This week’s blog is by author Kate Jaimet, whose YA mystery, Endangered, was released this month by The Poisoned Pencil. Kate recently traveled from her home in New Brunswick, Canada to the island of Barbados in the Caribbean, for the purpose of shooting a documentary about the sea turtles that are featured in her novel. Now that’s what we call a unique promotional plan!
Last night I watched a Hawksbill turtle crawl out of the moonlit sea to lay her eggs. She rose like a coracle from the lapping waves, graceful and buoyant until her flippers reached the shore. Weighed down by her heavy shell, she dragged herself over mounds of sargassum seaweed, up the steep berm to the dark beach dotted with coconut palms. To her right, as far away as a neighbourhood block, a calypso band played on the patio of the Savannah Beach resort, where tourists sipped rum punch under the glaring illumination of electric lights. To her left, a little farther away, the water sparkled in the artificial pool of the Hilton hotel, and plastic deck chairs sat stacked on a beach empty of trees. Ahead of her, beyond three rows of palms, occasional cars jolted by on a rutted backroad. This patch of dark beach, hemmed in on three sides by human development, is a remnant of the tropical forest where her fore-mothers came for millions of years to dig their nests. Following a primal instinct, she too had come.
She doesn’t need much space on land. Apart from hatching and nesting, she will spend her entire life at sea. But a stretch of dark, undeveloped beach is crucial to her and her babies. And on this small Caribbean island, a group of remarkable volunteers with the Barbados Sea Turtle Project is working literally night and day to protect the beaches and make the modern world a safer place for this 150-million year old species.
I’m here with independent filmmaker Melanie Willis to shoot a documentary video about the turtles and the young, enthusiastic, heat-soaked volunteers who work with them. We’ve walked alongside the volunteers on midnight beach patrols to monitor the nesting females. And we’ve accompanied them on the sea turtle hotline, responding to calls from tourists and hotel staff who’ve found lost hatchlings straying into roadways or wandering the grounds of swanky resorts. The volunteers pick up the hatchlings and take them to a safe beach, where they’re released on to the sand to begin their life’s voyage on the currents of the ocean.
The video is intended as an educational and inspirational tie-in to my new YA mystery novel, Endangered. I began writing Endangered several years ago, when I was working as a daily newspaper reporter at the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. Pursuing my interest in outdoor and environmental reporting, I covered several stories involving endangered species and wildlife smuggling. Out of those stories grew the idea of a mystery novel involving a smuggling ring and an endangered sea turtle. I won’t reveal anything more about the plot of the novel, but in the video you’ll see footage of a mother turtle lovingly carving an underground nest with her back flippers, and of newly-hatched babies poking their heads above the sand to glimpse the world for the first time.
After we head back home, Melanie will be retreating to her editing suite to put together the documentary. We’re planning a formal launch at the Ottawa International Writers’ Festival this fall. I’ll be touring the book and video to schools as part of the TD Canada Children’s Book Week in May, 2016, and would welcome the opportunity to visit more schools. The video will also be available for download when it’s completed. We hope to reach a wide audience with the story of these amazing, endangered creatures.