Author Tamra Wight has long had a passion for the outdoors. For twenty-eight years she ran Poland Spring Campground with her husband and two children. They would watch wildlife from the camp's trails, kayak Lower Range Pond, and partake in the less glamorous day-to-day camp chores. These experiences inspired her to start writing the Cooper and Packrat eco-mystery series almost a decade ago. The Mystery of the Lost Lynx, the fifth and latest installment of the series, now available for purchase everywhere, follows Cooper and Packrat on their first winter adventure. In this Q&A, we catch up with Tamra and learn how her life has changed since the beginning of the series.
Since starting the Cooper and Packrat series, you sold your campground. What do you
miss most about running it?
I miss my campers, especially my “little campers.” They knew how much I adored the wildlife within our forty acres. They often visited me in the store or the office and we’d share stories about what we’d seen or heard on the lake or in the woods. They were also great cheerleaders for Cooper and Packrat’s adventures!
I miss the land, my hiking trails, the fox dens, and the owls calling. And I miss kayaking Lower Range Pond where we had nesting eagles (with triplet eaglets one year!) and loons and visiting herons and osprey. One summer, I was lucky enough to document the life of a loon pair from the time they nested through flying south for the winter. I hope to turn that into a picture book one day.
You’ve written five books in the series now. How has your writing process changed
over the years?
I had thought that writing would get easier with each book. It’s actually a little bit harder! I try to create a very different storyline for each book, but at the same time keep the camp and characters familiar so readers will feel like they’re visiting friends with each book.
My overall process hasn’t changed, I still plot and plan and research like crazy before beginning. And it will take several rewrites before I feel it’s “good enough” to give to my editor for their first look. And I still get super nervous when it’s about to go out in the world!
You do lots of school visits where you talk about your books, what is some of your favorite feedback you’ve gotten from students who’ve read them?
My presentations are filled with wildlife photos I’ve taken while researching from hiking trails and kayaks. I love to hear student’s oooo and aaaah whenever a cute little face appears on the screen! Students care about wildlife and our ecosystem, they’re curious about animal behavior and always want to know what they can do to help. Question and answer time is filled with students’ connections to my photos and stories of their own wildlife experiences.
You spend lots of your personal life behind the lens of a camera. What are your
favorite animals to shoot? Favorite places?
My favorite animals to photograph are foxes, loons, owls, eagles, and osprey. But any animal that crosses my lens becomes an instant research subject to me. I want to know all about it! What does it eat, where does it live, what are its behaviors? I would really like to capture with my camera a lynx or a bobcat in the wild. It’s on my bucket list.
Lower Range Pond in Poland, and Little Wilson Pond in Turner are two Maine lakes I adore. I lived on Lower Range for so long, I knew where certain animals could be spotted at specific times of the day.
I also enjoy taking my camera to Sanibel Island in Florida, my home away from home. My favorite moment as a photographer there was the day I stumbled upon a sea turtle being released back into the ocean by the Clinic For Rehabilitation and Wildlife (CROW). I have some fabulous photos of that moment, and I remember thinking how much Cooper would have loved to witness it, too. What a thrill!
If you could set a Cooper and Packrat book anywhere in the world, what adventure
would you send the characters on?
As I mentioned above, Sanibel Island in Florida feels like a second home. My family has traveled to visit my in-laws there for many years, and we have such fabulous memories. When I’m there, I turn my camera on alligators, herons, egrets, pelicans, sea turtles, manatees, osprey, and more. A large part of the island is a wildlife refuge and organizations such as CROW and the International Osprey Foundation (TIOF) reside there. I can so see Cooper and Packrat belonging to and working with the people in those organizations, while protecting the animals on Sanibel. I imagine the two of them making new friends, hiking in Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, kayaking Tarpon Bay, sailing the ocean blue, spotting bobcats on the hiking trails, or helping newly hatched sea turtles find their way to the ocean.