Thursday, July 12, 2012

Guest Blogger Elaine Ouston's new MG fantasy novel

Elaine Ouston’s new fantasy novel, Captured, for ages 10+, is the second book in The Mystery of Nida Valley seriesThe series is about a hidden valley full of ancient animals, dinosaurs, and much more. Elaine describes her book, as well as her wonderful promo idea to help educate kids about

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The story begins when fourteen-year-old Meg Sealy, her friend Amanda, and her older cousin Jaiden stumble upon a secret valley where time stands still. The three friends are thrust into a dangerous world of magic, time travel, and creatures they believed extinct. They learn that it is their destiny to use their new magic skills to join the fight to save the valley from an evil break-away order, bent on exploitation. Meg discovers she is to become the next leader of the magic order that protects the valley and its creatures. But undercover villains in the valley try to stop her from doing so. Many life-threatening events occur as she and her friends fight to save the animals from extinction.

I am often asked how dinosaurs and real animals that existed over 40,000 years ago became the basis for a fantasy novel. I came across the megafauna when I was researching animals for another book. They fascinated me, as I had never learnt about them at school.

I asked a group of children what they knew about these creatures and discovered that they had no knowledge of them. Their interest in hearing about the animals, fueled my desire to write the story, and so I began in earnest. Some of the questions the children asked during our discussion shaped the story. For instance, ‘Did they live with the dinosaurs?’ and from a very cute 4 year-old, ‘Were there dragons too?’ So I decided to include the three groups, megafauna, dinosaurs, and mythical animals. It is a strange mix and it was interesting coming up with a way to make the valley’s creatures credible. (Well, as credible as fantasy has to be). Fantasy has always been my first choice to read so it was natural for me to write in that genre.

I wanted the book to be entertaining as well educational. So I trawled the internet and libraries for accurate information. I found what I needed in books, and Museums and University websites. I have recorded the sources on the inside page of the book and on the cards. So any reader can do follow-up research, or any librarian or teacher can confirm the information. 

I realised as I wrote the story, that even though I described the animals in as much details as I could, the readers would still have no idea what these magnificent creatures looked like. To include colour drawings in the book would make the printing too costly, so I decided the create collector cards. I commissioned an artist, Aaron Pocock, to draw the animals from images I found on museum websites and in a book, The Magafauna of Australia, by Danielle Clode. 

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Learn more about Elaine Ouston and the novels in this series by visiting her website.

The books in the Mystery of Nida Valley series Amazon and elsewhere online. In Australia, they can be ordered from your local bookstore through Dennis Jones and Associates. 

The packs of cards and signed paperbacks can be purchased at 


  1. This sounds like is was a fun process all around, and what a fun book!

    1. Thanks Katie. It was fun to research and write. There is nothing like fantasy to free the imagination.

  2. This cover reminds me of the old Nancy Drew mysteries--and I mean that in a good way. I loved those books.

  3. Sounds like a fascinating read combining the megafuana and magical ideas!

  4. That's so cool. I love it when you can have a fun story, yet include facts oh-so-innocently that make it INTERESTING to learn about. :-)

  5. Mythical creatures and megafauna are always very interesting reads. I was hooked on unicorn and beasts when I was a kid. And I've found that the educational & entertaining children's books are usually the best ones, ones readers would remember through life!