The Curious Turtle Who Flew to Space (Splash, The Curious Turtle) (Author Interview)

What inspired you to write a story about a turtle traveling to space? How did the idea of Splash come to you?

In March 2023, a significant chapter of self-discovery unfolded after my divorce as I embarked on a journey to rediscover my true self, rekindling the spirit of Brandon. Feeling disconnected from my identity, I volunteered abroad in Costa Rica, specifically for a Sea Turtle Conservation project. You might wonder how this leap from newfound divorcee to turtle-saving in Costa Rica came about. Well, I firmly believe in the profound influence of early childhood experiences. Ever since my Pre-K years, I harbored an intense fascination with turtles, so much so that when asked about my aspirations, I answered, "I want to be a turtle when I grow up."

During my two-week volunteer stint in Costa Rica at an extraordinary place called the "Turtle House," I joined forces with fellow volunteers from around the world. We undertook various tasks, ranging from beach walks to caring for the hatchery, where we protected and monitored turtle eggs. These humbling experiences left a lasting impact on me.

Upon returning to the States, my daughter Georgia became increasingly intrigued by my Costa Rica venture, reflecting my passion for turtles. Before our Disney cruise, we had planned a visit to the Kennedy Space Center. As we embarked on the seven-hour drive, Georgia bombarded me with countless questions about turtles. She was relentless, her curiosity shining through every moment.

Finally, the day arrived, and we set foot in the Kennedy Space Center. Georgia's excitement grew exponentially as she chattered non-stop about astronauts, aliens, and spaceships. While standing in line for a space history briefing, Georgia looked up at me with a mischievous grin and proclaimed, "Daddy, turtles can't go to space. They can only swim in the ocean."

In that very instant, the concept of "The Curious Turtle Who Flew to Space" was born. I found her comment somewhat problematic because it felt limited and closed-minded. Although her statement held some truth, I realized the importance of nurturing curiosity and imagination. After all, the most influential visionaries throughout history possessed these very qualities.

I created the character "Splash," a female turtle who defies expectations to inspire my daughter and challenge her perspective. Through this fictional creature, I hoped to instill in Georgia the belief that one can transcend boundaries and explore uncharted territories in imagination and life.

The theme of environmental conservation runs strongly throughout the book, particularly with Splash's determination to save her home from pollution. What message do you hope young readers will take away regarding the environment?

This book is deeply connected to me as my experiences inspired it in Costa Rica. During my time there, I witnessed firsthand the devastating impact of pollution on the fragile environment, particularly on baby turtles. It broke my heart to see their habitats threatened by trash and litter. I spent countless hours cleaning the beaches, hoping to make a slight difference.

This experience fueled my determination to create a book that would cultivate environmental awareness and a sense of responsibility in young readers. My main goal became igniting a genuine understanding of everyone’s power to safeguard our planet. I wanted to convey through Splash's unwavering determination how even the most minor actions can have a significant impact.

I hope young readers will empathize with Splash's passion and be inspired to act themselves. I want them to understand that they can enact meaningful change, no matter how small. Whether it's picking up litter or adopting eco-friendly habits, these efforts contribute to the well-being of our environment.

How did you approach the challenge of blending real-life issues like pollution with the whimsical notion of a turtle building a spacecraft?

Approaching the challenge of blending real-life issues like pollution with the whimsical notion of a turtle building a spacecraft was an unexpected but enriching journey. When I first set out to write this book, my primary goal was to send a strong message to my daughter, hoping she would understand the importance of curiosity and imagination. I had little to no expectations beyond that.

As I delved into the story, the concept of pollution naturally emerged as a central theme. I realized it was a real-life issue that deserved attention, even in a whimsical and imaginative context. I wanted to create a narrative that would captivate my daughter and young readers, using fantastical elements to communicate a more profound message.

Blending the idea of a turtle building a spacecraft with the concept of pollution was a delicate balancing act. It required finding the right combination of whimsy and seriousness to convey the importance of environmental stewardship. By contrasting the playful and imaginative elements with the gravity of the pollution issue, I aimed to capture young readers' attention and make them think critically about the impact of their actions.

I've realized that the book's approach to blending real-life issues with notions has had a far more profound impact than I initially anticipated. It has sparked conversations among readers, highlighting the urgency of addressing environmental concerns and the power of everyone to contribute positively.

Ultimately, while I intended to create a fun and engaging story for my daughter, I am humbled by the book's ability to raise awareness about pollution and its importance to a broader audience. It reminds me of the incredible potential for stories to inspire meaningful change, even in the most unexpected and imaginative ways.

Splash is not only an adventurer but also an inventor. How important was it for you to portray a character embodying curiosity and resilience?

Portraying a character like Splash, who embodies curiosity and resilience, was paramount to me in this book. I wanted to create a character who embarks on exhilarating adventures and embraces her innate curiosity, pushing past her fears to accomplish something extraordinary.

In our everyday lives, it's common to see people fall into a routine, conforming to the 9 to 5 mentality and playing it safe. But I firmly believe life is precious and meant to be lived to the fullest. By showcasing Splash's fearless and bold nature, I wanted to inspire young readers to embrace their curiosity, question the world, and never shy away from exploring or pursuing their dreams.

Curiosity is a driving force that propels us forward, enabling us to uncover new ideas, experiences, and possibilities. It opens doors to personal growth and pushes boundaries, encouraging us to go beyond our comfort zones. I wanted Splash to embody this sense of wonder and curiosity, encouraging readers to engage with the world proactively and adventurously.

Resilience was a profoundly personal and essential element I wanted to highlight through Splash's character, influenced by my own experiences during a challenging divorce. I aimed to show young readers the value of determination and courage in pursuing their passions, even when faced with setbacks or self-doubt. Through Splash's unwavering determination and courage, I wanted to convey that setbacks do not define us but present opportunities for growth and self-discovery.

Moreover, Splash's fusion of curiosity and resilience also aligns with the broader message of the book. It serves as a reminder that life is too short to hold back or settle for mediocrity. It encourages readers to embrace their unique abilities, to nurture their passions, and to dare to dream big. By doing so, they can make a lasting impact on the world and lead fulfilling lives.

Your book seems to be a blend of genres: adventure, fantasy, and educational. Was it challenging to strike a balance between these elements?

Surprisingly, striking a balance between this book's adventure, fantasy, and educational elements felt quite natural and effortless. It was as if all the life pieces had fallen into place, guiding the story's development and themes. Although merging these genres may seem unconventional, fusing them was the right approach.

Are there any real-life inspirations or personal experiences that influenced certain characters or events in the story?

There were real-life inspirations and personal experiences that heavily influenced the creation of characters and events in the story. Splash was a character specifically designed to challenge my daughter's perspective and mindset. My experiences shaped her journey and challenges throughout the book during a difficult divorce. During this challenging time, I realized the importance of resilience, courage, and the power of overcoming adversity.

What age group would benefit most from reading "The Curious Turtle Who Flew to Space"? How do you envision parents and educators using this book as a tool?

"The Curious Turtle Who Flew to Space" would benefit children up to the age of eight, and parents/teachers can utilize this book as a valuable tool to initiate discussions about space exploration, environmental pollution, and the significance of protecting endangered species like turtles.

Finally, can readers expect more adventures from Splash in the future? Are there any plans for sequels or related stories?

Readers can look forward to more captivating adventures from Splash in the future. Although there are no concrete plans for sequels or related stories, I am open to exploring new paths and narratives that may emerge. It’s important to me that Splash returns when my curiosity and imagination naturally align with a real problem that needs to be addressed.