Monday, January 19, 2009

State of Wilderness

Today I'm honored to host Elysabeth Eldering's book blog tour. I've been looking forward to this for a long time. Elysabeth is the author of the Junior Geography Detective Squad, 50-state, mystery, trivia series.

Elysabeth -- Thanks for having me here with you today, Rena. I must say you really made me put on my thinking cap.

Rena -- What was your inspiration for writing State of Wilderness?

Elysabeth -- The first story I wrote, Train of Clues, and entered in a contest in 2005 was the inspiration for the series. I had never really written anything before and when I received a shared second place win, I felt that the story had potential to do more.

Rena -- Did you see it as a series when you started or a single book idea?

Elysabeth -- After winning the shared second place mentioned above, I saw this as a series. I wanted to do something on the lines of the first story, Train of Clues, by giving clues for each state. First, I sent the story to an editor with the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) and asked for her opinion on how to expand the story out as a series. She sent me some great advice. After receiving her advice and the directions she suggested I could go, I started doing research to find info that could be used for the "clues." I found some clues on the Educational World ® website and then I found a website, quite by accident, that had some trivia type of information for landmarks in every state. I gathered my information and let the idea brew, trying to figure out the best format for the series, that the reader's wouldn't get tired of and that would really be what I wanted from the series.

Rena -- How often will new books in the series come out?
Elysabeth -- According to my publisher, Vivian from 4RV Publishing, one book every three months. But we've had a few setbacks recently and so it looks like books 2, 3, 4 and 5 might be pushed back a bit further than they already are.

Rena -- About how long does it take you to write one of the books?

Elysabeth -- Once I decide what info to use as the clues and sit down and concentrate on the writing process, I probably can write the story in a couple of days. Unfortunately, I don't work that way. But, no worries, the books will be done on my part as they should be.

Rena -- What gave you the idea to make the stories like a game?

Elysabeth -- It was an accidental finding. I had thought of writing the stories for a 5-minute mystery site and I played around with different ideas. I originally was going to do the series like a journal, where the kids would be in a year-round school and would have to keep track on a weekly basis of all in the info given to them to figure out which state was being described. When I saw a posting asking for submissions for the 5-Minute Mystery, I thought maybe my stories would work out for that. I tried to make it as the state being the character and giving each state a personality to give the trivia info to the kids, but that didn't work. I tried making it like a game host asking the questions - kind of a Jeopardy!® type game, but that wasn't turning out the way I wanted. And, then the produces of the 5-Minute Mystery site wanted the stories to be more "geographical" in the story and I was having to either give up story or plot or characters or something and so we weren't meeting in the middle.

When I put it aside for a couple of months or so and after speaking with my illustrator Aidana Willowraven online for a bit, the idea came to me on how to get it across without preaching to the readers. I wanted to make something fun and that the readers would want more of. I have teenagers and figured I could tap into the market that they can relate to, so the Junior Geography Detective Squad game came about.

Rena -- Do you ever tell people not to peek at the end to guess the state?

Elysabeth -- All the time. The first book has a map quiz and flag info and thereby giving the state away immediately. Books 2 through 50 will not have that info, but will have some discussion questions to get the readers thinking caps on and provide more information about the state and clues. I hope the readers will like the information and further their learning by doing the research.

Rena -- How long have you been writing and what inspired you to start?

Elysabeth -- I've been writing about five years, give or take a few months. It all started with a dare on a forum that I frequented. One of my friends dared me to write something and post it for everyone to read and vote on the story. I received some pretty good comments, so wrote a few more stories and posted them. Then, I went off the forums for a while and didn't really write until a friend challenged me to enter the Armchair Interviews fan mystery contest for "Silence of the Loons". Thus, Train of Clues was born.

Rena -- What is your favorite part of the writing process?

Elysabeth -- The end. (laughing) When I put the finishing touches on the story and send it to my friends to edit is the favorite part.

Rena -- How do you market your books?

Elysabeth -- This is tough. I really have just been getting out there and making folks aware of the first book, State of Wilderness, and the series. Everyone who has kids in the age group I'm targeting I try to make sure they are aware. I have JGDS blog and the Junior Geography Detective Squad, so hopefully folks will keep following both and stay interested in the series for the duration.

Rena -- What were some of your favorite books as a child?

Elysabeth -- The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, mysteries or just about anything I was given as a gift to read. My godmother was a firm believer in giving us gifts that would last a lifetime, which meant books for me.

Rena -- I just want to say I've read State of Wilderness. I'm 43 years old and I learned a lot. I was pretty surprised how many clues I had to read before I figured out the state. The clues are tricky and get you thinking of other places. If I can learn so much from this book, kids will certainly benefit from it. Elysabeth, I thank you for joining us here today and I wish you lots of success with your book series.
Elysabeth -- Thanks for having me, Rena. It's been fun.

To follow Elysabeth's blog tour, click here for the full schedule. State of Wilderness can be ordered through Amazon or 4RV Publishing, LLC. The second book, State of Quarries will be released soon. As part of this book tour, Elysabeth is giving away USA map puzzles and a few state related items. The rules are --

1. Each person who leaves a comment and a valid email address in the comment will go into the drawing.

2. Only one entry per stop. If you leave several comments on the same stop, your name will only go in once.


  1. Great interview! I love how Elisabeth shared how she went through the whole process starting out with writing stories and getting feedback through those.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Very informative interview, Rena. Good job!

  3. Hey Rena and ladies,

    I enjoyed the interview as well. Rena made me think and come up with the answers. I tend to be quite verbose in my writing sometimes. Funny thing is when I'm wrting my stories, I'm pretty straight forward, just put it down logically and follow the points from beginning to end. I don't really outline or anything and most everything I've written have been short stories. I've written one YA topping out at 56,000 words but everything else has been between 1500 and about 4000 words. Guess I have to save all the words for everything else I write that isn't a story - lol.

    Thanks for stopping by and hope you ladies follow the tour and find out more about the books and me. E :)

  4. Great interview Rena and Elysabeth!

  5. Great interview. It sounds like a fun series.

  6. Rene and Elysabeth...great interview. Keep up the great work! Best of luck with your marketing efforts.

    Warm regards,
    Donna McDine

  7. Thanks for all the comments. It was really fun. I will be on Donna's blog tomorrow, so you guys come check me out and see what's in store for you. (I'll also be on another blog from another forum tomorrow, - Joy Delagdo and the Zooprise blog). I'm having tons of fun doing the blog tours.

    Rena, has been an absolute wonderful person to chat with online. See you all in the postings - E :)

  8. Wow, this was a nice surprise to see today. I love to see the my favorite series out

    Sorry I wasn't here sooner, but things have been weird of late.

    Great interview guys!


  9. Rena & Elysabeth,

    I didn't know much about this series before, but I do now. Sounds like a great book for homeschoolers, who may want to collect the whole series!


  10. I guess I missed this stop until now. Whew, I'm all messed up.

  11. Beth, that is the goal to get the series in the hands of homeschoolers and regular schools as well. There is a teacher's guide available as well. Special orders can be done through Vivian at with an indication of Special order - State of Wilderness in the subject line.

    Vivian, you aren't all messed up. It's not too late to come check me out.

    Aidana, I'm your favorite series? Wow - how cool is that. I just hope we can continue with the series and not have to do some major changes to get the rest of the books out.

    I think the interview questions have been fun. If anyone has anything they'd like to ask or know about, please feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll respond - Keep checking back for updates and see you all in the postings - E :)

  12. What a great Idea I have a small child that I am hom schooling and I am excited to use your books

  13. Sister Charlene, glad to hear that. They are right now geared for middle school ages, the 9 to 12-year-old bracket, but that may change soon (fingers crossed not and that CPSIA gets reworked). If you are wanting a copy of the first book, contact Vivian or myself via email and we'll get the book out to you (Vivian doesn't have any copies on file right now, but will in the next couple of weeks or so). Don't forget to put Special order State of Wilderness in the email so that you can get the teacher's guide as well.

    Tell all your homeschooling friends too. That's the best way to get me known - word of mouth.

    I'm having fun learning info about each state I never knew. See you all in the postings - E :)

  14. sounds like an interesting book!

  15. Thanks Doda. The whole series is interesting and fun. I'm hoping to get some serious time in soon to write (finish book 3 and work on book 4). Hopefully we can get book 2 out next month but a lot is riding on this new law and if any action is going to be taken to the outcries of the public due to who it is going to affect (everyone but immediately small and mid sized businesses who can't afford the testing and can't wait to have the testing done since there are only 20 (I'd heard less but saw 20 earlier today) approved labs to do the testing).

    I have kids who have read the first begging me for the second already and my hands are tied until the publishing world can get back to business as usual.

    Book 1 is still available for order at a cost of $10 per copy and the teacher's guide for individuals and homeschoolers is a downloadable file available for $2 through Vivian ( with a notation that it is a special order). Please paypal her the funds when emailing her to place your order and we will get the books out to you as soon as we can - E :)

  16. I enjoyed reading her process how the book was written. It sounds like a book my nine year old would love with all the info about states!

  17. Kelly, your 9yo will most definitely enjoy the first book and hopefully as more come out, the collection will grow and your child will keep on learning, even as he gets older and isn't study the states in school - lol. The adults and kids alike are really liking my concept and idea.

    If you want to know more about the process of how the books are written, stop by Donna McDine's blog - - tomorrow and see what I'm posting about.

    I hope all of you will follow the blog tour at my many stops and find out more info as we travel the states. (Complete schedule is up at - see you all in the postings - E :)

  18. Great comments.

    Remember if you home school and buy a book, you can also get a PDF Study Guide for $2 so that the book can be used as classroom book and lesson unit.

  19. Awesome interview Rena! I would imagine its a wonderful book!!

  20. What a fantastic interview, Rena. Wow. You are very inspiring! :)

  21. Thanks for stopping by everyone!

    Like I said, I read the first book of the series and I got a lot out of it. I'm looking forward to sharing it with my boys for school. It will be awesome to have the entire set when it's complete.

    No pressure, Elysabeth -- LOL!

  22. I hear you there, Rena. No pressure. But it's not all up to me. It's up to the publishing schedule - so over the next 12 years the series should be out - lol E:)

  23. And the lucky winner is #7 (per my daughter's pick) and that is Sister Charlene. Please email me so I can get your mailing address to send your prizes - E :)

  24. Congratulations Sister Charlene!

    Thank you to everyone who stopped by today. It was nice to see some new faces too! :)

  25. Since Sister Charlene has not contacted me to claim her prize, the new winner is Doda. If you will email me ( with your mailing addy I'll send out the prizes next week when I get paid.

    Hope everyone followed the tour and had fun seeing what each person had to say about the books, the series and me. See you in the postings - E :)

  26. Thanks E -- I'll let Doda know over on her blog too.

  27. Woohoo. Thanks Elysabeth and Rena.
    I'm really pleased!