Orphan Island surpassed my expectations. Jinny is a likable yet flawed main character with a problem. She’s grown up on a magical Island that she doesn’t want to leave, even when it’s her turn to take the boat. The magical realism of this book accurately portrays childhood and the confusing feelings of growing up. The magical island of childhood is all Jinny knows. Her conflicted feelings about growing up and the magical consequences of her decisions are poignant and moving. The book is beautifully written, compelling and thought provoking.
I’m thrilled to welcome Laurel Snyder to Writer’s Rumpus so she can answer some of my unanswered questions!
Kirsti Call: My kids and I love Orphan Island. What was your inspiration?
Laurel Snyder: This book started after reading at night with my kids, a few years back! First we finished The Little Prince, and it led to some really interesting conversations, different from any we’d had before. We talked about the more mysterious elements of the book, and the difficult ending… Then, shortly after that, we read My Side of the Mountain, and my sons were enthralled with the idea of living off the land, all by themselves, without grownups. Somehow, those books mingled in my head, and the island was born. I loved the idea of mixing the mystery and allegory of The Little Prince with the survivalist and adult-free setting.
KC: Do you have a sequel in the works? (I hope so!)
LS: I don’t, right now. I’m puzzling over how I might follow up Orphan Island, and still keep the story a middle-grade book. It seems to me that when Jinny lands her boat, she’ll sort of be on the “other side” of coming-of-age. That’s tricky.
I am, however, fiddling with another book set in this world. I’m just at the beginning stage, outlining and making notes, but if it works out, it will be a journal, from the early days of the island. Abigail’s diary!
KC: Oh! I can’t wait to delve into Abigail’s life! What is your favorite book that you’ve written?
LS: I always tell kids that my favorite book has to be the next book, or I won’t be excited enough to write it, since writing is HARD.
That said, Orphan Island feels pretty special to me right now. I was pretty frustrated as a writer, when I began it, and it’s healed something. It’s brought me back to writing in a more personal way, I think.
KC: What new projects are you working on?
LS: Well, there’s the diary I mentioned, and also another middle grade novel. It’s tentatively titled My Jasper June. That one is about a girl who is very very lonely, and makes a complicated new friend over summer break. If I can pull it off, this will be my first novel without any magic in it. I think that’s important for me to try.
And then I’m finishing up a revision of a very tricky picture book that I’ve been working on for years now. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure format, but set in fairy-tale land. The main character is essentially Little Red Riding Hood, but the choices you make as you read can take her in and out of other stories.
KC: I’ve always love fractured fairy tales–both stories will definitely resonate. What advice would you give to aspiring kidlit authors?
LS: I give all writers the same advice, pretty much, which is that they need to sit alone in a quiet space for 5 minutes, and just think, before they start writing.
We live in an increasingly loud and busy world. Writing requires silence and calm. If you always have information coming IN, it’s hard to listen to your own thoughts and get anything OUT.
So that’s become very important for me. I do a lot of my thinking in the bath!
KC: Thank you Laurel! I love the idea of thinking or meditating for 5 minutes before writing. To win a copy of Orphan Island, enter this Rafflecopter.
Laurel Snyder is a poet, essayist, and author of picture books and novels for children, including Orphan Island, Charlie and Mouse, Bigger than a Bread Box, and Swan, the Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova. She is also a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and a faculty member of Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. She lives in Atlanta with her family and can be found online at www.laurelsnyder.com.