It’s time to Kick Back with Kick-butt!
Today we’re chatting with Jessica Vitalis, the author of
THE WOLF’S CURSE
Twelve-year-old Gauge’s life has been cursed since the day he witnessed a Great White Wolf steal his grandpapá’s soul, preventing it from reaching the Sea-in-the-Sky and sailing into eternity. When the superstitious residents of Bouge-by-the-Sea accuse the boy of crying wolf, he joins forces with another orphan to prove his innocence. They navigate their shared grief in a journey that ultimately reveals life-changing truths about the wolf––and death.
Let’s talk to this wonderful author about her excellent book!
This is Jessica. Everyone say, “Hi, Jessica!”
Welcome to Kick-Butt Kidlit, Jessica! Why don’t we start with some introductions – tell us about yourself!
Thank you for having me! I’m a Columbia MBA-wielding children’s author with a passion for dark, magical stories. I’m also a mother of two teen girls and the keeper of two adorable (but mischievous) cats as well as one sweet dog. As an American expat living in Canada, I spend most of the time I’m not writing trying to stay warm.
What was the inspiration behind THE WOLF’S CURSE?
I was standing in front of my bookshelves, casting about for inspiration, when I noticed my worn copy of THE BOOK THIEF. I wondered what kind of story would emerge if I tried writing a book with Death as the narrator. And so THE WOLF’S CURSE was born!
What were you doing when you found out there was an offer on your book? (We always love these stories here at Kick-butt Kidlit!)
I was sitting at my computer when a notification of a new email from my agent flashed across my screen. I’d only been on submission for three weeks, and after several years on submission for various projects with my previous agent, I didn’t expect any news for several weeks, if not months. I opened the email and discovered not only that it was a very attractive offer from one of my dream publishers, but that they’d offered a two-book deal. I started shrieking and (ugly) crying; my daughters heard the commotion and ran in the room. I read them the email and the three of us danced and cried for the next several minutes while I tried to calm down enough to call my agent and hold a (semi) rational conversation. You can read the full story of how I got my agent and two-book deal (and see the photo my daughter snapped when she first ran into the room) here.
That photo is the BEST! Love the joy on your face!
What were three interesting things you discovered while working on THE WOLF’S CURSE?
The most interesting discovery is that the attitudes and rituals surrounding death look different all around the world. For example, a traditional practice among Buddhists in Tibet is Sky Burials, where bodies are placed at the tops of high peaks in order to feed vultures as part of the food chain. The Tinguian people of the Philippines wash their loved ones bodies, dress them in finery, and seat them at the front of the house for up to several weeks. The realization that there are many different ways to grieve and honor the dead opened a door that allowed me to develop my own rituals for THE WOLF’S CURSE.
The second thing I learned while writing THE WOLF’S CURSE is that, despite my best intentions, my stories are probably always going to combine elements of dark and light. I’d written five full manuscripts before this novel, and they were all fairly heavy. When I decided to write a book with Death (or a death-like character) as the narrator, I decided I would have fun with it—I thought perhaps I’d write an adventure or even a comedy. Although there are elements of adventure and humor in the story that emerged, no one will ever accuse me of having written a comedy!
Finally, I learned a lot about wolves, including the fact that although they have a reputation for being independent (hence the term “lone wolf”), they are actually pack animals and extremely loyal. Did you know they often mate for life?
If you could transport your characters across book dimensions, which book would you most like them to end up in and why?
What a fun question! Both Gauge and Roux are interested in seeing the world, so they’d probably enjoy leaving their French-inspired medieval/renaissance lives and exploring the modern world. I think they would get along with Kitty from Yvette Clark’s GLITTER GETS EVERYWHERE, so perhaps they could tag along with her in both London and New York?
That sounds like an adventure and a half!
Why were you drawn to writing middle grade?
My first attempt at a novel was a memoir and my second was a young adult novel. At the same time, I was exploring picture books. My critique partners kept telling me that my picture book attempts all sounded like the first chapters of middle grade novels. It wasn’t until I finished David Almond’s KIT’S WILDERNESS that I realized middle grade was the perfect fit for the stories I wanted to tell.
Any hints about your next book project?
The only thing I can say at this point is that the premise is both the exact opposite of, and a perfect complement to, THE WOLF’S CURSE!
Ooooh! Can’t wait to hear more!
What has been the most surprising part of your publishing journey?
How long it’s taken; I wrote six books over the course of thirteen years before landing my first book deal!
What are you reading right now?
I just finished Heather Kassner’s THE PLENTIFUL DARKNESS (so gorgeous and creepy and heartfelt!), and I’m getting ready to start THE MANY MEANINGS OF MEILAN by Andrea Wang.
What’s your favourite piece of kick-butt advice?
Never give up!
Thank you so much for joining us, Jessica!
Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out THE WOLF’S CURSE!
It hits shelves on September 21st!
Click here to enter to win a copy of THE WOLF’S CURSE!
Contest ends Friday, September 10th at 11:59 pm EST
Thanks for reading!