenging task, he quickly grew much more important to the story than I had originally envisioned.

Then there was the matter of actually choosing the vessel to feature. I knew the size I wanted, because it had to hold all those boys and make the long journey up the West Coast. While standing on the deck of my cabin, trying to help decide on my fictional yacht, a yacht of the perfect size and description literally drew into our bay.

Hours later, I stepped off our dock into my kayak and paddled out to this yacht, with home-baked cookies straight out of the oven, a camera, notebook, pen, and autographed copy of my latest young-adult novel.

“Hi!” I greeted the surprised occupants as my kayak touched their stern. “Welcome to our bay! Love your boat. Do you ever allow visitors aboard to look at it?”

Wasn’t I lucky that my hosts were onboard, super-friendly, and willing to let me climb aboard and tour their Hans Christian Independence 45? They even allowed me to photograph their engine room, closets, and other potential hiding places, although I decided it was prudent not to tell them immediately that I was turning their yacht into a people-smuggling operation.

Some will wonder why this novel, unlike my others, has virtually no females in it. I chose to put a group of boys from a boys’ school on the yacht because mixing people smugglers and young girls would bring on potential situations I did not want to get into.

            I hope readers will enjoy my new young-adult novel, Stowaway.

Pam Withers

Posted by Dundurn Guest on October 18, 2016
Pam Withers photo

Pam Withers

Pam Withers is an award-winning author of over twenty young adult novels, including Red Maple nominees Tracker’s Canyon and Stowaway, and two non-fiction books. She lives in Vancouver.