What do forest fires, bratwurst contests, and hundreds of rubber duckies have in common? They are all major plot points of the debut mystery for young readers (ages 8-12) by Portland author, Doug Cornett. Finally, Something Mysterious follows the sleuthing adventures of the only-child detective club, the One and Onlys, as they contend with bizarre occurrences, too many suspects, and *gasp* the prospect of a new younger sister (casting doubt on the club’s membership requirements). Cornett’s story, well-received by critics as a “perfect mix of hilarious and heartwarming,” is sure to capture your little mystery fan’s imagination. He’s even got a mystery-solving contest for kids on his website right now! We spoke with him about where he finds inspiration, and his day job and family.

Q: Tell us about your new book, Finally, Something Mysterious.

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A: Finally, Something Mysterious is a mystery about three kids in a small town who are desperate for something cool to happen. When hundreds of rubber duckies show up out of nowhere on a neighbor’s lawn, the trio finally have a mystery to investigate. As they track down clues, a forest fire on the outskirts of town threatens to change their lives forever. 

Q: Where did you get the idea for the book?

A: I read an article about an ocean liner that spilled 28,000 rubber duckies into the ocean, which started appearing on beaches all over the world. I suddenly had this image of an entire fleet of rubber duckies just appearing in a place that wasn’t anywhere near the ocean, like in somebody’s backyard. From that simple, funny, and kind of eerie image, I started writing. 

Q: What and where do you teach?

A: I teach high school English and history at Northwest Academy, an independent arts-based school in downtown Portland. I’ve been teaching there for a decade, and I absolutely love it. It’s a close-knit, creative and inspiring community, and I consider myself lucky to be a part of it.

Q: Do you have kids of your own?

A: Yes! My wife Anna and I have a 3-year-old son, Leo, and a 3-month-old daughter, Althea. Leo is a huge fan of trains, rock and roll, and basketball. Althea’s interests include feeding, burping and sleeping.

Q: Did you always like writing stories as a kid? What advice do you have for kids who would like to write a book?

A: I started writing stories when I was in fourth and fifth grade. I discovered Encyclopedia Brown (my favorite kid detective) and the old series The Twilight Zone around that time, too, and both of them have influenced my love for stories.

My advice for kids, or anyone, who wants to write a book, is to always keep in mind what makes you excited about the story you want to tell. Where did that first spark come from? An image that popped into your head? An awesome setting? A cool main character? Writing a book or a story can take a lot of work and time, and it’s easy to lose steam or get frustrated. Just keep going back to that flicker of inspiration that made you want to tell a story to begin with. That flicker never burns out!

Doug also has a fun YouTube channel on mystery writing tips for kids.

Jake Weiss
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