One thing I love about 2017 is that it boasts a lot of diverse new releases. I once chatted with Tracey last year when I joined a chat featuring debut authors. Something about Gray Wolf Island caught my attention, which is probably the context of magical realism. Which is why when given the chance, I didn’t pass up the opportunity given to me by the Sunday Street Team to interview Tracey about her upcoming book.
Author: Tracey Neithercott
Genre: Mystery, Magical Realism
Date Published: 10th of October 2017
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Right before Sadie died, she begged her sister, Ruby, to do the one thing she could never do herself: Find the treasure on Gray Wolf Island.
With just a mysterious treasure map as a guide, Ruby reluctantly allows some friends to join her on the hunt, each of whom is touched by magic: a boy allegedly born to a virgin, a girl who never sleeps, a boy who can foresee his own death, and a boy with deep ties to the island. Each of them is also keeping a secret—something they’ll have to reveal in order to reach the treasure.
As the secrets come to light, Ruby will have to decide: Can she make peace with her friends’ troubled pasts and continue to trust them? Can she forgive herself for doing the unspeakable? Deep in the wilderness of Gray Wolf Island, Ruby’s choices will determine if they make it out with the treasure—or merely with their lives.
From debut author Tracey Neithercott comes a darkly compelling tale of profound friendship, adventure, and finding the strength to tell the truth.
AN INTERVIEW WITH TRACEY NEITHERCOTT
Tell us a little something about yourself. What do you have in common with your story?
When I was in college, I spent a semester studying abroad. I arrived in New Zealand with a couple friends and a whole lot of strangers. Over the course of six months, I formed the kind of intense friendships that feel like they’re a part of who you are and who you’ve always been. There were a lot of things that made my friendship with these girls so intense—we were away from home, exploring one of the most beautiful countries in the world, doing things we hadn’t even dared to dream of: bungee jumping, skydiving, climbing glaciers, and exploring glow-worm caves. (And, yes, some studying.)
It was an adventure, and we were living it together. That’s what I wanted for Gray Wolf Island. I knew from the very beginning it would be about friendship, and it’s primarily told from the point of view of an introverted girl like me. Over the course of the book, she’s forced into some life-changing friendships, and it reminds me of the feeling I got when I was studying abroad all those years ago.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
I love this question. There are so many great novels out there that everybody knows about, so I’m always pushing lesser-known favorites on my friends. One I completely adored was These Vicious Masks by Kelly Zekas and Tarun Shanker. I’ve heard it described as Jane Austen meets X-Men, and as strange as that sounds, it fits. Imagine a historical setting with fun superpowers and a hilariously sassy and often snarky main character. I laughed throughout the entire thing—and fell in love with all of the characters.
While writing Gray Wolf Island, did you go for an outline ahead of time or did you have this eureka moment where you just wrote to your hearts content?
I aspire to be one of those writers who can conjure and idea and, from it, an entire novel. But I’m a heavy outliner. I like the sense of control it gives me. I like knowing where I’m going before I try to get there. And I really love the brainstorming process involved in plotting the story out. Even with all that planning, though, I still have moments that surprise me—a funny line here or a twist I didn’t see coming. I’m not sure how it happens, but it feels an awful lot like magic.
What do you love the most about the writing process for Gray Wolf Island?
Then end? I’m only 17 percent kidding. What I really, truly love are the brainstorming, plotting, and revising processes. I’m a very critical writer. I have a hard time turning off my inner editor, and so I spend most of my first draft thinking I’m the least talented author to have ever met a blank screen. In revising, though, I get to go into full-on perfectionist mode without slowing myself down. I love figuring out what’s not working and then puzzling out how to fix it. All of this was true for Gray Wolf Island. The drafting was slow and painful, at least twice as long as the revising. But as my critique partner likes to joke, “It’s your process. Get used to it.”
Gray Wolf Island has an interesting cast. But out of all the characters you have created, who is your favorite and why?
An impossible question! I thought about it for a while before deciding to just cheat. Truth is, I love them each for different reasons: Ruby, for her devotion to her sister; Charlie, for his fearlessness and love of adventure; Anne, for her ability to see the good in everyone; Gabe, for his decision to be better than himself; and Elliot because though he’s a prickly know-it- all, he has a good heart. But sometimes I think my favorite of all isn’t even one of the main characters. I pretty much laughed the entire time I was writing Doris Lansing, an old lady who’s instrumental in the lives of both of my narrators.
What will be the reader’s biggest takeaway after reading Gray Wolf Island?
The book deals with a lot of different themes—grief, identity, truth, trust—but in the end I think readers will really come away with a sense of the incredible power of friendship, how people can come into your life and transform it into something better. At least I think that’s the biggest takeaway. That, or the importance of packing plenty of underwear when setting off on a treasure-hunting adventure.
I have always wanted to ask an author about this. What were your thoughts when they showed you the final cover for your book?
I loved it! Gray Wolf Island (both the book and the island in the book) is filled with bits of magic, and I thought the thick fog and clouds perfectly conveys the mystery and the something other about the island.
Lastly, what item should we have with us at all times while reading your book?
How about brown butter oatmeal cookies filled with caramel and peanut butter? It’s not required, but … they’re brown butter oatmeal cookies filled with caramel and peanut butter. Gabe is something of a baker, and there’s a certain scene where the group eats these cookies (which he found on this blog). Each time I read the scene, I got a major craving.
Tracey Neithercott’s first book was written by hand and illustrated with some really fancy colored pencils. It was highly acclaimed by her mother. Now, she writes YA stories of friendship, love, murder, and magic. (None of which she illustrates—you’re welcome.) She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, who suggests improving her novels by adding Star Wars characters.
Follow Tracey on social media!
Thank you so much to SST for letting me interview Tracey before it’s release! I am very excited to read it once it is released, and it is only a few days away. Bless.