Q & A with Author & Artist Lauren Wolk

Blog_LaurenWolk_picHi Lauren! Thank you so much for stopping by the blog for a chat! I had such fun doing “research” about you.

Your debut Middle Grade Novel, WOLF HOLLOW is due out May 3, 2016. Congratulations! You previously published an adult novel, THOSE WHO FAVOR FIRE. When you sat down to write WOLF HOLLOW, how did you know it needed to be told from a child’s POV? Did you begin with that notion? Or did you have an idea and the voice came later?

The truth? I had no idea that Wolf Hollow would end up being a middle grade book. I wrote the book without any real thought to who would read it, though my default audience has always been adult. It was a huge surprise when my agent decided it was a YA or MG book. I was thrilled with the idea that young people would read Wolf Hollow, since the books I read as a young person became part of my DNA and helped me be true to who I am, but audience had nothing to do with my decision to tell the story from Annabelle’s POV. I do everything I can to avoid thinking about a book beyond how it begins. I like to be as spontaneous as possible, from the very first word. The first line of Wolf Hollow came out in the first person, and that was that. As for the character who uttered that first line: she is loosely based on how I imagine my mother was as a girl, set in a place like the farm where she grew up, leading a life somewhat like the one she led. A strong, smart girl who stubbornly follows her instincts .. and had to tell her own story.

How attached to you become to a main character? When you wrote WOLF HOLLOW, did Blog_WolfHollow_coverpicAnnabelle (your 12 year-old MC) feel more like a daughter? friend? reflection of yourself? Tell me three things (likes/dislikes) about Annabelle not featured in the novel.

I love Annabelle. Really love her, in a complicated way, since she’s a blend of daughter, mother, self, and pure fiction. As she led me through the book (and I really mean that), she did and said and thought things that made me very fond and proud of her. When I imagine her in scenes not included in Wolf Hollow, I picture her singing to herself as she walks the farm. Loving music. I picture her sitting by her window in the middle of the night, especially in winter, especially when it’s snowing, watching the world. What does she dislike? Having to wear a dress and good shoes for church. Not always knowing how to fix things that are broken.

The novel is described as having “moral complexity” and being capable of tearing your heart out (in a good way). Did you begin writing with a moral compass? Or did the story evolve into something you didn’t quite imagine when you began?
I knew a few things at the outset. Where the story would take place, mainly. That Annabelle would have a good, strong family. That she would tell big lies to protect other people. I imagined some of the other characters. But the story unfolded as I wrote it, surprising me often as it did. I believe that authentic, complex characters allowed to behave in authentic, complicated ways populate stories that resonate with readers. People are unpredictable. So is life. Sometimes, regardless of a strong moral compass, we get caught up in situations so layered that what’s “right” or “wrong” isn’t always clear. It’s important, though, to have a very firm idea of the lines we will not cross. Annabelle follows her heart, but she also knows her moral boundaries. Most importantly, she does not lie to herself.

I really enjoyed reading your essay “Creating Fiction from Truths in Wolf Hollow” posted on the Nerdy Book Club site (note: link will appear HERE.) I was transfixed by the descriptions of your family farmhouse dating back to the Revolutionary War and your memories of the root cellar and the berry patch. In drawing upon your memories when you write, you essentially describe taking a seed from real life and watching it blossom into a scene or setting or emotion that your characters can take root in. You describe this process as creating fiction from truths. Was writing WOLF HOLLOW cathartic for you? Or was it more of a celebration of your own family history?

Writing Wolf Hollow was an incredible experience for me as a writer, but it was also a chance for me to pay homage to my mother, and her family, and a way of life. When I was a child, I spent a lot of time on the family farm, and it is and always will be in my blood, a tap root, a memory-well. The book is both a celebration and a eulogy. I miss that place, and my grandparents, and that America very much.

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Old family photo: Lauren’s mother reading to her two brothers. 

I was delighted to find your poetry on your website! Each poem is so unique and tells a beautiful/heartfelt story in a condensed way. The Voice I Wish I Had and Dirt Prophets both truly resonated with me as immediate favorites. Did you ever publish your poetry? Or is it more of a hobby? Is writing poetry a release for you — whether it be emotional, political, cerebral?

You can find my poetry in literary journals from time to time. I sometimes read at open mics or feature at events. I write poetry in my head a lot, but I put it on a page only when it deserves the ink. Poetry is a release for me in the sense that it’s sometimes the best, sometimes the only way to convey an idea or experience. I am first and foremost a prose writer, but writing poetry sharpens my word-smithery. Forces me to work really hard to put the right words in the right order with as little fat as possible and great attention to the music of the language. I think the best parts of my prose are the lines that are lyrical. But I found that writing Wolf Hollow in the first person (rare for me) forced me to write lyrically only in small doses, which was good for the book.

 

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Lauren’s art: Birdhouses made from found objects. 

You are also an artist with a talent for using different mediums. Your website explains how you use “old oddities and found objects to create assemblages and mixed media pieces.” And you also “tell stories about your life and world” through photography.

Making art is my therapy. Spending time in my workshop with my huge collection of “junk” (aka treasure) and my power tools, usually in my pajamas (me, not the power tools), is incredibly therapeutic. I love to make things. And I’m constantly amazed by how people react to my work. They actually buy it. Extraordinary. And very gratifying.

 

 

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Lauren’s art: An assemblage that sits in her office. 

 

 

 

The way I make art is similar to the way I write: the pieces know what they are meant to be. I just help them along the way. And I never know where we’ll end up.

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, I must tell you how much I LOVE Cape Cod! I can see why a multi-talented artist like yourself would put roots down there! Hoping to get there again — stayed in Brewster last time but looking to try a different town this summer. Any recommendations on great places to stay, eat, read, hike? Give me the inside scoop 🙂

Let me know when you’re next coming to the Cape and I’ll send you some ideas. But please stop by the Cultural Center if you’re in the neighborhood. I’d love to meet you.

 

Thanks so much for letting me pick your brain! I’m truly looking forward to reading WOLF HOLLOW. Best of luck with the upcoming release!

Thanks so much.

For more information about Lauren, visit her website: laurenwolk.com 


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