In Jungle Jitters, Tate wants to shake his boring reputation and agrees to travel with his class up the Amazon River to help build a village school, even though he’s secretly terrified of deep water and all the scary things that swim below. He has his fingers and toes crossed that he won’t see any giant snakes or hungry piranhas. But there are even scarier things than anacondas lurking in the jungles of South America, and Tate soon learns of the legend of El Tunchi, a vengeful spirit that terrorizes those who harm the rain-forest. When creepy things start happening and Tate keeps hearing El Tunchi’s haunting whistle, he’s sure the group must have angered someone. Or something. He and his friends need to figure out a way to make amends and get out of the jungle alive.
What scene did you start this book with?
When Tate and his friends arrive in the dark canteen of the Jaguar Jungle Lodge, they meet Maria. Everyone takes a place around a flickering lantern as Maria warns them that while they are in the jungle, they should not do anything that might hurt the plants or animals. She tells the legend of El Tunchi, a spirit that will do whatever it takes to protect the rain-forest, even if it means “taking care” of the people who have harmed it–the same way El Tunchi took care of a boy who came to the Amazon to steal medicinal herbs. Later that night, the boy was heard screaming as something carried him off into the jungle. He was never seen alive again.
What kind of research did you do for your book?
I didn’t know I was researching this book when I took a trip to the Amazon six years ago but, while I was there, I had many of the same experiences that Tate and his friends have in Jungle Jitters. I had to shake out my boots every morning to make sure I didn’t step on any hiding tarantulas. I hiked through the jungle where the jaguars hunt, canoed across a swamp that was home to a five metre long anaconda, and swam in the piranha-infested Amazon River. I learned about the animals–but I also learned first-hand how Tate would feel when he encounters these creatures himself.
What’s the hardest part of writing?
Sticking with it! I love new, shiny ideas and I start each book excited, scribbling down everything that comes into my mind. After I get the first few chapters done though, the writing starts to slow down. I get tempted by other shiny new ideas and it takes a lot of discipline to keep working on the project I’ve already started.
What’s your favorite form of procrastination?
I like to spend time doing things my 13-year-old characters might like to do. (That way I can call it research and still tell people that I’m working.) Because of this, I’ve developed many video game addictions over the past couple of years. While I don’t like to brag, I’m pretty awesome at Portal and at taking on Minecraft’s nether creatures.
What book do you wish you wrote? Why?
I would love to have written, or be asked to write, a guidebook for Peru, or all of South America, or Australia, or Africa–or anywhere really. That would mean I would get to visit some really cool places, meet interesting people, and have more amazing adventures!
What is your favorite aspect of your new book?
I love that it’s a novel! I wrote my first adventure novel when I was 10 years old and that’s when I decided that I was going to be a novelist. I sent my story to 3 different publishers to see if they wanted to publish it. They all said no. Now that I’m an adult, I’ve written and published 9 books but they’ve all been picture books or non-fiction books for younger children. With Jungle Jitters, I will finally have published an adventure novel–even if it took me over 30 years to finally achieve my goal!
What is your writing ritual?
I don’t really have a ritual because I live in a house with four other very loud and busy people (3 kids and a husband.) I have a quiet space in the attic where I hide to work whenever I can. Now that my kids all go to school every day, it’s easier but I still have to remind myself to keep writing–and not to get distracted by character research (which as we already established is often accomplished by playing video games.)
Which actor would you choose to play your protagonist in a movie? Why?
Although Finn Wolfhard from Stranger Things and It doesn’t have red hair like Tate, he’s otherwise exactly how I picture my protagonist. Plus, Finn says he is scared of creepy things like clowns. I’d love to see him take on the ghosts and creatures stalking Tate in the Amazon jungle.
Jungle Jitters is available now!
Lisa Dalrymple is the author of the picture books A Moose Goes A-Mummering and Skink on the Brink, winner of the 2014 Crystal Kite Award. She has always been passionate about writing and traveling. While in Peru, Lisa hiked the Andes, swam in the Amazon River and even went piranha fishing. She lives in Fergus, Ontario, with her husband and their three children. For more information, visit www.lisadalrymple.com.