By Sarah Murphy Traylor
Today we’re pleased to welcome Natalie Lund to the WNDB blog to discuss her new YA novel The Wolves Are Watching, out October 4, 2022!
The night little Madison disappears from her crib, Luce sees a pair of eyes–two points of gold deep in the forest behind her house–and feels certain they belong to a wolf. Her town, Picnic, Illinois, is the kind of place where everyone knows one another and no one locks their doors. It’s not the kind of place where a toddler goes missing without a trace, where wolves lurk in the shadows.
In town, people are quick to blame Madison’s mom. But when Luce’s English teacher shares an original script about the disappearance of another little girl in Picnic back in 1870, Luce begins to notice similarities that she can’t ignore. Certain that something deeper is going on, Luce tracks the wolf she saw into the woods and uncovers the truth about her town: magical animal-women, who have remained hidden in shadows for centuries, have taken her cousin for their own purposes–and they have no intention of bringing her back.
A chilling mystery that weaves elements of magical realism, drama, and folklore into a story of one teen’s bravery as she confronts her town’s past and tries to save the future.
Describe your experience as a reader and writer when you were growing up.
Books were really big in my household. My mom would always read with me every night before bed. We would squeeze into the recliner and she would read to me, I would read to her, or we would take turns. I read this way for as long as I can remember. Eventually, I was a huge consumer of the books on her shelves, and we would get books at library together. I don’t remember when I started writing, but I remember making these little books. My mom would use scrap cloth as covers and twine them together with yarn—and I would illustrate and write stories inside. In 4th grade, a friend and I wrote a novel together about a pair of girls who were friends—one was a ghost and one was alive.
What inspired your interest in ghosts?
Casper the Friendly Ghost was a movie I remember loving around the time my friend and I wrote our novel, but I’m not sure if that’s really what inspired my interest in ghosts. In middle and high school I read a ton of the Fear Street series by RL Stine, and I read several books by Stephen King. I think I’ve always been drawn to stories of a world beyond what we see around us, or that break the rules of the world we inhabit.
What other books were formative or where you saw yourself?
I first saw myself in Little Women. Like lots of little girls who love reading and writing, I saw myself in the stubborn, strong-willed Jo.
What types of books were your favorites?
I went through a phase where I liked horse books, and I read a series about a girl who was a jockey. While I wasn’t a horse person, I lived in the fantasy of being one and read the whole series and the off-shoots of other characters in that universe. I then went through a sci-fi and fantasy phase. There were more phases—John Grisham and courtroom dramas or Agatha Christie and mysteries. I would read a genre or author and would get excited to read more like that. I would burn through a lot of books on one topic or in one genre and then turn my attention to something else. Mostly, I read books that were intended for adults. When I was young, there were not a lot of books in the YA range. Books about teens were either written for adults or they were heavy-handed and not as many realistic portrayals as you might see now.
What tips do you have for writers as a writer of Young Adult and/or mystery or suspense?
No matter if you write realistic fiction, suspense, mysteries, or ghost stories, the rules of the universe have to be very clear and logical. During the revision process, my editor would ask why something worked a certain way, and if I didn’t have an answer, I had to come up with one. As a writer, you have to understand the context, even if it does not end up in the book, to explain why something happens the way it does. For example, in the first draft of The Wolves Are Watching, there weren’t interstitial sections telling the story of these fairy-creatures in the novel, the Vila. I knew that readers needed to better understand how Vila work, and that Fanya, one of the perspective characters, would not be a good vehicle—given her age and limited understanding—to explain how they operate in their world. So I wrote the history of the Vila and included it between chapters.
Fanya’s perspective and voice are incredibly unique. What was your process like in writing her?
It was fun to write her. I like to write in unique voices. For Fanya’s voice, I felt out as I was going how she described the world around her, and then I went back and revised for consistency. Once I was in the revision stage, I created a glossary for Fanya—what she capitalized, what terms she used, what she emphasized, or how she said things. There were definitely phrases I had to play with. Like how does someone who does not cook and has never used a pot describe it? Or a couch? Or noodles?
What other tools do you use in your writing?
I keep a spreadsheet of the chapters when writing. I have the chapter name, date and time, the POV, and then a brief description. I don’t always start the spreadsheet right away, but in revising, it is critical since I need to be able to quickly reference what happens in each chapter, so I can jump to a particular chapter to revise something if necessary. It is also helpful if I need to reorder things or change the timeline.
What spooky reads do you recommend?
I just finished The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglas. It is about a boy who is a medium and one of few Black kids in a prep school outside of Atlanta. He starts to be haunted by a ghost. I also recommend House of Hollow by Crystal Sutherland for another spooky read.
What do you hope people experience or feel when reading The Wolves are Watching?
I wanted to write a book that I enjoyed reading and I thought other readers might enjoy. I think that has to do with me becoming a parent and having a harder time consuming books that make me feel sad or upset. I want to spend my reading life with more joy and life. I’m hoping readers who are seeking a a little lightness, beauty, and happiness find their way to this book.
Are you working on a new project?
Yes! A YA Horror book.
Natalie Lund is the author of the young adult novels, The Wolves Are Watching, The Sky Above Us, and We Speak in Storms. She is a former middle and high school teacher and a graduate of Purdue University’s MFA program. Natalie lives in Chicago with her family. You can follow her on Instagram at @nmlund.
Sarah Murphy Traylor is a Blog Volunteer with We Need Diverse Books. Sarah works as an educator in Houston, Texas, supporting teachers across multiple school districts and is driven by the belief that all students deserve access to an excellent education. A lifelong reader and former English teacher, Sarah is thrilled to join the We Need Diverse Books Volunteer Team and can be found sharing books on Instagram at @smtlovestoread. Sarah enjoys delicious restaurants, participating in competitive trivia events, creating awful puns, and taking walks with her husband and daughter.