Simon, Henry and Jack do not anticipate an exciting summer. They just moved to Superstition, Ariz., and all the other neighborhood kids seem to be on vacation. Bored and lonely, they can't resist the magnetic pull of Superstition Mountain, which many people have climbed and failed to descend. The three brothers test their mettle against the power of the mountain—but will they find themselves among the Missing on Superstition Mountain? Elise Broach shares her own attraction to the real-life mountain.
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Superstition Mountain is a real place—why did you write about it?
The Lost Dutchman's Mine is a big western-history legend. I came across it years ago when I was working on my Ph.D. in history with an emphasis on the American West. This miner Jacob Waltz purportedly extracted a lot of gold from a very rich gold mine in the 1800s, and then on his death bed made a map for the woman taking care of him. She made copies and sold them, and people have been going up and looking for the mine ever since.
When I was getting ready to write this novel I knew I wanted to do a mystery for this age group, third to sixth grade, and I wanted to take a real-life mystery and set it in a fictional environment with fictional characters. I wanted to write a book where place contributed a lot of mystery, sort of like the movie—have you seen Picnic at Hanging Rock? It's based on a true story of these girls from a girl's school who went up a rock for a picnic, and there was a weird alien encounter, and one of the girls disappeared and another came down in shock. Twin Peaks was my other inspiration; I was calling this my “Twin Peaks for Kids” forever!
Have you been there?
I'd been to that area many years ago, so I knew the landscape. This past fall, my college-age daughter and I went to hike around Weaver's Needle, and it was such a strange experience, I have to tell you. The mountain is gorgeous but very rough terrain; I can easily see how easily people get lost there—there are tons of canyons and woods, and parts of the mountain have never been explored. It has this really interesting, eerie atmosphere. It really is like a real-life Bermuda Triangle on land. There have been mysterious deaths and disappearances for over 100 years that are still largely unexplained.
How did you get the relationships between the three brothers so perfectly accurate?
I have two girls and a boy, and I grew up in a family of three children—I love the dynamics of three. I have such fond memories of the shifting alliances of childhood; it's so interesting and complicated to have three instead of two. I also feel that brotherly relationships haven't been well explored for this age group. I find it interesting in families, where the personalities of siblings are so different but if you look at the three from a perspective outside the family you see a lot of commonalities they don't have with other kids.
Not only is this a great adventure story but it's also a coming-of-age tale about Henry.
I never thought about it when I was writing it—you never step back and say, "Oh, he's coming of age!"
There's this awkward age between 10 and 13 when kids aren't really sure of their own strength, and they become much more conscious of what other kids think of them, what adults think of them. With Henry, I was trying to explore this idea that he would be confronted with a new situation that would show him whole different things about his personality that he never knew about before. He's not really a shy child; he gets along easily with other people. He's a big reader, not the bold athletic type his younger brother Jack is, and not the competent, science-y, inventive character that Simon is. Henry is caught in the middle and trying to find his own way.
How long do you expect this series to be?
It's planned as a trilogy. I'd never done a sequel before, much less a series! It's so much fun to write but so challenging. I love the idea of having individual books solve a mystery and also be building blocks for a larger mystery solved over the course of three books, but it's so hard to plot.