Q&A with Lindsay Currie, Author of May/June Kids’ Indie Next List Top Pick “The Mystery of Locked Rooms”

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Independent booksellers across the country have chosen The Mystery of Locked Rooms (Sourcebooks Young Readers) by Lindsay Currie as their top pick for the May/June 2024 Kids’ Indie Next List.

Sarah, Hannah, and West are escape room experts. But when Sarah's family needs a monetary miracle, the trio set out to beat the ultimate escape room and claim the legendary treasure inside. 

“Full of clever puzzles, exciting rooms and adventures, and (of course) a little bit spooky. I love a good ‘kids solve it themselves’ story, and this one had the perfect character trio front and center. This book made me want to be a kid again,” said Jordan Felkey of Three Avenues Bookshop in Chicago, Illinois.
Here, Currie discusses The Mystery of Locked Rooms with Bookselling This Week.

Bookselling This Week: In The Mystery of Locked Rooms, you reference not only The Goonies, but also Willy Wonka. I assume those are some of your inspirations for this. Are there any other inspirations that you drew from?

Lindsay Currie: The Goonies is probably one of the biggest, but just that larger umbrella of epic adventures featuring kids. I feel like the 80’s was filled with this kind of movie where we saw kids going out on this big adventure — usually leaving on bikes — and they solve something that the adults in their lives couldn't. And I really kind of missed that. It's not that we don't have any of them anymore. It's just that it was such a special vibe. Not only was it adventurous and fun, but it also managed to be heartwarming and empowering for kids in that age group.

When I was writing this book, I did think a lot about characters like Mikey and the Goonies and Charlie Bucket. These characters who are in a bad position, and don't think that they're capable of contributing or helping, and then end up completely tipping the scales in their favor.

BTW: How on earth do you build these intricate puzzles in this story? What did that process look like?

LC: I'm a very chaotic writer, which was not helpful during this book, because having to come up with these challenges was tricky. There were a lot of times when I had to go back into a scene and rework because there were a lot of symbols (or other meaningful things) to keep track of. I drew from a lot of my own experiences — going into escape rooms with my family. There are certain things that you see repeated in escape rooms, for example, magnets are used a lot in escape rooms. Or there’s a scene where the Deltas are in the library, and they're looking at books and thinking of turning paintings, those things are very common in escape rooms.

I had a list of those and thought, “How can I kind of put my own spin on this?”

The challenge really was researching what was available during the timeframe that this fun house would have been built. Because current fun houses have a lot of technology that fun houses from the '50s wouldn't have had. So everything I got excited about writing, I then needed to research to see if that was even something that the triplets could have created. It was a long process, but a really fun one.

BTW: Okay, so you definitely have some escape room experience. Did you come across anything really interesting or exciting when you were researching?

LC: I came across a lot of things that I wasn't able to use in The Mystery of Locked Rooms, but I'm going to be able to use in the sequel.

I did a ton of research into escape rooms all over the world, because the ones that I've done are mostly in Chicago. And they were really fun; I went through them with my family and got a chance to see how people demonstrate different skills in that kind of environment than you would see them do in a regular environment, right? There's a clock ticking. You're all trying to work as a team, but you know, people sometimes show a different side of themselves than you thought they even had when you're In an escape room environment, which is really cool.

I kept coming across very cool escape room technology that I wasn't able to put into this book because the fun house was built in the '50s. Now that we know there's a sequel to The Mystery of Locked Rooms, the Deltas are (spoiler alert!) going to be going into a very, very high-tech escape room. So that research is finally going to get to be put to use.

I'm excited about that, because some of this stuff is so cool. I want to experience it. I want the Delta game to be a real place. It would be so fun — I'd want more safety measures, but I want it to be real.

BTW: So in life, or escape rooms, which of the Deltas do you think you're most like?

LC: I wish I was more of a Hannah, or a West in real life, but I'm a Sarah for sure. I have a tendency to look at all of the possible outcomes of something before doing it. And that can be a good thing. It can also sometimes hold you back. I'm definitely more of a Sarah, but I make conscientious efforts to try to have elements of Hannah whenever I can. It's hard for me, it's just not my personality to be as brave and fearless as she is.

All of us have these personality traits, and a big part of what I wanted to convey in the book was that these things about us are not weaknesses. Without Sarah, the Deltas wouldn't be the Deltas, and they wouldn't be able to do what they do. And that's the way it is with all of us. Sometimes the things that we view are weaknesses are actually the things that help us the most in life, and we just don't recognize that.

BTW: So we're definitely getting a Locked Rooms sequel. Is there anything else that you're working on that you want to tease?

LC: Yes, I actually have a book releasing in 2025 from Penguin Random House, Delacorte specifically, called It's Watching. It definitely harkens back to my horror roots, because it’s middle grade and kind of inspired by The Ring. It's very spooky, with a lot of local Chicago history. There's also going to be some incredibly cool front and back matter in that book, which I'm excited about, because my spooky books tend to have a lot of history. I do a ton of research for those, and I like my readers to be able to research along when they're reading the book.

And I'm very excited about the sequel for The Mystery of Locked Rooms. Tentatively, it's called Mystery Mansion, but I strongly doubt that will be the final title.

I'm just so grateful that all these good things have happened with this book, because when I finished writing The Mystery of Locked Rooms, I was sad. I was happy that it was going to be out in the world but I was sad because I wasn't ready for the story to end. And now I get the chance to keep it going.

BTW: Would you talk a little bit about the role of books and indie bookstores in your life?

LC: I grew up in a kind of small town, a farming community, and we really didn't have a lot of money. We didn't take many vacations, but I was the kind of kid that wanted to explore. In fact, one of the days of the year that I disliked the most was the day when everyone came back from a school vacation. Everyone would go somewhere, except me, and they would all be talking about it.

And thanks to indie bookstores, I was able to, through books, explore different people, places, and cultures, without ever leaving my city limits.

I spent so much time as a kid sitting on the floor of an independent bookstore, reading or perusing the books. And I still remember those booksellers putting things in my hands and saying, “Oh, you're going to love this one.” It made such a tremendous difference to me, because when all of my classmates were talking about where they'd been, I felt like I'd been somewhere too.

So indie bookstores have played a huge role in my life, and they still play a huge role in my life. The Mystery of Locked Rooms would not have found a fraction of the readers it has found or had any of the successes that it's had without the support of independent booksellers.

BTW: Those are all of my official questions! Is there anything else that you'd like booksellers or readers to know?

LC: Just a big thank you honestly, this has been a dream for me, there's not any words, I burst into tears when Sourcebooks told me about this. It's so thrilling to have the support of bookstores and to see The Mystery of Locked Rooms in stores. And you know, that's something I will never take for granted. Because publishing is a challenging industry. And it took me a long time to get into, and it's taken me even longer to become successful at. I'm just very grateful.