Lucy Christopher, author of the highly successful novel Stolen, just released her latest book, The Killing Woods, a dark suspenseful story full of twists and turns. We were lucky enough to get to chat with Christopher for an exclusive interview on The Daily Quirk about how she spends her time when she’s not busy writing, which book character she would like to be for a day and of course The Killing Woods. Check out the interview below and then enter to win a copy of Christopher’s books Flyaway, Stolen and The Killing Woods!
The Daily Quirk: From the sound of your bio page, you seem to have led a very interesting life so far. Can you tell our readers a bit about how you made the decision that writing was what you wanted to do?
Lucy Christopher: I always knew I wanted to write, but I wasn’t always sure that I wanted to be a writer. When I was younger I tried out lots of different jobs: working in hospitality, as an actor, and as a nature guide. It was only after I did my masters degree in Creative Writing that I really became serious about wanting to publish novels. I realized then that writing a novel offered something that no other job could give me — the freedom to explore thoughts and emotions, the opportunity to connect with other people on deeper levels, and the chance to uncover my deeper thoughts about things.
TDQ: And what kinds of fun things do you like to get up to when you’re not writing?
LC: Most of the things I love to do when I’m not writing involve adventures of some sort. I love to travel, and with many of my friends and family scattered across the globe this is something I do a lot of. I adore Africa, and try to visit that wonderful continent as often as I can. I also read (non-fiction as well as fiction — poetry, too!) and watch films and eat delicious food. But my favorite hobby is riding horses. I ride a grumpy chestnut mare named Topaz — on some days she is my best friend in the world!
TDQ: If you could have any other job, besides being a writer, what do you think you’d find yourself doing?
LC: I actually have really liked nearly all the jobs I’ve ever done, and I think there are lots of jobs out there that I would be happy doing. My dream job would be an extension of a volunteer experience I had, working on a game farm in South Africa that led horse trails to view the wild animals. If I could also find a way to teach local African kids while I was there, it would be wonderful. And if I could write there, too . . . perfect!
TDQ: Your first novel, Flyaway, changed quite a bit from its original draft. Was it hard making those changes to the story, considering it was your first book that you had written?
LC: More than anything, Flyaway taught me how to write. I completely redrafted that novel ten times: changing its tense, perspective, themes, and audience. I worked on that novel for at least four years before it was eventually published. Yes, it was difficult making those changes — of course! — but I also knew that for the novel to be any good, those changes had to be made. Looking back, I’m glad for Flyaway’s process: It was hard at the time, but all things worth doing are hard, I think.
TDQ: You received a Printz Honor Award for your novel Stolen in 2011. Will you describe what it was like when you found out you’d been given the award, and the experience itself?
LC: When I heard I’d won a Printz Honor Award, it was during a crackly phone call at nine o’clock on a Sunday night. I was at my mother’s house in deepest, darkest Wales and, to be honest, I was extremely confused. We had a bad phone line, and all I could hear from the other end was a bunch of female voices, whom I didn’t know, laughing and shouting at me that I’d won something about a prince? I texted my US editor straightaway, who called me back to explain what it all meant. Once I understood what had actually happened, I was enormously excited and honored. The award ceremony itself was great fun — loads of lovely people in a room, all laughing and being excited about books for teenagers! I’m so thrilled Stolen got recognized like this.
TDQ: Your most recent novel, The Killing Woods, deals with several issues spanning from teenage alcohol and drug use to post-traumatic stress disorder with a good bit of murder thrown in. How did you draw inspiration to write the novel?
LC: The Killing Woods was a complicated and tricky novel to write, and it took me three years to do so. When I started the story it was set in Africa, with a very different plot line. I even went to the Nigerian rain forest to research it. However, when I returned home to Wales to write the novel, I found it very difficult. I decided I didn’t know the rain forest setting well enough to write convincingly about it. So, in desperation, I took long walks through the woods behind my house to figure out what I was going to do.
Eventually, a story came . . . though not the one I expected! I began to think about the woods I was walking through, began to imagine what could be the very best and the very worst thing that could happen in that setting. I was also reading a lot about the deployment of troops from Afghanistan and how the mental health systems in the UK were experiencing a huge strain on their services because of this. I also read an article that really shocked me, reporting that one in ten prisoners in the UK had been in the army. I started thinking a lot about post-traumatic stress disorder, the stigma around returning soldiers, and about those woods behind my house as well — then I applied all this to a teenage perspective. The Killing Woods emerged.
TDQ: Was there a particular scene or chapter of The Killing Woods that you found hard to write?
LC: I found much of The Killing Woods hard to write. But a novel that tackles the theme of darkness head-on is hardly going to be easy, is it? The ending of The Killing Woods was the hardest part: I wrote it in several different ways before I decided which ending felt most “true.”
TDQ: And now, for a bit of a fun question. If you could walk in the shoes of your favorite character from a novel for one day, who would it be and what would you do?
LC: Surely that’s got to be Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games— I would kiss BOTH Gale and Peeta and compare notes. Then I would sit in the forest awhile!
The Daily Quirk
would like to thank Lucy Christopher for telling us a bit about herself and her books. To find out more about Christopher, you can visit her Official Site, like her Author Page on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. To find out more about The Killing Woods you can visit the Official Book Site and watch the video below of Lucy reading from the book!