To celebrate the very first print release of “Undersea Mystery Club: Problem at the Playground,” author Courtney Carbone shared some insights into what inspired her to write the popular kids’ mystery series.
Read on for a few words from Courtney and Violet, and an inside look at the evolution of the series illustrations from Melanie Demmer!
Courtney Carbone, Author
Epic!: What do you think kids enjoy most about Undersea Mystery Club?
CC: Solving mysteries is fun and exciting! I remember when I was a kid, mystery stories were always my favorite. I loved going to the library and looking at the mystery and suspense section. I would even try to write my own detective stories!
On long car trips, my family would pile into our minivan and listen to audiobooks by great mystery writers like Agatha Christie, Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle. We also liked to play mystery board games, solve hidden clue puzzles and challenge each other with riddles and brainteasers.
In seventh grade, I even went to a “Whodunit?” sleep-away camp. The other campers and I would work together to solve mysteries, and come up with our own. We didn’t have 10-minute brainstorms like Violet and Wally, but we did come up with some off-the-wall ideas!
If you like mysteries, secrets, clues and puzzles like me, I hope that you check out Undersea Mystery Club! Maybe one day you’ll be the one writing mysteries …
Epic!: What sparked your fascination with trivia and ocean life?
CC: When I was a little girl, my family had a big aquarium full of all different kinds of fish. It was so fun to sit and stare at them as they zigzagged through the water. The glass tank was like its own little world! All the kids in my neighborhood would fight over who would get to feed the fish every day before school. We all wanted to help take care of them—until it came time to clean the tank, that is. (Thanks, Dad!)
Epic!: What do you hope kids will learn from Violet’s adventures?
CC: I hope that kids will learn that they don’t always need to depend on adults to solve problems. Kids have such great imaginations—they can use their know-how and creativity to come up with their own solutions.
There are lots of things you can do as a kid to help your family, neighbors and community. For example, you can help people with yard work or shoveling snow, organize a food or book drive, or volunteer at a local animal shelter. You can even be a hero to just one person by being a caring friend.
Epic!: How would you describe your main goal as a writer?
CC: I want my characters to feel like friends to the reader. It’s important to me to have a diverse cast of characters so that all kids can identify with the people (or animals) in my books. I also want to create fun, funny stories that give kids a glimpse into different worlds. One of my favorite things about reading was learning about things and places that were unusual, magical or far away. Whether the characters lived in or on a farm, a big city, an enchanted forest, or even a desert island—reading always helped me to imagine a world of possibilities.
Epic!: Do you see yourself in Violet?
Thanks, Courtney! Now a few words from Violet:
CC: Sometimes! Violet and I do have a lot in common. She’s very curious, enthusiastic and enjoys going on adventures. She can also be a bit impatient, like me.
Other ways we are alike is that it’s important to her to speak her mind, be true to herself and help those in need. She likes to look for the best in others, and help them do the right thing in the end.
One last thing: my dog, a Jack Russell Terrier, would also say, “Don’t forget you and Violet both have super cool animal sidekicks who love yummy treats!”
Violet Vespera, Mermaid & Sleuth
Epic!: Hi, Violet! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today! Are you ready for your first question?
Violet: You’re welcome. I sure am!
Epic!: What do you enjoy most about helping others?
Violet: Helping others is the best, best, best! I like the fluttery feeling I get inside when I know I made a difference or helped my community. It makes me feel like a real-life superhero!
Epic!: What’s your favorite part about solving a mystery?
Violet: Finding the solution, of course! But sleuthing with Wally is super fun, too (especially having brainstorms in our secret clubhouse)! One thing I’ve learned is that we can’t jump to conclusions too fast when investigating. It’s easy to get a case wrong that way. And—remember—sometimes the culprit (that’s a fancy word for the person who did the crime) didn’t even mean to do the wrong thing. The answer to a mystery could just be a misunderstanding or mistake!
Epic!: How did you and Wally become such good friends?
Violet: I’ve known Wally practically forever! We sat next to each other on the first day of preschool. I was crying because I missed my mommy, and he was crying because he ran out of seagrass cookies. But we stopped crying long enough to start talking, and we became fast friends. (Literally! We race to see who is the fastest swimmer all the time! We usually end up in a tie, though.)
About the Author
Courtney Carbone studied English and Creative Writing in the US and Australia before becoming a children’s book writer and editor in New York City. Her favorite things include trivia nights, board games, stand-up comedy, bookstores, brick-oven pizza and sharks.