A race to survive
14th Apr 20

A race to survive

The unexpected discovery of a safe leads to a chase, adventure and a fight for survival for a group of children in Wales. Author JESS BUTTERWORTH tells us more about WHERE THE WILDERNESS LIVES.

Q: What made you decide to be an author?

A: When I was ten years old, my school participated in a writing workshop with author Philip Pullman. It was the first time I had met a real life author. I already loved creating stories and using my imagination, so I decided there and then that I wanted to be an author, just like him.

I wanted to write for children because the books I read when I was a child are the ones that have stayed with me my whole life.

A stand out idea for me has characters and themes I care about, nature and animals, and a fast-paced adventure plot.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about your new book, Where the Wilderness Lives?

A: Where the Wilderness Lives follows five characters who, after finding a locked safe in the canal, are forced to flee into the deep Welsh wilderness because there's someone else after the safe, too.

The book's filled with British landscapes, adventures, and friendships. It's inspired by outdoor places I loved growing up in, my relationship with my siblings (I'm the oldest of four and the youngest are twins), and my passion for caring about our environment.

Q: What brought you to Wales for this story? Do you know the area well?

A: My aunt, uncle and cousins live in Wales and throughout my whole life my family would visit them regularly. I used to love walking along the cliffs and over Angel mountain, the mountain in the story, and remember not wanting to leave.

Q: The story begins with the children finding a safe in a canal. Why did you decide to make what they found a safe?

A: I loved the idea of a safe because there could be any number of things inside. The only thing for certain is that the object must have been important enough to someone to put inside a safe in the first place! I also remembered reading a news article where a safe really was pulled out of a canal.

Q: The family you feature in the book live on a narrow boat - is this something you've done?

A: I lived on a narrowboat from the age of 19 until I was 23. I used to love cycling and walking along the towpath, watching all the ducks, swans, and the occasional fox and badger, and sitting on the roof of the boat on a sunny day. The lows include the canal freezing one winter, and slipping and falling into the canal on more than one occasion!

Q: Cara, your main character, is bullied feels excluded at school partly because living on a boat makes her 'different'. Why did you want to explore the impact that bullying can have?

A: When I was Cara's age I was also bullied and felt excluded by my friendship group. I think because for so much of this story I was thinking back to my own 12-year-old self and my wants and fears at that age, it felt natural and important to include these moments and draw from my own experiences.

Q: One of Cara's brothers, Enzo, is deaf, which brings in the wonderful support dog, Willow. Why did you decide to include a child who is deaf in the family, and how do you feel that strengthens the siblings' bonds?

A: My brother-in-law and father-in-law is deaf and my husband's family use sign language. When developing the characters in the story, I spent time thinking about different sibling bonds, including my husband's wonderful relationship with his siblings, and Enzo quickly became a clear character in my mind.

Q: Who is your favourite support character, and why?

A: That's a tough question! I love Willow the dog because she is giant and lazy but saves the day more than once!

Q: There are lots of stand-out scenes during the events in this story, which did you have the most fun writing?

A: I adored writing the scenes set in the Celtic rainforest in Wales because I love the nature setting and the animals in it, like the adorable dormouse. I also enjoyed writing the survival scenes when the characters are lost in the wilderness, as well as a scene when they're all on the roof of the boat, watching the stars.

Q: Where do you prefer to write, and what are you working on now?

A: I'm working on another standalone novel called Into the Volcano, set between Britain and Yellowstone national park in the States. I begin my books in a notebook, then when I have a clear idea of the story I start writing on my computer.

Q: What are your favourite escapes from writing - in normal times, and now?

A: Reading! And normally I like to spend time outside, especially walking and hiking, and spend time with friends and family. At the minute, I'm trying new ways of being creative inside like drawing, cooking and making music, and being active with dance and yoga.

Q: Do you have three recommended reads we can share with our members?

A: Definitely! I'm currently loving The Infinite by Patience Agbabi, The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Rauf and The House of Light by Julia Green.

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