Publishers’ Preview: Debut Authors: Five Questions for Rory Power

Publishers' Previews: Special advertising supplement in The Horn Book Magazine

This interview originally appeared in the July/August 2019 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Debut Authors, an 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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Random House

Wilder Girls might sound like it’s about a Laura Ingalls fan club, but the young women in this YA novel have been quarantined at their island school in the wake of a mysterious deadly epidemic.

Photo: Henriette Lazardis.

1. Where is the edgiest edge of the woods you’ve seen?

I went to college in northern Vermont, and the best way to get there was over a mountain pass so narrow and so in-the-middle-of-nowhere that I once had to stop to allow a moose to cross. Unfortunately I couldn’t work a moose encounter into Wilder Girls — next time!

2. Not afraid to go dark, are you?

Definitely not! I think that’s true for a lot of YA. I thought a lot about the content I wanted to include (warnings about which are listed on my website), and while I’m absolutely conscious of writing for a younger audience, I know that being young doesn’t protect you from everything. While hopefully not many teenagers out there are dealing with exactly what these characters face, I think the thematic content will be familiar to some. It didn’t feel right to shy away from that.

3. There’s a whole subgenre of books about groups of kids left on their own. What’s your favorite?

I’ll always have a soft spot for Hatchet [by Gary Paulsen] — that was the first survival story of its sort I encountered — but I particularly loved last year’s Dry [by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman]. It has such an incredible breadth of voices, done so distinctly, and the world-building is so well considered, especially given the scale.

4. What would be your strategy in similar straits?

I would fare spectacularly poorly in a situation like the one the girls find themselves in. The girls depend on each other and on their determination to keep going, whereas my strategy would be to hide for as long as possible and avoid all responsibility.

5. And, speaking of straits, will we see the girls land?

I would love to write more about Raxter Island and the girls, especially about the backstory of the island, but for me it was important to end their story with a sense of continuance, an openness. So much of being a teenager for me was wrapped up in uncertainty — not just in the future, but whether there would be a future — and I wanted readers to leave this book knowing that the girls are going somewhere. We don’t know where, but we know they’ll keep on.

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Random House

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