Today Wendy Orr, author of many beautifully written and powerful children’s and YA books, including Nim’s Island (with a strong-girl hero, a book that was so popular it was made into a movie starring Jodie Foster); Peeling the Onion (one of my personal favorites); Missing! A Cat Called Buster; and many others, is going to talk with us today about her newest book Facing the Mountain. Wendy is one of my favorite authors and people. Take it away, Wendy!
A story’s origins often start long, long before the idea that builds into a book. On the week that Facing the Mountain is released, I’m puzzling out where the story and characters came from.
Was it the summer I was eight and fell in love with the Rockies at Camp Kananaskis, in Alberta? Or when my family moved from Red Deer, to Colorado, and my dad, younger sister and I climbed Pikes Peak? Or sleeping out in the woods north of Lillooet, BC, and hearing that a grizzly had taken a camper the week before?
The truth is that too many threads go into one book to tease them all out. Some are simple and obvious: climbing a 4000m mountain, no matter how safe and near civilization, felt like a huge adventure and accomplishment. But it wasn’t the pride I started with: it was the panic of the sudden breathlessness at about 3000m. I thought that would happen to the main character, Raven, too – but when I wrote it, it was the older sister, Lily, who hit the oxygen wall.
I also thought Raven would love the mountains as I did – but the more I wrote, the more I saw that she wasn’t me, and she certainly didn’t love mountains. How could she? Her mother has remarried: Raven has been uprooted from the only home she’s ever known and the prairie town she’s always lived in. The mountains, and especially the rockfall, are a symbol of everything that’s changing in her life. Of course I didn’t see the symbolism while I was writing; that comes later. I simply thought that she didn’t like the claustrophobic feeling of trees and mountains, just like my Red Deer friend Gay, who spent two weeks with my family on Vancouver Island and loathed the closeness of the tall trees around the cabin. (In fact Raven’s personality is very much drawn on Gay’s, even though none of their story is the same. And her bossy story telling friend Jess… hmm, who could that be based on?)
But no matter who characters are based on initially, or what incident has sparked their book, the longer I write and rewrite, the more they become their own people and shape their stories themselves. That’s the magic of writing, and why it’s the greatest adventure of all.
To celebrate the release of Facing the Mountain, Scholastic Canada is giving away 5 copies on Goodreads.
About Facing the Mountain
A gripping adventure of wilderness survival from the author of Nim’s Island.
Raven is over the moon when she is the first to get to the mountaintop on a trek with her sister and new stepfather. Reaching the summit is like standing on top of the world: exhilarating and breath-taking. But her triumph is short-lived when the earth starts shaking and she takes a terrible tumble down the side of the mountain. Terrified and injured, she stumbles around looking for her family, only to realize they are alive, but trapped in a cave, impossible to reach.
Raven sets out alone to find help. But with no food, and danger lurking at every turn, how will she find her way back to civilization?
In the tradition of Hatchet, Facing the Mountain is the captivating story of a young girl’s incredible journey through unpredictable wilderness. Readers will be left breathless as Raven struggles to keep her wits about her and find the courage it takes to go on.
About Wendy Orr:
With a father in the RCAF, Wendy Orr grew up in various places in Alberta, BC, Ontario, and Nova Scotia, with spells in France and USA. She was a compulsive reader and writer from an early age, and now writes for children, young adults and adults. Her books have been published in 25 countries and languages and have won awards including the CBC (Australian) Book of the Year, American Library Association Book for older readers, and the Israeli March of Books. Wendy also worked on the screenplay that turned her book Nim’s Island into a 2008 Hollywood feature film starring Jodie Foster, Abigail Breslin and Gerard Butler. The sequel, Nim at Sea, has also been optioned. Wendy is currently working on the Rainbow Street Shelter series for Henry Holt, USA.