MG Book Review and Interview: ATTACK OF THE KILLER KOMODOS by Summer Rachel Short

Groundbreaking science, rampaging nature, and colorful characters intertwine in this 2nd Maggie and Nate mystery by talented middle grade author Summer Rachel Short. As the title suggests, ATTACK OF THE KILLER KOMODOS begins with a frightening encounter with a hulking, voracious komodo dragon in Yellowstone, where the best buds have traveled to visit with Maggie’s park ranger dad. That’s not all Nate, Maggie, and Ezra (Maggie’s older brother) face after a series of massive earthquakes separate them from their dad and spiky-haired, track-suit-wearing gramma. There’s no shortage of nail-biting danger and outrageously DNA-enhanced creatures as the kids seek to discover the culprit behind the nefarious experiments.

Summer meets a Komodo Dragon at the Fort Worth Zoo

Summer, thank you so much for sharing an ARC with me! I couldn’t put ATTACK OF THE KILLER KOMODOS down! I’m thrilled this post is running on the book’s launch day, which means readers everywhere can snap up a copy.

You did such an amazing job keeping the culprit’s identity hidden and inserting red herrings that make Maggie (and thus readers) wonder if the culprit could be someone very close to home. Do you enjoy reading mysteries as well as writing them?

Thank you, Laura! I’m glad you enjoyed the book! I do love stories with mystery elements. I particularly like mysteries that have some other genre mixed in––a dash of fantasy, sci-fi, or some humor. Which might be why my own books are sort of a mash-up of sci-fi/fantasy/mystery.

I learned a great deal about Yellowstone National Park and scientific breakthroughs from this book and from your Author’s Note at the end. Seriously, I struggle to comprehend that tardigrades are a living thing. What kind of research did you conduct? And which came first – your research/personal interest or your plot?

Summer at Yellowstone

I agree! Tardigrades (and other extremophiles) are so fascinating! For this story, I knew early on I wanted it to be set in Yellowstone and that I’d include the park’s thermal pools and strange, genetically-modified creatures. From there, I did a lot of research about extremophiles, gene editing technology, Yellowstone’s native species, and of course, Komodo dragons.

Since this was part of a two-book sale (the first was THE MUTANT MUSHROOM TAKEOVER, which I reviewed on November 24, 2020, how much detail did you provide in your original query letter or proposal? And how much did the plot evolve as you went through the writing and revision process?

When my agent and I went on submission, we included a three-page synopsis for a second book. In that original outline, the bare bones of Attack of the Killer Komodos are there––a rogue lizard in Yellowstone, but beyond that many things changed once I sat down to write the story. I actually didn’t know about CRISPR, the real-life, gene-editing technology used in the book until I started drafting. There was also the addition of many new creatures and a brand new villain as well.

A three-page synopsis? Can I just say WOW?!? Your characters are so well drawn and unique. While Nate is a conspiracy theorist and Maggie is a science nerd, their friendship grows even more symbiotic in this book. How do you develop your characters? Do they come alive and grow in unexpected ways, or do you map out their character growth in advance?

I always do some character mapping before I start writing. Sometimes, what I plan out sticks and sometimes, it doesn’t. For example, when I originally created Maggie’s best friend Nate, he wasn’t her best friend. He was a neighborhood bully. But the more I wrote of Nate, the more he started to change. He was funny and playful and he and Maggie got along. Ultimately, their friendship became a key element in the series. So, I think planning is helpful, but it’s also good to be flexible and let things play out on the page to see if they work. You can always change it later in revision.

Thank you for the advice! Now for the most pressing question of all: Did you make cookies in the shape of Komodo dragons, rabid bunnies, and Bigfoot to celebrate your book birthday? If so, please send pictures!! Or better yet, cookies.

A model for your cookies

I wish I could take credit for the lovely cookies I had at my first book’s launch, but a talented local baker made them. I’m hoping to have some similarly delightful cookies made for the Attack of the Killer Komodos launch party happening tonight (Sept. 14) at my local bookstore!

What’s next for Maggie and Nate? Can you share what else you’re working on? 

Right now, I’m working on a new middle grade project that doesn’t include Maggie and Nate, but I’d definitely be open to writing more stories with them in the future.

That’s awesome news! I look forward to future middle grade books from you!! How can fans reach you?

They can find me here:

Website: https://srachelshort.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/summerrachelwrites/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Summer_Rachel_

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/summerrachelshort

Thank you, Summer!

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