Wendy Delsol’s debut young-adult novel combines big-city glamor and small-town charm with with a twist of the fantastic.
STORK (Candlewick, 2010) finds Katla moving from fashion-conscious Los Angeles to her mother’s Minnesota hometown where it’s hard to even find a Starbucks.
As Katla adapts to her new surroundings, she learns some unexpected truths about her family, her abilities and her past that guarantee her future will be different than anything she’s previously envisioned.
Wendy joins Read, Write, Repeat to discuss the inspiration for her book.
I read this book was inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s THE SNOW QUEEN Tell us a little about how your story idea evolved over time.
Evolution is a great way to describe the writing process. The spark for the book began with an “Unsolved Mysteries” TV show from years ago. In the episode, a very young boy claimed to have memories of flying around pre-birth and choosing his mother. The story haunted me.
When spinning ideas for a YA novel, I combined that image with the symbolism of storks and childbirth and created my Stork Society, a clandestine organization of women who have the supernatural gift of pairing the undecided of hovering souls with the right mother.
At the time, I was a recent transplant from Los Angeles to Iowa, so I was in the right frame of mind for a new-kid-in-town perspective. I chose Northern Minnesota as the book’s setting because I wanted my protagonist Katla to be thrown into a climate that was as close to a polar-opposite of L.A. as possible.
Knowing that Minnesota has pockets of Scandinavian communities, I invented an Icelandic heritage (and fictional town) for Katla. When conjuring Iceland in my head, idyllic images from an old TV special of Hans Christian Andersen’s THE SNOW QUEEN kept coming to mind. Somewhere along the way, Norse mythology tumbled into the mix and I knew I had more than one book in my hands — head, rather.
What research did you do into the folklore that is at the heart of the book? What were some of the interesting things you learned along the way.
I read Andersen’s THE SNOW QUEEN, of course. I’ve also researched the nine-world cosmology of Norse mythology and even read some of the Icelandic sagas. Long before writing this book, I had a strange fascination with Iceland. It has an intriguing and enduring connection with its folklore and an individualist spirit.
One of the more interesting things I learned was of modern-day Iceland’s belief in the huldufolk, which translates to hidden people and are believed to be elves or fairies. Current-day building projects are sometimes delayed or altered to prevent damage to the huldufolk’s domain. And now you have a little insight into how I decided upon the name of Hulda for the very wise and mysterious leader of my Stork Society.
What excites you most about this book?
Clearly, I’m a sucker for stories about the unknown. The idea of angels and ghosts fascinates me. And deep down I am a believer in fate or destiny, a concept this book explores.
What’s the story behind the sale of this book and its sequel?
STORK was the fourth novel I wrote (two of which will never see print; the third I’ll discuss below). Once I’d completed a rough plotting of the book and had begun the actual day-to-day writing, I was fueled by the story. I began in October of 2008 and, despite an injury to my right arm that had me hunting and pecking with my left, had a first draft in February. I sent an e-query to my agent, Jamie Brenner of Artists and Artisans, on a Tuesday. She asked for a full the same day. Over the next two days, she requested an exclusive read and e-mailed me twice with very positive comments. She signed me that Friday. After years of the slow-mo process of agent hunting, it was positively thrilling.
Jamie helped me shape and polish the manuscript, and Candlewick bought it in a pre-empt in May. FROST, STORK’s sequel, was written during the winters of 2009 and 2010 and purchased, again by Candlewick, in the spring of this year (2010).
You’ve also written for adults. Does your writing process and approach differ depending on your audience?
My third book written and second book sold is an adult novel entitled THE McCLOUD HOME FOR WAYWARD GIRLS. It will be published by Penguin in August of 2011. It is the story of three generations of women who run an inn out of a former home for pregnant teens. While not gratuitous, there are mature themes tackled in the book. As both an adult reader and writer, I am drawn to family sagas and multi-generational tales. There’s nothing like family and scandal and long-held secrets!
As to process, I tend to write third person from multiple points of view in my adult stories. For YA, I’ve found that a single first person voice best suits the genre.
Stork was listed under the “Debuts to Watch” section of the 2010 BEA. What was that like?
Of course, it was very exciting. You write what you think and hope will keep a reader turning the page, but you never really know. This mention affirmed that the concept was fresh and note-worthy.
As a debut YA author, what are your hopes for this book?
I hope that girls (and women) who enjoy lighter fare in the paranormal genre will connect with this book. Naturally, I appreciate all good reviews. Still, I have to say those that have come from the under-sixteen crowd have particularly pleased me. It was, after all, written with them in mind.
And, finally, you’ve lived in a lot of different places. What’s been your favorite spot to write?
It probably says a lot about me in general, but I’m a home-body writer. I don’t do well in coffee shops or libraries or any public place. Too many distractions. Along those lines, I prefer a quiet environment. No music, no radio, no background TV. So as long as I’m at home, wherever home may be, I can write. I don’t need views or vistas or ocean breezes, just a comfy spot and a computer or pen and paper. Well, that and a good angel story or ghost sighting or family scandal to get the what-ifs spinning.
Want to learn more about Wendy and her writing?
You can check out this interview by Sarah Mullen Gilbert.
Or, you can read these reviews of STORK:
And last but not least, remember to visit Wendy’s website.