By: Jessika Fleck
Publication Date: April 3rd, 2017
The Castaway Carnival: fun, mysterious, dangerous.
Renowned for its infamous corn maze… and the kids who go missing in it.
When Olive runs into the maze, she wakes up on an isolated and undetectable island where a decades-long war between two factions of rival teens is in full swing.
Trapped, Olive must slowly attempt to win each of her new comrades’ hearts as Will—their mysterious, stoically quiet, and handsome leader—steals hers.
Olive is only sure about one thing: her troop consists of the good guys, and she’ll do whatever it takes to help them win the war and get back home.
1) The most important question first: if you were stranded on a deserted island, what are the top three things you would want to have with you? What book would you want to have with you to read on the beach?
First off, thanks so much for having me here again on Bibliobibuli YA! I love this question! Top three things I’d want to have with me if stranded on a deserted island are: 1. Coffee. 2. Flint to make a fire (and, more importantly, to boil water for said coffee!) 3. A fishing pole (despite that I have no idea how to fish. I assume I’d learn pretty quickly.)! I’m mostly practical. As for books, I’d bring the complete Harry Potter series which totally counts as one book, right? 😉
2) What is your writing process? Are you a plotter or a panster?
I’m a recovering panster, lol. The Castaways was 80% pantsed. I’ve found, after writing several novels, that pantsing makes for a long and painful editing process. I’m already not a huge fan of the editing part, so I’ve started plotting. I began slowly, baby-steps and all, but now have a pretty reliable system that involves outlines and grids and stuff (gasp!)! It’s so much easier and is a major time saver.
3) Which came first: the novel or the title?
Definitely the novel–I usually come up with titles further into a book and, will admit, I’m not super clever with them. The Castaways… *coughs* …The Offering…
4) Which do you prefer: drafting or revising?
DRAFTING. Hands down. I love, love, love honeymooning with a new story. Le swoon.
5) What is your number one writing tip?
It goes back to the whole pantsing thing, but to at least have a loose idea of where your story is headed. As in, know the beginning, middle, and especially the ending before you start drafting. This isn’t to say that all of these things could change during the process, but, for me, I’ve found if I have a grasp on these details, I’ll spend much less time wavering and taking the story places it doesn’t need to go. Also, look up the graphic for ‘Structuring Your Novel in 3 Steps’ over at helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com. You won’t regret it.
6) Describe your book in 5 words or less
Lost. Stranded. Trust. Family. Coconuts.
7) A book goes through a lot of different versions and rounds of editing before it’s complete. What are some “fun facts” or behind the scenes info you can share about the characters from your book or the world you created for it that may or may not have made it to the final draft of the book?
- What became the front quarter of the book was originally much longer. In the first draft, Olive’s parents and Tawny, the Trio, and even Lucky, had a lot more screen time. Alas, all of that build up and backstory dragged the pacing down, so it was all cut.
- A lot of romance readers probably won’t like this one… (sort of SPOILER ALERT!) Olive and Will never saw one another again in the original story. (I know!) However, it was literally written into my contract that I fix that ASAP (though it 100% was left to my discretion and creativity to figure out how). Now, I’ll admit, I liked the ending the way I originally wrote it. BUT. I like it better now.
- There was a time when I played around with several different options and twists that didn’t ever come to fruition. One was that Olive would find a way to go back to the island and take Tawny with her. Another was that once Jude and Lewis left the island they figured out how to meet up and actually traveled all over time and space seeking out kids who needed to go to the island. If you read carefully, you’ll see that the man who takes Olive’s ticket at the carnival has some of Lewis’ traits and that Blackbeard has some of Jude’s. I left those in on purpose for my own enjoyment, but that theory went by the wayside pretty quickly… too much time space continuum for my brain and this particular story.
8) Do you have a special story behind your inspiration for the book?
Not really. I mean, I think bullying is pretty universal in that everyone has experienced it or witnessed it in some form or another. It’s an important subject and one that gets brushed under the rug a lot, but can have lifelong affects on a person. But I didn’t realize I wanted to write such a story until, when I first started thinking about the story, a friend of mine was dealing with her daughter being brutally bullied at school. I was shocked at what she went through at the hands of her peers and, knowing it happens more than we hear, I knew there was an emotionally powerful story there. That fall, when we took our kids to the pumpkin patch, we went through the corn maze. As we were walking, I had one of those struck-by-lightning thoughts and knew that my main character would run from her bullies into a corn maze and then be transported somewhere else. The rest just spiraled into place.
9) Who was your favorite character to write and who gave you the most trouble?
Bug was my favorite. She’s one of those characters who’s simply a gem. I’d love to write her her own book. The most troublesome was probably Duke. He was complex, but didn’t get a whole lot of time on the page. I tried my best to show him through both the Lions’ and his fellow Panthers’ eyes. In the end, I think he was pretty well rounded and he also became one of my faves.
10) If you could ask a character of your choice from CASTAWAYS one question what would it be?
I’d want Tilly’s recipe for her ‘cure all’ coconut salve.
11) What scene from the book are you most proud of (because of how you handled the atmosphere, characters, dialogue, etc)?
Oh goodness… I can think of two. The first is when Olive sees underneath Will’s eye-patch for the first time. I very much wanted that scene to be quite vulnerable for him, but also to show how trusting he was in her by allowing that vulnerability. Since he’s both protective and ashamed of his scar, it was a big deal and I believe I was able to show that pretty effectively while keeping that moment flirty and innocent.
The second scene would be the climax. I don’t want to go into details because spoilers, but there was a lot going on with a lot of characters all at once. I had to combine action and emotion and heartbreak and confusion and I believe (I hope) I pulled it off.
12) Is there a scene that you had difficulty with and just had to “power through” to finish the book? Or a scene that made you very emotional?
When Olive first arrives on the island and is taken to the Lions’ cave she’s pretending to be unconscious. This also happens to be the scene where the reader is first introduced to anyone from the island and the book is written in the first person, so in Olive’s point of view. I had to introduce the reader to Jude, Tilly, Lewis, and Will without using any of Olive’s sight cues and only what she heard and felt. It was definitely a challenge and was rewritten several times.
13) What are the top five things we should know as a reader before starting CASTAWAYS? (about the main character, their love interest, the antagonist, their world/home town, etc)
- Olive goes through some pretty harsh bullying in the beginning. While it’s important and necessary to the story, it’s something that the reader should definitely know before reading.
- You’re not in the contemporary world very long before you’re whisked away to the island, so if you’re more a fantasy reader than a contemporary reader, just hold out a few more chapters!
- If you’re in the market for a new book boyfriend, Will is super swoon-worthy.
- There is more than one instance of vomiting (I literally just realized this).
- The bad guy is a pretty bad guy, but it’s complicated. …He’d tell you the island made him do it.
14) What research did you do for the book? Any island survival tips? Anything you discovered that was surprising?
Not a whole lot, but I looked up how to sharpen a knife, how to open a coconut, poisonous and edible tropical plants, facts on Captain Blackbeard, how to make an explosive from bat guano (this was surprising!), and types of fake blood… among other things.
15) What is next for you? What are your currently working on?
I am currently deep into revisions for my next YA novel, THE OFFERING, due to release from Swoon Reads/Macmillan fall, 2018. You can read more about it here: https://swoonreads.com/m/the-offering/
Jessika Fleck is an author, unapologetic coffee drinker, and knitter — she sincerely hopes to one day discover a way to do all three at once. Until then, she continues collecting vintage typewriters and hourglasses, dreaming of an Ireland getaway, and convincing her husband they NEED more kittens. Her work verges on fantastical and dark with a touch of realism. She is a regular contributor to the fantastic kidlit blog, Kidliterati, and is represented by Victoria Marini of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency.
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Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us. The author images and info were acquired from YA Reads Blog Tours.