The Secret Passage that Led Me Back to My Middle Grade Novel!

I have been dragging a certain Middle Grade novel around with me for a few years now. Seriously, it’s ridiculous how many times I have taken it out and edited it, read it, or simply slapped it upside the head.

I don’t know what it is about this novel. When I’m IN it, it captures me completely. But when I get some distance from it, I feel super unsure of it. I have not yet moved to prepare it for the trip to the agent’s desk. I keep planning on doing so, but I keep stopping myself from clicking send.

Well, as one is wont to do on a Saturday…I spent last Saturday in a castle. As I toured the ramparts and the basement and the secret rooms and the conservatory and the library and the bedrooms and the garrets, I thought nothing of my little novel in hiding.

Casa Loma - High Tea - February 1, 2014
Casa Loma – High Tea – February 1, 2014

It wasn’t until I came across a passage that brought me from the basement wine cellar to the upstairs study that it hit me. My god! I’m inside the walls! When that realization hit me, the whole story of DUBIOUS PICKLES AND THE SPACE BETWEEN THE WALLS came back to me. I have so many feels for Dubious, the strange middle-aged character of my middle grade book. I love him to pieces.


While standing in the narrow stairwell that would take me to the study, I allowed my friends to get ahead of me so I could capture the moment between the castle walls on film. I wanted to have this reminder to fall back on for the next time I opened up the dusty manuscript.

Little did I know, that moment on the secret stairs between the castle walls would reignite my passion for Dubious and his quirky little story.

I need to get back to this story!

Here’s a first draft synopsis for Dubious:

Everyone in Dobber Corner is afraid of Dubious Pickles. Everyone that is, except ten-year-old Arbour Lévesque. After an encounter with Dubious at the local thrift shop, Arbour knows there is nothing to fear. But when he follows Dubious home and peeks inside his windows, he discovers the world of impossibilities in which Dubious lives. Arbour witnesses a walking talking plastic man, a flying cat and a staircase that does everything twice.

Arbour decides to befriend the shy Dubious, but he knows it won’t be an easy task. He badgers his friends to help him infiltrate Dubious’ magical house. Inside, they discover that Dubious lives in a maze of secret passageways that honeycomb his mansion’s ancient walls. Afraid of their attention, Dubious attempts to scare the boys away. When drowning them in a room of pearls doesn’t do the trick, he tosses them into a cavernous abyss that takes them all to Nowhere Fast. Arbour’s brother Newton, a card-carrying genius-inventor-extraordinaire, lends a hand and the boys are able to overcome every obstacle Dubious throws their way.

The boys eventually convince Dubious they mean him no harm, but coaxing him out from behind his walls is but a short-lived victory. Bad things begin to happen in their town and the adults are quickly vanishing. Arbour knows that only the childlike Dubious can help him save the town from a threat more menacing than Dubious Pickles ever was.

So, as I battle to finish another project I’m nearing the end on…I now feel the need to keep this Dubious passion alive once more. I’m going to be looking at this picture of the stairwell often to help remind me of the story. I have officially marked it as my next project to bring to completion.

God! Why is it that writers have such a hard time finishing an idea before they move on to the next one. Life would be so much easier for me if I just wrote linearly. I won’t even go into how many WIPs I have on the go right now. I’ll just say I can’t count them on one hand. This makes me all jittery and panicky…so I don’t like to think about it.


In case you’re wondering what the heck I would be doing in a castle, I visited Casa Loma in Toronto. They were having HIGH TEA as part of the city’s WINTERLICIOUS festivities. The tea was fantastic! And so was the tour of the castle. It was about 35-40 years since I last stepped foot in Casa Loma.


Thank God I was lucky enough to take a stroll between the walls of this amazing castle this past weekend. That stroll has helped to reignite the flame. (-:

Now, on to Dubious, Arbour and the rest of these crazy characters! They deserve to see their story completed.

By Kevin Craig

Author, Poet, Playwright. Author of The Camino Club, Billions of Beautiful Hearts, and Book of Dreams, all from Duet Books, the LGBTQ Young Adult imprint of Chicago Review Press. Other books: Pride Must Be A Place, Half Dead & Fully Broken, Burn Baby Burn Baby, The Reasons, Sebastian's Poet, and Summer on Fire.

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