by Kim Savage
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release Date: February 23rd 2016
(This review may contain spoilers).
While I didn’t get to take part in the travelling book reviews, the author very kindly provided an e-copy… and I found myself pulled really easily into the plot.
I connected really easily with Julia as a character. I didn’t especially like Liv from the start, but I liked how strong Julia came across. It was interesting to see the way everyone around her tried to dictate to her how she should feel and act. While I knew her mother and therapist were just trying to help her… I didn’t feel that they were paying that much attention to what Julia really needed from them.
I liked the fact that Julia carried a notebook around with her to write down her thoughts and try to work through what had happened at her own pace. I thought it was good to have bits and pieces of her experience gradually revealed through the course of the book, rather than have it all dropped at once.
I didn’t really like Paula as a character even at first. My feelings became a bit more mixed during the book, but by the time the book came to an end… I found myself returning to what I thought of her at first. It was interesting to see what her son was like, though… and how Hudson’s home life came across as so different to Julia’s.
There were some humorous elements in this book. While those were very few, I did like the slight diffusion of tension.
I really didn’t like Deborah and there were times I felt sorry for Liv and how awful she must have had it with a mother like that. I liked Kellan… but I didn’t really feel like a relationship could form fully between him and Julia. There was too much about her that he didn’t truly know… no matter how understanding he came across as.
Even by the end of the book, I was left with a lot of questions. There were some things I would have liked to be cleared up. But this book was really easy to read and drew me into the storyline with no difficulty. In the future, I would definitely be interested in reading more books by this author.
1) What originally inspired you to get into writing?
I’ve always written: stories as a child, essays as a college English major, and then the news, as a journalist. I came back to fiction after attending my first Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference. The keynote speaker was the Newbury Honoree Cindy Lord. About writing, she said she had to do it, or stop wanting it. There may have been 600 people in that audience, but she was speaking directly to me. I knew in that moment that I had to it, because I could never stop wanting it. So I wrote After the Woods.
2) Where did the idea for After The Woods come from?
I tapped memories of being a teenager, particularly that moment when friends become incredibly important. I wondered, would you sacrifice yourself for your best friend? Then I created a character who would. I also considered a reversal of that idea: would you sacrifice your best friend to save yourself? I wrote a second character who does. The reader sees how those sacrifices play out, and might wonder, when is a sacrifice noble? Is it ever not?
3) Was there any particular character that you liked or felt able to relate to?
I adore Alice, but I relate to Julia. Julia recognizes the absurdity and irony of what’s happening to her, to the point where she wonders out loud if she’s secretly on camera. Like John Quiñones might barge through a door any minute and say, “What would you do?”
Kellan picks up on this and appreciates it. Come think of it, maybe it’s Kellan I relate to. See, I learned something today!
4) Was there any particular character that you disliked?
Deborah is hard to love, but I find her funny. Who else would say, “The mother of that dead child could have been me!”?
I should add that I don’t dislike my “hate-able” characters, mainly because I understand how they got that way (more on this in an interview I did with MTVNews). In most cases, their flaws, immorality, narcissism, etc. are fated.
5) Were there any scenes in particular that were particularly challenging or easy to write?
When Julia finally decides what she must do, in her backyard, standing in a slice of trees: that was the easiest scene for me to write. Her anger had been building for three-quarters of the novel, and it’s finally unleashed.
Easy to write, in that it was pure and true, but draining.
6) Have any of your characters been inspired by real people?
All of my characters are composites. That is all (wink).
7) Are there any particular authors or books that have inspired you?
Hundreds. Lately, Shirley Jackson (especially The Lottery, The Haunting of Hill House, We Have Always Lived in the Castle), for her gift for claustrophobic, mounting terror.
8) Do you have any advice/pearls of wisdom for budding writers?
Get ready to slaughter your darlings. They’re always the first to go.