Robert Elmer (1958-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights
Born 1958, in Berkeley, CA; married Ronda D. (a homemaker), August 9, 1980; Education: Attended University of California at Berkeley, 1979-80; Simpson College (San Francisco, CA), B.A. (communication), 1980; St. Mary's College (Moraga, CA), postgraduate teaching certificate, 1987. Religion: Baptist.
Office—c/o Bethany House Publishers, 11300 Hampshire Ave. South, Minneapolis, MN 55438.
Assistant pastor in Olympia, WA, 1983-85; Simpson College, San Francisco, CA, director of admissions, 1981-83; newspaper editor and reporter, 1980-81, 1985-87; Baron & Co., Bellingham, WA, advertising copywriter, 1988—. Speaker, Young Writers' Institute, Hershey, PA.
American Christian Writers.
The Duet, Waterbrook (New York, NY), 2004.
"YOUNG UNDERGROUND" SERIES; FOR CHILDREN
A Way through the Sea, Bethany House (Minneapolis, MN), 1994.
Beyond the River, Bethany House (Minneapolis, MN), 1995.
Into the Flames, Bethany House (Minneapolis, MN), 1995.
Far from the Storm, Bethany House (Minneapolis, MN), 1995.
Chasing the Wind, Bethany House (Minneapolis, MN), 1996.
A Light in the Castle, Bethany House (Minneapolis, MN), 1996.
Follow the Star, Bethany House (Minneapolis, MN), 1997.
Touch the Sky, Bethany House (Minneapolis, MN), 1997.
"ADVENTURES DOWN UNDER" SERIES; FOR CHILDREN
Escape to Murray River, Bethany House (Minneapolis, MN), 1997.
Captive at Kangaroo Springs, Bethany House (Minneapolis, MN), 1997.
Rescue at Boomerang Bend, Bethany House (Minneapolis, MN), 1998.
Dingo Creek Challenge, Bethany House (Minneapolis, MN), 1998.
Race to Wallaby Bay, Bethany House (Minneapolis, MN), 1998.
Firestorm at Kookaburra Station, Bethany House (Minneapolis, MN), 1999.
Koala Beach Outbreak, Bethany House (Minneapolis, MN), 1999.
Panic at Emu Flat, Bethany House (Minneapolis, MN), 1999.
"PROMISE OF ZION" SERIES
Promise Breaker, Bethany House (Minneapolis, MN), 2000.
Peace Rebel, Bethany House (Minneapolis, MN), 2000.
Refugee Treasure, Bethany House (Minneapolis, MN), 2001.
Brother Enemy, Bethany House (Minneapolis, MN), 2001.
Freedom Trap, Bethany House (Minneapolis, MN), 2002.
True Betrayer, Bethany House (Minneapolis, MN), 2002.
"ASTROKIDS" SERIES; FOR CHILDREN
The Great Galaxy Goof, Bethany House (Minneapolis, MN), 2000.
Zero-G Headache, Bethany House (Minneapolis, MN), 2001.
Wired Wonder Woof, Bethany House (Minneapolis, MN), 2001.
Miko's Muzzy Mess, Bethany House (Minneapolis, MN), 2001.
About-Face Space Race, Bethany House (Minneapolis, MN), 2001.
Cosmic Camp Caper, Bethany House (Minneapolis, MN), 2001.
Super-Duper Blooper, Bethany House (Minneapolis, MN), 2002.
AstroBall Free-4-All, Bethany House (Minneapolis, MN), 2002.
Mid-Air Zillionaire, Bethany House (Minneapolis, MN), 2002.
Tow-Away Stowaway, Bethany House (Minneapolis, MN), 2002.
Digital Disaster, Waterbrook (New York, NY), 2004.
Fudge Factor, Waterbrook (New York, NY), 2004.
Web Jam, Waterbrook (New York, NY), 2004.
Spam Alert, Waterbrook (New York, NY), 2004.
Work in Progress
More books in the "Adventures down Under" series for Bethany House Publishers.
Robert Elmer has authored several series for young people, among them the "Young Underground," "Adventures down Under," "Promise of Zion," "AstroKids," and "HyperLinkz" books. He began his writing career as a newspaper reporter, and before that served as a pastor. As Elmer once told Something about the Author (SATA): "I think I started getting serious about writing in the second grade.… I wrote a family newspaper. I wrote about things in the neighborhood. Lots of people encouraged me, which was good, and I eventually became a newspaper and advertising writer. But one thing I especially remember was my eighth-grade English teacher, Mr. Little. He wrote in my yearbook that he expected to teach his future students from a book I had written. I never forgot that. For twenty years, what he had said was ringing in my ears. I knew I wanted to write books, I just never knew I had anything to say until my own three kids started growing up.
"Now, when I get letters from kids in Michigan or Mississippi or California, I understand a lot better why I write: to open a window into a world where kids may never have been before. When that's historical fiction, the idea is to understand the past, to know that people back then were kids, too. I want to keep writing exciting books that help plug kids into history and help them understand that historical people were real and that their faith mattered.
"In my first series, 'Young Underground,' each book is based on a real historical event or character. They're set in World War II-Denmark. It was a natural, because my family is Danish; both my parents grew up during that time. I would look into history books for exciting things that happened, then ask them questions to find out how it really happened. A Danish man—I used to clean his yard and he was a friend of my parents—would tell me stories about being in the Danish Underground movement, and one of the stories he told me inspired book number three, Into the Flames. My uncle was in the Underground, too, although I never met him."
Elmer's "Young Underground" series begins with A Way through the Sea, which draws readers back to Denmark in 1943 and follows eleven-year-old twins Peter and Elise Anderson, who are helping their Jewish friend Henrik escape to Sweden. In the second book of the series, Beyond the River, the twins help rescue a British pilot who crash-lands in the Danish countryside in 1944. In the third book, Into the Flames, the twins find themselves cornered by Nazi soldiers and put in prison after they are caught delivering newspapers for the Danish underground. Amid these terrifying circumstances, the pair experience firsthand the importance of faith. Shelly Townsend-Hudson wrote in Booklist that, "With excellent pacing, this animated and satisfying series promises more excitement ahead."
In Elmer's fourth "Young Underground" book, Far from the Storm, although World War II has now ended, some-one is out to sully Uncle Morten's name due to his efforts with the Danish underground. Townsend-Hudson extended her recommendation of the series, noting that in Far from the Storm "Readers will get a clear sense of the difficult steps involved in forgiving and getting on with life after war." Chasing the Wind finds Peter and Elise trapped on a Nazi submarine out searching for missing Nazi treasure. Townsend-Hudson noted that "this historical thriller offers a vivid picture of the times and a high sense of adventure," but also mentioned that Elise often is a supporting role and "She deserves more." Word of the twins' adventures reach Denmark's King Christian, and the children are invited to meet with the monarch in A Light in the Castle, the sixth book of the series. Peter and Elise find themselves coming to the aid of Henrik once again after his parents are captured by Russian soldiers and accused of espionage in the seventh book Follow the Star. The final series installment, Touch the Sky, finds the twins once again in the middle of a sinister plot, one that this time may involve their friend Matthias.
Elmer turns his attention to late-1800s Australia in his "Adventures down Under" books. As he commented in an interview for Christianbook.com, these books were also inspired by a great uncle, who moved to Australia with his wife. The series begins in 1868 with Escape to Murray River, wherein twelve-year-old Patrick moves with his family to Australia after his father is charged with a crime and deported. The second book in the series, Captive at Kangaroo Springs, finds Patrick's family living in a mysterious riverboat captain's shanty house until Patrick and his older sister Becky are captured by bushrangers. Rescue at Boomerang Bend finds Patrick continuing the search for his missing father. Elmer weaves a serious subtext into the fourth series' installment, Dingo Creek Challenge, wherein several circus barges crash in the river, tumbling all the animals into the water. As tensions between white settlers and the native aborigines intensifies, Patrick sides with the Aborigines in a game of cricket.
The fifth installment in Elmer's series about Australia is Race to Wallaby Bay, wherein Patrick and his family must help his grandfather sail his boat—currently at the bottom of the river—to Goolwa. In the sixth book, Firestorm at Kookaburra Station, Patrick finds himself riding in an escaped hot air balloon. From his loft perch, he spots what seems to be a bunyip, a half man, half monster that normally inhabits Aborigine legend. The boy befriends a person who inspires prejudice from the locals, a Chinese immigrant named Jasper, in the seventh book of the series, Koala Beach Outbreak, while Panic at Emu Flat, the conclusion of Elmer's "Adventures down Under" series, takes place just after Patrick's fourteenth birthday. In this final volume Patrick is sure his good friend Jeff is hiding something, but when he tries to uncover the truth he runs into real trouble.
Touching on themes already explored in the "Young Underground" books, in the "Promise of Zion" books Elmer takes young readers into the deep issues surrounding the Holocaust and the birth of the nation of Israel. "Kids kept writing in saying, 'We want another Young Underground book,'" Elmer explained to the Christianbook.com interviewer. "I was thinking about how to continue it even though the premise that the first series was based on was basically over. So I took Henrik, one of the characters in Young Underground, and I thought 'What would happen if he went to Israel?'." The six "Promise of Zion" books follow Emily Parkinson, the daughter of a British Army officer, who is introduced in Promise Breaker. Other volumes in the series include Peace Rebel, Refugee Treasure, Brother Enemy, Freedom Trap, and the concluding volume, True Betrayer.
Deciding to gear a series towards a younger audience than his previous books, Elmer moved on to "Astrokids," a ten-book series focusing on a group of children in outer space. In fact, the series "was the result of one kid's overactive imagination and having watched Star Trek reruns too many times!" admitted Elmer during his Christianbook.com interview. "There are five kids, and they each take a turn (with ten books, they get two turns) telling the story from their point of view."
Elmer's "Hyperlinkz" books deal with a more contemporary topic: the Internet. When Austin and Ashley Webber discover a strange digital camera, they are swept inside the World Wide Web, becoming the world's first "Internauts." "I'm not sure where that idea actually came from," Elmer noted during his interview. "I knew for years that if I wanted to do a contemporary series for kids, I would want to do something with computers, with technology, and with all the stuff that kids are immersed in these days."
While his series titles address a young readership, Elmer made his break into adult fiction with the 2004 novel The Duet. "That was a lot of fun, too. I got to use four-syllable words!" the author quipped to the Christianbook.com writer. The Duet is a love story about widower Gerrit Vandekamp and his daughter's piano teacher, Jessica Horton. Booklist contributor John Mort wrote of the novel that it "stands out from its colleagues because of Elmer's wry delivery and his knack for characterization." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly also mentioned that Elmer's "competent writing, interesting characters and the quirky backdrop … keep the pages turning."
Regarding where he gets his ideas, Elmer once told SATA: "I get them from history books, mostly, and from my family.…My wife and kids are my writing team. They help me sift out the good ideas from the dumb ones, and they read through a lot of the early manuscripts. I watch them when they're reading. If they get to a part and say, 'Huh?' I know I'd better go back and do some rewriting. But even if it's hard work, I can't think of anything else that's more fun or exciting!"
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, May 15, 1995, Shelley Townsend-Hudson, review of Into the Flames, p. 1645; February 15, 1996, Shelley Townsend-Hudson, review of Far from the Storm, p. 1020; May 1, 1996, Shelley Townsend-Hudson, review of Chasing the Wind, p. 1506; April 1, 2004, John Mort, review of The Duet, p. 1347.
Publishers Weekly, February 2, 2004, review of The Duet, p. 60.
School Library Journal, August, 1995, p. 140; August, 1997, p. 157; February, 1998, p. 106.*
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