The Wild Wood by Julie Anne Nelson (Interview + Spotlight)
|September 17, 2013||Posted by Jenn under Blog tours|
In the town of Dunlowe, being different can be deadly. No one knows this better than the seven girls born on the exact same day, at the exact same time. From birth, they’ve been feared, judged, and controlled. And yet, still loved by their families. Still hoping for a future. Still believing that acceptance would one day come. As their seventeenth birthday approaches, events occur that leave Cecily Daye and the other girls grasping with the possibility that their oppressors might have been right about them all along. Maybe they are as evil as the town has believed. But without an answer, they must make a choice when the town turns on them: to die or to run to the one place no person would follow—they must enter The Wild Wood.
How would you describe the story of The Wild Wood to those who haven’t heard of it yet?
The Wild Wood is the story of seven girls who were born at the exact same moment in a superstitious little town (think Salem, MA, during the witch trials, only a fantasy version). All of their lives, they are treated with fear and contempt, except by their families and friends, and when the town’s leader finally decides to act on his suspicions, the Sevens have to decide what to do: to fight or to run. And worse than that choice, they face the possibility that their oppressors might have been right about them all along.
That’s a pretty good set up to the novel. My favorite thing about how you just described is that your description only pertains to the first half of the novel. There are still so many secrets in store! Personally, I hate when the synopsis gives away too much, but that was the perfect amount. Could you tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind it?
Years ago, when I was in college (one of the times… I tend to keep going back), due to school and work, I didn’t have the time or energy to launch into big projects like a full novel, but without writing, I’m a fairly grumpy person. So, I came up with a plan: I would write short projects, just three pages or so, that were inspired by famous quotes and later proverbs. I could write anything I wanted and didn’t have to have beginnings, middles, or ends—just whatever I felt like writing. Sometimes, I would keep going back to one particular story and others, I just yammered on about whatever for three pages (sometimes thirty). Years later, I was going back through the couple hundred stories and stumbled on one that still moved me. It later became The Wild Wood.
The quote that started it all: “Away, away from men and towns, To the wild wood and the downs…” from The Invitation by Percy Bysshe Shelley.
All of the books in the Sevens series are named after lines from the poem.
For any writers out there, this project proved invaluable to me because it completely took away the fear of the blank page. You just fill it and see what you’ve got, and if you don’t like it, you try again.
That’s a pretty neat writing trick – and some invaluable information to future/aspiring writers. I want you to get real creative and describe your book in 5 words or less.
Adventure, love, sacrifice, and self-discovery.
Tell us about Cecily, your heroine?
Cecily is a girl who really tries to follow the rules and really, really wants to be accepted (there are some pretty hefty penalties for her family if she doesn’t follow the rules), but more than that, she wants to understand who she is and why she was born. She constantly thinks less of herself, even when she’s being incredibly brave (she calls herself a chicken), and she can be pretty snarky when life takes unexpected turns. But when events in the town get dangerous, she’s the one the other Sevens look to and the one who is willing to risk everything to protect others.
I think that Cecily continually calling herself a chicken and then seeing what she does for the other Sevens is really telling. Not just about her personality, but about her strength as well. It’s a small tidbit that you threw in about her, but it speaks volumes.
Additionally, each of the Sevens really had their own personalities and quirks. Was it difficult to make that many characters stand out from one another and be individuals, especially when they’re such a huge part of the novel?
I love books with a bunch of characters, but yes, working with such a big cast of characters is challenging. At times during the writing, I considered paring them down, but the characters went rogue and made themselves too interesting to get rid of. And now that I am writing the fourth book (coming this December), I am so grateful I kept them all. Each one was a distinct person to me and had a purpose in the series, even if we don’t know much about them in the earlier books.
I’m always amused when characters go rouge within an authors imagine. I either picture them standing their ground sining “I’m not going anywhere” or running around while you try to catch them. Or in Stephanie’s case, throwing a tantrum and pouting until you give up!
What do you hope readers take with them after reading your work?
That nothing is what it seems. Your best friend could have a frightening battle being waged inside her, and you might not know. A stranger on the street could need a smile. We never can really tell what’s inside a person, so judging based on anything superficial is beyond useless. We all have a story, and it’s one worth listening to.