Dashe Roberts has spent most of her life living on either coast of the US. After several years working in the New York theatre scene, she moved back home to California and began writing her first book, Sticky Pines: The Bigwoof Conspiracy. Dashe has since moved to London, where she lives with her husband, her young son and her dog, Monkey.
Sticky Pines: The Valley of the Strange (Nosy Crow Books)
A fabulous and fun read, the Sticky Pines series follows the lives of the residents of Sticky Pines where odd lights, strange creatures and the mystery of the sticky pines themselves drive the investigations of local resident Lucy and her friend Milo. Author Dashe Roberts tells us more about the latest book in the series, Sticky Pines: The Valley of the Strange.
Read a chapter from The Valley of the Strange
Q&A with Dashe Roberts
1. What brings you back to Sticky Pines? Do you enjoy writing these books?
I absolutely adore writing this series. I am in love with the odd, forested town, the deepening intrigue, and of course my main characters, Lucy Sladan and Milo Fisher. It's been a lot of fun exploring the ups and downs in their friendship and delving into the questions of whether or not they can trust one another, who is right about the Truth of what's happening in their town, and their differing views on who the good and bad guys are in this story.
2. These books are described as science fiction. What do we mean by science fiction, and what makes a great science fiction story?
This is a great question. I would say that there is often a fine line between science fiction and fantasy. Both types of stories can involve supernatural or improbable events, but in science fiction there is always a scientific explanation for these happenings, and you could imagine them occurring in the real world.
I think that a great science fiction story usually asks Big Questions and deals with Big Ideas about what it means to be human, and that is the reason I enjoy writing science fiction books so much.
3. What inspired the first book in the Sticky Pines series, The Bigwoof Conspiracy?
The first in the four-book Sticky Pines series, The Bigwoof Conspiracy, was inspired by my love of the Pacific Northwest in the United States. It still feels like a very wild place, with big, dark and misty forests that could be hiding just about anything.
I've also been inspired by learning about all the things humans have thought they knew about the world around us, and how often we've been wrong about our assumptions. For instance, there was a time when most Europeans believed that tigers, narwhals and duck-billed platypuses were just a myth. Incredible, right? What else may exist out there that we've dismissed as nothing but legend?
4. What happens in your latest book, The Valley of the Strange?
In this book, Milo and Lucy have been brought back together by the events of the previous installment, The Thing At Black Hole Lake, but they still have very different ideas about the crazy things they've witnessed. While Lucy is determined to track down the mysterious, shape-shifting Pretenders to uncover their secrets, Milo wishes they'd disappear altogether. In fact, he'd rather focus on asking Lucy to the school dance, though she's far too involved in her supernatural investigation to notice.
At the same time, Lucy's father comes under the influence of a strange, sparkly dust he encounters in a mine deep beneath Sticky Pines, and he starts behaving very oddly. All the while, Milo's father is busy with his own hunt for the Pretenders, and his scientists are toiling away to invent new and extreme means of flushing them out and capturing them for their own ends.
5. Why have you put Lucy and Milo together as characters; why do they work well together?
In many ways they're opposites, but I think Milo and Lucy bring out the best in one another. They support each other in ways that nobody else does. At times, I think they can both feel quite lonely, and while they often disagree about things, they seem to understand each other on a deep level.
6. Who is your favourite supporting character?
This is a tough one to answer. Lucy's friend Tex has always been immensely fun to write, with his wry scepticism, video game obsessions and witty retorts. But Lucy's little sister Willow is a very funny kid with hidden skills, and it's been a delight to reveal more of that in this book. And then there's Thingus, with his innocence and abilities and his fresh take on the world… I'm not sure I could choose!
7. Which character would you be most like if you lived in Sticky Pines?
I think I'd love to be like the Strickses, enjoying my little cabin in the woods, knowing the things that I know, cooking good food and living a seemingly quiet life that, perhaps, has more going on than meets the eye.
8. If you could transform like your 'Pretenders', what would you transform into?
Ooh… definitely something that could fly - like a griffin, or one of those green parrots you often see in London parks.
9. Lucy strongly believes that aliens have visited Sticky Pines - do you believe aliens might have visited us already? Or is it her openness to other ideas that you enjoy writing?
I have no idea whether aliens have already visited us or not, but - to paraphrase Carl Sagan - the universe is a very big place, and if we're the only intelligent life living in it, that's an awful lot of wasted space…
10. Other than a great adventure, what would you like children to take from Lucy's story?
I would love for children to challenge their assumptions about the world, and to be open to fresh ideas and to changing their point of view when new information comes to light. I'd also love for people of all ages to better learn how to befriend those who are different from themselves, or who simply share a different view of the world. There are so many ways to find empathy and common ground.
11. What have you got planned next for Lucy and Milo?
The fourth and final installment of the Sticky Pines series will reveal all there is left to be revealed, and this time, the fate of the entire world is on the line. Lucy and Milo certainly have their work cut out for them contending with such powerful forces in the next book.
12. Where and when do you prefer to write? What would a writer's shed in Sticky Pines look like?
I like to write in local cafes or in a room in my house where I'm surrounded by plants. A writer's shed in Sticky Pines would probably be a tiny log cabin out in the woods, that may contain a secret passageway…
13. What kinds of things do you enjoy doing when you're not at your desk?
I enjoy walking my dog or taking my son to the park, playing video games with my husband, and on special occasions, taking a trip out of the city somewhere there are lots of trees to get lost in.