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Five Questions for Patrick Ness

Publishers' Previews

This interview originally appeared in the September/October 2017 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Fall Publishers’ Preview, a semiannual advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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Photo: Helen Giles.

Adam has an intense, life-changing day; meanwhile, the ghost of his recently murdered classmate Katherine roams the town. For both, Release is about searching for what’s next, and learning what they can leave behind.

1. Is there a single day in your life that holds particular importance?

August 23, 1989, the day I left for college. I felt — rightly or wrongly — that my real life could begin. Life, of course, always turns out to be more complicated than that, but boy, do I remember the day I moved two states away. Freedom.

2. Can you talk about the influence of Dalloway and Forever on Release?

Both do what all the best books do: they break the rules. Forever in its candor and compassion, Mrs. Dalloway in its form. I read them when I was a teenager, and they blew the doors off of what I thought fiction “had” to do. They were very important to my development as a writer, and are still very close to my heart.

3. Which came to you first, Adam’s realistic story line or Katherine’s ghostly one?

Adam came first. He’s the most like me, and someone I’ve wanted to write about for a long time. I was just waiting for the right way to tell his story. I knew what I wanted him to do, and I was starting to play with the Mrs. Dalloway idea. I loved the concept of two completely different characters asking the same questions, perhaps finding different answers. And lo, Katherine was born.

4. Where did the idea of the faun and Katherine as the “Queen” come from?

I genuinely have no idea. Katherine stood up, left the lake to find her murderer, and suddenly a faun was watching her go. I could only follow where they led.

5. Adam has many charged encounters in the novel. Which scene was the hardest to write?

The one with his boss. It’s such an important scene. I really hate books that use sexual harassment in a cheap way, so I’ve always left it out. But this type of harassment is not uncommon, unfortunately, and the vile things his boss says seem to validate all the worst things Adam believes about himself. I spent a long time trying to get it right. It had to hit hard, even though very little physical happens in the scene. It was difficult. But I think for this story it was necessary.

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