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Saturday, May 27, 2017

An Interview with Laurel Snyder, author of Orphan Island

I'm so happy to present the below interview with Laurel Snyder, whose new novel, Orphan Island, is a gorgeous story about growing up and finding your way.

The premise of Orphan Island is incredibly unique, with an interesting blend of cozy and creepy. Can you speak about your inspiration for the island where Jinny and the other orphans live? 
Of course! 

A few years back, I was reading The Little Prince to my kids at night, and I was struck by how different that book is from so much of what we see today. I liked how the allegorical aspects got my boys thinking and talking about big ideas. Shortly after that, we read My Side of the Mountain, and again I noticed how my boys interacted with the text, especially the idea that a kid could be self-sufficient. 

The title, Orphan Island, was already in my head for other reasons (inspired by my grandfather's WWII experience at Okinawa, and the children orphaned by the war). Somehow those three things-- the title itself, the allegory of The Little Prince, and the survival elements of My Side of the Mountain swirled together and became the island. It was a very slow process, figuring out how to bring them all together. 
I was deeply moved by Jinny’s transition from carefree innocence to questioning awareness as the novel progressed. Can you speak about her character and journey? 
Jinny's growth is very much based on my own adolescent experiences. We moved when I was twelve, and it felt like a dramatic shift to me. Suddenly, I was very aware of my teendom. But also uncomfortable with it. 

Maturation is usually pretty gradual, of course, but sometimes there are these moments in life when an event or realization makes you take a leap. I want to write about that--about the leap, and how we struggle with it, even though we also desire it. 
Tell me a little bit about your writing process: Do you outline? Start at the beginning? The middle? The end? 
This book was unusual for me. I was in a funny place when I began. I felt burned out, and like I'd become too much an "author" at the expense of being a "writer." I knew I needed to disconnect from publishing a bit. I needed to get away from agents and editors and contracts and reviewers, and just write like I had when I was a kid. 

So that's what I did. I started the book longhand, on a yellow legal pad, and painted the characters and the island in watercolors. I forced myself to play. I promised myself I wouldn't show anyone anything until I was done. 

As a result, Orphan Island ended up a windier, less organized book than I typically write. Though once I was a few chapters in, the characters and plot became more clear, and I did end up outlining. 
Inspiration comes in many forms. Share three people, places, or things that inspire your creativity.
My kids, most of all. Not that I always write about them, but so often their questions and observations start the wheels spinning. 

My own childhood. Especially the rough bits. I feel like writing for a kids is a chance to revise the hard parts of my own life, and understand them better. 

Strangers. I like to people-watch, and strangers feel like big mysteries to me. We all make assumptions about people, default to stereotypes, when we encounter a new person, but I love to stare (sometimes it's probably a little creepy, honestly) at folks from a distance, and try to imagine their stories. 
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Name a notable book that provided you with a hiding spot. 
Oh, The Egypt Game! That book became deeply real in my life. I moved into it. 
What can readers look forward to next? 
I actually have 3 books coming out this spring. Most immediately, Orphan Island, but also a picture book called The Forever Garden, and the first in an early chapter book series about my own kids, called Charlie & Mouse

Looking forward, I'm not exactly sure what comes next. I'm fiddling with two ideas right now. One is a sort of companion to Orphan Island, a diary. And the other is a middle grade book set in my Atlanta neighborhood, about two very lonely girls who find each other at just the right moment! I don't usually do this-- work on two things at once-- but that's where I am. So we'll see...

More About the Book
From acclaimed author Laurel Snyder comes a deep, compelling, heartbreaking, and completely one-of-a-kind novel about nine children who live on a mysterious island.

On the island, everything is perfect. The sun rises in a sky filled with dancing shapes; the wind, water, and trees shelter and protect those who live there; when the nine children go to sleep in their cabins, it is with full stomachs and joy in their hearts. And only one thing ever changes: on that day, each year, when a boat appears from the mist upon the ocean carrying one young child to join them—and taking the eldest one away, never to be seen again.

Today’s Changing is no different. The boat arrives, taking away Jinny’s best friend, Deen, replacing him with a new little girl named Ess, and leaving Jinny as the new Elder. Jinny knows her responsibility now—to teach Ess everything she needs to know about the island, to keep things as they’ve always been. But will she be ready for the inevitable day when the boat will come back—and take her away forever from the only home she’s known?
 Purchase a copy of Orphan Island via the links below:


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