From the critically acclaimed author of Midnight at the Barclay Hotel comes a thrilling new middle grade mystery novel inspired by Alcatraz Prison.

Tori, Marvin, and Noah would rather be anywhere else than on the seventh grade class field trip to Raven Island prison. Tori would rather be on the soccer field, but her bad grades have benched her until further notice; Marvin would rather be at the first day of a film festival with his best friend, Kevin; and Noah isn’t looking forward to having to make small talk with his classmates at this new school.

But when the three of them stumble upon a dead body in the woods, miss the last ferry back home, and then have to spend the night on Raven Island, they find that they need each other now more than ever. They must work together to uncover a killer, outrun a motley ghost-hunting crew, and expose the age-old secrets of the island all before daybreak.

“An enjoyable paranormal mystery imbued with social commentary.” -Kirkus

Award-winning author Fleur Bradley recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest thriller, DAYBREAK ON RAVEN ISLAND.

Which took shape first: plot, character, or setting?

All my books start with an interesting setting—place really sets the mood for me. In the case of DAYBREAK ON RAVEN ISLAND, I started with Alcatraz, which is scary and sinister and has lots of mysteries surrounding it, including an unsolved prison escape. I then created Raven Island, an imaginary version of Alcatraz. Three kids get stuck on Raven Island after they miss the ferry during a field trip, and they have to spend the night. There is an abandoned prison, a lighthouse, a morgue, and a ton of secrets (and ghosts). It’s so much fun to create a whole world this way: I can use the existing setting but have fun doing what I want at the same time.

Fleur Bradley

What attracts you to this book’s genre?

I love writing for kids. I’m a reluctant reader—that means I am pickier than usual about what books I enjoy. I love mysteries and thrillers, and I think they’re perfect books to hook a reluctant reader like myself. I like to think that by writing books that appeal to kids who might not enjoy reading as much, I grow tomorrow’s readers of mysteries and thrillers.

Was there anything new you discovered or that surprised you as you wrote this book?

The book deals with a lot more tough issues than I originally set out [to cover]. One of the characters has a brother in prison, one lost his mother recently… And there’s a running theme of secrets and loneliness. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I realized I was mining my own feelings. I wrote the book during COVID lockdown, a time when we all got to see a lot of each other via Zoom but not in person. I was working out what it’s like to feel alone and how to find your way out of that: by connecting with others and sharing how you feel.

No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?

There’s a big secret surrounding Raven Island, with a plot twist about the prison break that I totally made up. It wasn’t until I did more research on Alcatraz during edits that I learned there are theories surrounding the real-life Alcatraz break that are exactly the same. That blew my mind. But you’ll have to read the book to find out.

What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?

I’m still influenced in a new way all the time, and I love discovering new authors. ITW has many favorites: Lisa Gardner, Tess Gerritsen, Elizabeth Hand, R. L. Stine… Chris Grabenstein always reminds me how to write a book that will get reluctant readers hooked.

Why are books for kids important (even for those who don’t have kids)?

Thrillers and mysteries are big categories for adults, but the genres aren’t always represented for young readers. We’re losing readers at that 10-to-12-year-old age, and advocating for thrillers and mysteries is important to encourage kids to read for fun. Even if you’re not a kid or a parent, keep an eye on this segment of the genre. It’s where your future readers grow.

*****

Fleur Bradley is the author of many mysteries for kids, including DAYBREAK ON RAVEN ISLAND and the award-winning Midnight at the Barclay Hotel (Viking), as well as the Double Vision trilogy (Harper Children’s). Her short story “The Perfect Alibi” appeared in the MWA middle-grade anthology Super Puzzletastic Mysteries, edited by Chris Grabenstein.

A reluctant reader herself, Bradley routinely does educator presentations on how to reach reluctant readers. She lives in Colorado with her family and entirely too many rescue animals.

To learn more about the author and her work, please visit her website.

Michael Bradley
Latest posts by Michael Bradley (see all)