“Most” people get stranded on an isolated island. I, however, decided to go there. So I packed a few things, took a train, two planes, several doorless buses, and two shaky-looking boats, and after 3 days I found myself off the grid! I was on a lush tiny island in Myanmar, living in a modest hut in the jungle with little access to internet and electricity, and tap water you wouldn’t want to pour into a glass to see its true color.

That island was the gateway to paradise―the underwater paradise that surrounded it―and my purpose was clear as its crystalline seawater: lead a brilliant group of people to study and restore corals and hand over the project to the locals.

So I was with a fantastic team of researchers and a genuine group of locals, and well… also rats, snakes, spiders, giant lizards, crabs, and, of course, a million mosquitoes. With birds that delighted your ears at times, and with cicadas at other times that produced such a high-pitched sound, it made you wonder if the male was trying to attract all the female cicadas in the world.

The Burmese island which inspired one of the settings of the novel. Credit: Neus Figueras

We worked tirelessly and managed to do a great job with very limited resources. We recycled fish traps that were washed ashore to build artificial reefs where there were only sandy patches so that the corals could have a good substrate to grow on, and we created coral nurseries using ropes and recycled plastic bottles because in these floating nurseries the corals were less likely to suffer from predation and competition and they also received better water circulation. Like this, we became proud “parents” to hundreds of baby corals that we selected from among the strongest so that when they grow up and are transplanted from the nursery to the reef, they would have a better chance of surviving global warming.

Working with this incredible ecosystem was a blessing, but it also made me truly realize that coral reefs are on the frontline of climate change, which made me want to do more for them. I wanted more people to know how magnificent and important they are, and to care enough to do something about them. And what better way to do that, than with an exciting story? After all, I’m a writer.

I have to say that Lorac’s adventure had already been taking shape in my head for some time (a syndrome from which most writers suffer), but the experiences I lived on the island made me change some parts of the story. For example, the day I met a small indigenous community of sea nomads whose way of life is in danger, I was so moved by these legitimate stewards of our oceans, that I made Lorac one of them―a Moken.

Kids from the Moken community, an indigenous tribe of sea nomads. Credit: David Van Driessche

You may have heard of the Moken because their children can see underwater, and they all survived the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami―so devastating in their region―as they knew how to “read nature” and predicted events with enough time to take shelter.

But one thing is to have an idea baking in your head, and quite another to make it a reality. Herein lies the difficulty, and what pushed me to do it is my enthusiasm to bring something different to the table, a mix of reality with a bit of magic. What I envision is connecting knowledge with feeling, and bringing life to characters that deserve it, because they will make you gasp, laugh, thrill, feel proud, and not only give you hope that we can build a better world but empower you to be a part of it yourself!

One of the 15 illustrations included in the novel. Credit: Evan Piccirillo

Fruit of my perseverance and all the people who helped me along the way, Lorac became a reality and is gathering great feedback from readers, who say it’s a fascinating story with inspiring characters easy to relate to, along with a unique and refreshing premise. More importantly, I have witnessed how this story touches people who are often hard to reach.

Some of the Lorac paperbacks! Credit: Neus Figueras

Are you ready to plunge into this adventure?

Check out Lorac’s story at https://imwithlorac.com/ and find out how the boy adopted by the ocean and his hilarious and bizarre friend Zoe, will go beyond their limits for the good of the whole planet.

This is the first novel of the solidarity project I’m With Lorac, which seeks to raise awareness and create positive change in society through storytelling, and has been accredited by the European Commission for its work in Ocean Literacy.

Let’s read the books of change!

Neus Figueras has a degree in Marine Science and an international master's in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation. She has collaborated with several Mediterranean institutions addressing jellyfish blooms, managing oceanographic data, doing outreach and restoring underwater meadows, worked with seaweed in Scotland, and led a coral restoration project in Myanmar. As an author, she has won six local and regional literary contests, studied Creative Writing, and crafts moving stories with doses of humor, science, fantasy, and action that may touch people's lives in positive waves.