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  • Gemini Summer
  • Written by Iain Lawrence
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780375892158
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Gemini Summer

Written by Iain LawrenceAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Iain Lawrence

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List Price: $5.99

eBook

On Sale: November 11, 2008
Pages: 224 | ISBN: 978-0-375-89215-8
Published by : Yearling RH Childrens Books
Gemini Summer Cover

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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

In the quiet of Hog's Hollow, each member of the River family pursues a dream. Old Man River sets out to build a fallout shelter in case the war in Vietnam "brings the end of everything;" his wife Flo, who collects Gone with the Wind dolls, attempts to pen her own Southern saga; Beau, their older son, suffers from "space fever" and aspires to be an astronaut. As for Danny, the younger River boy, well, he just dreams of having a dog. Then in the spring of 1965 tragedy befalls the Rivers--a tragedy that makes the Old Man wish he'd never started building the shelter, stops Flo from finishing her bestseller, and leaves Beau grounded rather than airborne. But the tragedy does finally bring a dog into Danny's life. And not just any old dog. Danny comes to believe that the mixed-breed stray embodies the spirit of someone he dearly loves. He won't allow anyone to separate him from the dog, not even after it bites the neighborhood bully and the police are sent to take it away. Together Danny and his dog run off, heading toward Cape Caneveral, where the Gemini missions blast off from, and where dreams come true.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

one


The sheriff leaned back with his feet on the desk, watching the blond-haired boy. He was a little man with a sunburned face, with white eyebrows that looked strange on all the redness of his forehead. His cowboy boots had shiny snakeskin tops, and he sat tapping the toes together. There was a blob of blue bubble gum squashed onto one of the soles.

He watched the boy for a long time before he said, quite suddenly, "You ever heard of fingerprints, kid?"

The boy looked up.

"I could take you into the back there and print you," said the sheriff, "and I'd get what I want like that." He snapped his fingers. "I'd know your whole name and your address and everything."

The blond-haired boy had a dog beside him. He was petting the dog as he sat in front of the sheriff's desk, in a wooden chair with arms. The ceiling fan that turned slowly above him trailed shreds of cobwebs round and round.

"Now, is that the route you want to take?" said the sheriff.

"How could you know my name and address from fingerprints?" asked the boy. He looked at his fingers. "I don't think you can do that."

"Oh, you don't think I can do that," said the sheriff. "A real little Perry Mason, aren't you?"

The boy said nothing. He had said hardly a word in an hour and twenty minutes.

The sheriff sighed. He tapped the toes of his boots together. "Say, that's a nice dog you got," he said. "What do you call him, sonny?"

The blond-haired boy didn't answer.

"Aw, come on!" The sheriff swung his feet to the floor and slammed a hand on the desk. "Holy moley, what's the harm in telling me the name of your dog?"

The boy shrugged. "Maybe you should fingerprint him."

"Oh, that's funny. Yeah, that's just hysterical." The sheriff opened a drawer in his desk and took out a key. "You want to sit in the cage and tell jokes to yourself? Is that what you want?"

"I don't care," said the boy.

"Then that's what you'll do."

When the sheriff stood up the boy stood up, and the dog stood up beside him. They walked in a line through the office, past the table where the lady had sat typing till dinnertime. There was a police radio there, and a teletype machine, and a shiny kettle that reflected the whole room and the turning fan.

The dog's claws ticked on the floor. The boy wished the lady would come back, because the lady had seemed nice. She had smiled at him all the time--just smiled and typed and talked on the radio.

"You had your chance, sonny," said the sheriff. He took the boy and the dog down a flight of concrete steps, down to a corridor with a jail cell on each side. He put his key in a lock and opened a cell, sliding the bars across with a rattle of metal. There was a bed in there, and a toilet, and that was all.

"Empty out your pockets," said the sheriff.

The boy did as he was told, embarrassed by the things that came out. There was a rubber band and a bit of string, a bottle cap, an old penny, a plastic man without a head. The sheriff took it all in one hand. "In you go," he said.

The boy went into the cell. The dog followed behind him.

The sheriff drew the bars into place, then turned his key and pulled it out. "When you're ready to tell me where your home is, just holler," he said. He went up the stairs in his snakeskin boots.

The boy stretched out on the bed. His dog climbed up beside him, settling down with its head on his chest.

"Don't worry," said the boy. His hand touched the dog's neck, and his fingers buried themselves in the black fur. "We'll get to the Cape, and it'll be okay. It'll all work out when we get to the Cape."

The dog fell asleep. But the blond-haired boy lay awake, staring at the bars and the bricks. "We gotta keep going," he told the sleeping dog. " 'Cause we can't go back. That's the thing--we can't ever go home again."

He looked at the lightbulb on the ceiling. Then he squinted and tried to imagine that it was the sun, and that he was lying outside on the grass with his dog. He thought about his home.


two


The Rivers lived in an old gray house in a valley named Hog's Hollow. All around, in every direction, the city stretched for miles and miles. To the west was an airport, to the north an industrial park. To the south were glass towers and skyscrapers and freeways choked with cars. But down in the Hollow, it was quiet and calm.

There was a single street laid out like a worm on the valley floor, and only nine houses, all sturdy and aged like the great nests of American eagles. There were seventeen people, but only three children. There were six cats and one dog.

A narrow stream called Highland Creek flowed southward through the Hollow, creeping past the cottonwoods. Danny River liked to play there, building dams of sticks and mud. Beau, his brother, sometimes helped him smash them.

Their father's name was Charlie. But the boys and their friends talked of him as Old Man River. They imagined that he never knew, though Charlie had used the same name for his own father when he was the age of his sons.

For a living, Old Man River pumped out septic tanks. He owned a black truck with a huge tank on its back and a little cab at the front, and he wore green clothes and brown boots, and carried his keys on a jangling hoop at his waist. He could peer into a septic tank, like a wizard into a crystal ball, and see the lives of people. He could divine, in a glimpse, what they ate, and what they tried to flush away, and what colors they were painting their walls. "There are no secrets from the septic man," he'd say.

Then there was Mrs. River. It was as though she had slept through the early sixties. While other ladies were trying to dress like Jackie Kennedy, she looked like Eleanor Roosevelt. Florence was her name, but Flo she was called. Little Flo River, barely five feet high, talking sometimes like Scarlett O'Hara.

Altogether, the Rivers seemed a bit odd to the people of the Hollow, who saw that big truck parked in the yard, and the Old Man always tugging at his filthy cap, and Flo in her cotton dresses, and Danny wading barefoot through the creek. "The hillbillies of Hog's Hollow"; that's what the Rivers were called.

In the whole family, it was said, Beau was the only normal one. He did well at school, and he read books and he wondered about things like pollution and the Cold War. Only Beau, it was whispered, would ever amount to anything. "But that Danny," women would add, "oh, that Danny--isn't he a sweetheart?"


From the Hardcover edition.
Iain Lawrence

About Iain Lawrence

Iain Lawrence - Gemini Summer

Photo © Donald Lawrence

“Writing for young readers is almost like dipping into a fountain of youth; for hours a day, I am a child again.”—Iain Lawrence

Iain Lawrence is a journalist, travel writer, and avid sailor, and the author of many acclaimed novels, including Ghost Boy, Lord of the Nutcracker Men, and the High Seas Trilogy: The Wreckers, The Smugglers, and
The Buccaneers.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

When I was 12 or 13, I wrote picture books for my younger brother . . .

I started writing short stories after I graduated from high school and kept it up—though sporadically—during my ten-year career as a newspaper reporter. But journalism has a way of sponging creativity, so I went to work at a fish farm instead, in the hope that I would have more time to do my own writing. Two years later, when the farm went bankrupt and I found myself on employment insurance, I started writing seriously. I thought I could produce a publishable book during my one year of E.I. It was a naive idea; five years passed before I sold my first book.

My favorite stories from my childhood are the ones that were read to me . . .

The first story that I remember reading for myself is Robinson Crusoe. I would take it down to the river that flowed behind our house and lie in a little grassy nest. But I never finished it; I didn’t have the patience to read books as thick as that. I remember reading Owls in the Family and Born Free, skipping every second page and then every third in my hurry to reach the end.

My favorite stories from my childhood are the ones that were read to me, a chapter or two at bedtime. Strongest in my memory are beautiful stories like Stuart Little and The Wind in the Willows, and others that gave me nightmares like Treasure Island and Moonfleet.

Stories for young people are tremendously fun to write . . .

I love the shorter length, the quicker pacing, and the necessity of trying to see everything through the eyes of a child. Writing for young readers is almost like dipping into a fountain of youth; for hours a day, I am a child again.

I don’t think any story begins with just one idea . . .

. . . but from a connection of unrelated thoughts. I think all my stories begin with this idea of reliving old favorites, and of trying to capture the emotions that went along with them—fear or wonder or magic. When I look for new ideas, or decide what to tackle next, I think of what sort of story I would like to hear.

I write every day, starting in the morning and going on until mid-afternoon . . .

In winter and in rain, I go back to it in the evenings. But I find summer days too tempting to keep me inside. I always write on a computer and always play classical music, often the same CD over and over and over. In an annoying ritual, I have to win a game of computer solitaire before I can actually begin writing.

I begin every story with an outline, working forward and backward to fill in the plot. The outlines include notes on characters and settings, and they tend to be very chaotic, written almost as a dialogue with myself. They are full of questions and answers, of diverging alternative plots. I revise as I go along, replacing sentences and paragraphs with better ones, but keeping all the words on the computer screen. The passages that I’ve changed—and little notes that I’ve made to myself—keep piling up below the point that I’m working on. When I reach the end, I’ve got many, many pages of disjointed phrases, sentences, and paragraphs. It’s like a junk pile that I like to pick through now and then, just to see if there’s anything useful among the things I’ve thrown away.

I hope most of all to create characters that readers will remember . . .

I think it’s an amazing process that allows a reader to actually see what a writer imagines, to actually feel what a writer feels. I love getting letters from readers who say they felt as though they were inside the story. When I was the same age as them, I read about Captain Bligh’s amazing voyage in an open boat. I remember being so enthralled by one scene, where the sailors were trying to capture a seabird that had landed on the gunwale, that I almost shouted at my sister, who came into the room just then, “Shut up! You’ll scare the bird away.” That’s the feeling I’d like to create for my readers: that the story is utterly true at the time of its reading—that if you so much as move, you’ll scare the bird away.

Iain Lawrence lives on one of the Gulf Islands off the coast of British Columbia, and is an avid sailor. He lives with his longtime companion Kristin, as well as their dog Misty, and cat Sam.

A CONVERSATION WITH IAIN LAWRENCE ON THE LIGHTKEEPER'S DAUGHTER
Q: When did you develop an interest in writing? Did your teachers recognize your talent and encourage you?
A:
My grade three teacher told my parents that I would grow up to be a writer. In later years, in junior high school and high school, creative writing class was my favorite part of school. I remember being praised but not encouraged. I was a very shy child, so it was intensely embarrasing if my stories were chosen to be read aloud, and excruciating if I had to read them myself.

In grade eleven or twelve, I volunteered to be a school correspondent for the neighborhood newspaper. But my first published story was so changed from the version I submitted that I never wrote another one. When I graduated from high school, though, I hoped to be a writer.

Q: In the Acknowledgments you talk about Lucy Island as the inspiration for the setting of The Lightkeeper's Daughter. What was your inspiration for the characters and story?
A:
The first time I sailed to Lucy Island, there was a lightkeeper and his family living there. The last time, their house was just a stub of foundations poking up from burned and bulldozed ruins. It was like a different island, sad and somber, and it's this one that the McCraes inhabit–with a different name so that the real and very happy lightkeepers won't be mistaken for my fictional ones. The McCraes were inspired in part by the sense of loneliness and loss that lay thickly over Lucy then, and in part by the needs of the story. I gave each of them one strong desire, and their relationships arose naturally from the clashing of their different wants.

Q: You write "Alastair was good at everything because he only did the things that he was good at" (p. 101). How should we decide what to do, if it's not simply the things we're good at? Is there something you're not good at that you enjoy?
A:
It's a bit of a Catch-22, isn't it? You can never enjoy doing something you don't do well, but if you do it badly long enough, you get good enough to enjoy it. There are many things I like to do now that were only painful at first. By never trying twice, Alastair limited himself to a very narrow range of interests.

Q: Tell us about your process. Some writers say that their best writing comes out of revising and editing, while others prefer the spontaneity of their first version. How do you work?
A:
I love writing but don’t care much for rewriting. Once I’ve told a story, I tend to lose interest in it and want only to go on to the next one.

I used to start a novel knowing nothing of what would happen. I just began at the first page, wrote through to the last, and called the whole thing finished as soon as I reached the end. After many rejections, I realized I was doing something wrong. It’s my theory now (and I wonder sometimes if I didn’t just pick it up from someone else) that you can outline and write, or write and rewrite. But, really, it amounts to the same thing. A story that is started without an outline will become the outline, going through changes and revisions until it seems right.

Now I like to plan the story carefully and fully, going through it chapter by chapter until I know, for each of them, the beginning and the end, and most of what will happen in between. I like to know the characters, what they are like, and how they talk. The writing always strays from the outline in places. But, like a new highway built beside an old one, they eventually rejoin.


Q: Do you have any personal experiences with whales? What is your connection to them, and why was it important to you include the whale in the book?
A:
This story really began with the whales. The very first thought that inspired it was to tell the songs that whales might sing to each other. Its title then, and nearly till the end, was The Singing of Whales. Several years passed from the day I started the first version to the day I finished the last, all during a time when I spent entire summers wandering the coast in a little sailboat. I often saw whales, and sometimes sought them out. I bought a hydrophone to listen to their voices in the water, and it was always incredibly moving to be near them. One time, we were overtaken by a pod of killer whales. We were going so slowly that they could have shot by, but instead they slowed as they passed. They surfaced right beside the boat, and all around it, a big group of adults and children, and it seemed for a while that we were traveling with them. It was magical, really. The killer whales of the coast represent the ultimate in freedom to me, and it breaks my heart that they're dying.

Q: Usually we think about parents sacrificing for their children. Yet, in a way, Alastair sacrifices his future for Murray's when he agrees to stay on the island. Do you think that happens often in families? How do you decide what to sacrifice for someone or something you love?
A:
I think children seldom make even small sacrifices for their parents. But when they're older, and adults themselves, they often make huge ones, I think. It's ironic that Alastair, by giving his father what he wants, almost guarantees that Murray can't hang onto it. I can imagine that Alastair might have gone to school, studied whales, and returned to Lucy Island one day. I can imagine, too, that Squid would have stayed, and that Murray would have died a happy man on his own little island. But Alastair found that he had given up too much, and by doing it had doomed them all. If sacrifice has a limit, I have no idea what it is. But I can't imagine giving up life for a country, or even for a tiny little island.

Q: In many ways, this story is a tragedy. The characters learn and change, but only through great pain and the death of Alistair. Did you consider other fates for Alastair?
A:
For a time, Alastair did have a different fate - or at least the possibility of one. An earlier version of the story made it clear, at the end, that Alastair paddled away from the island in hope of reaching Vancouver. Whether he arrived or not wasn't said. But it was unthinkable that Alastair would go on with his life without letting Squid, at least, know that he was still alive. So the ending was changed to be less ambiguous, and I think this one is better. But, yes, these character became very real for me, and I thought about them for a long time afterward, often wondering if Alastair might have survived.

Q: At one point Hannah reminds Murray that "No man is an island" (p. 112). Do you agree? Do you identify with Murray's desire?
A:
Hannah, of course, is quoting the poet John Donne: "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main..." I agree very much with that. The more firmly a person is connected to the mass of humanity, the better that person seems. At the same time, I understand Murray's wish for a simple life in an idyllic place, free from the worries of the world. That he can't have it, no matter how he tries, is a sad reality. Like most people, I think, I'm often less of an island than I'd wish, and sometimes more than I'd like.

Q: Why did you want to tell this story (particularly for a young adult audience)?
A:
For a long time, I considered telling this story in a more straightforward way, beginning with Alastair's birth and ending with his death. It would have been the same story, but very different. Trying to tell it as a series of memories was a puzzle that interested me through the planning and the writing. I wanted a sad story about people struggling for something they couldn't quite reach, and settling for something close. That, to me, pretty well sums up what life is about.


PRAISE

THE WRECKERS
“A fast-paced, atmospheric yarn that will have adventure buffs glued to their seats. . . . First-rate!”—Starred, Publishers Weekly


GHOST BOY
“This poignant adventure invites readers to look beyond others’ outer appearances and into their souls.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly

“This touching novel, [set a few years after World War II], will speak especially to readers who consider themselves different, flawed, or misunderstood.”—Starred, School Library Journal


LORD OF THE NUTCRACKER MEN
“Big themes are hauntingly conveyed through gripping personal story and eerie symbolism.”—Starred, Kirkus Reviews
Praise

Praise

“Lively prose, quirky characters and strong dialogue animate this moving story.”—Kirkus Reviews, Starred

“Lawrence creates a poignant family drama that will pull the heartstrings of anyone who has looked up to an older sibling or has fallen in love with a dog.”—Publishers Weekly, Starred


From the Trade Paperback edition.

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