Rachael Craw has been voted for by teenagers all over New Zealand to become a
finalist in the Children’s Choice Young Adult Fiction category, for her first YA book, Spark. This is the first in a trilogy, of which the second, Stray, will be published later this year by Walker Books. According to Booksellers NZ reviewer, Renee Boyer-Willisson, “Evie is a great protagonist – like the Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen she is a strong female character, but with flaws and insecurities that make her human and relatable.”
So how did this idea come to fruition? And where in the YA genre does it sit? Here are the answers:
1. As an author, you must have a lot of ideas floating around. How did you decide to
write this story in particular?
I knew I wanted to write a YA story with a strong female protagonist and I knew I wanted the story to have some kind of fantastical element that gave the character powers or abilities beyond the norm, but I didn’t have a premise. One night I sat on my bed and prayed for an idea. I went to sleep and had the dream that became the prologue of Spark. In the dream I ran through a forest at night with phenomenal speed, strength and reflexes. Then I was gripped by a terrible sense of urgency and I knew there was someone out there lost in the dark in great danger. I knew I had to get to this person before a killer did. I woke from the dream and knew I had my idea and began to ask lots of questions: how was I so fast/strong etc? How did I know there was someone lost in the dark? Why was it my responsibility etc? Why was someone trying to hurt this person? And the ideas began to flow. The special abilities didn’t feel like magic – they felt like radioactive spider bite material – something designed in a lab.
2. Tell us a bit about the journey from manuscript to published work. What was the biggest challenge you faced in publishing this book?
Writing Spark was a five-and-a-half year-long learning curve from inception to publication. I had lots of passion for the story and an obsession with words, but I needed to learn how to write. Having my work professionally assessed, and later a year of mentoring, made all the difference. Barbara and Chris Else, who eventually offered to represent me as literary agents, were tremendous guides and advocates for me in developing my craft.
The biggest challenge for me in writing is having perspective – I’m always looking for it and never feel as though I am finding it.
3. How did you tailor this book to the age-group it reaches?
Choosing a seventeen-year-old protagonist shaped the story by itself. Evangeline’s voice came to me very quickly. I knew she would be an intelligent, reserved person, with a strong sense of self, made vulnerable by grief. I wanted to explore identity and free-will in the extreme context of genetic engineering. Playing that story out in a grieving teenager’s life provided a naturally dramatic platform for that exploration. School, family, friends and first love can be complicated enough – but it becomes a nightmare when you’re bound by DNA to fight to the death to save the life of your best friend.
4. Who have you dedicated this book to, and why?
This book is dedicated to my birth mother and my adoptive parents. Meeting my birth mum definitely influenced the writing of Spark. It highlighted to me the intense power of DNA and it seemed incredible to me that I could be so like someone with whom I had never spent any time. Aside from the thrill of discovering physical resemblance the behavioural similarities temperament/personality, talents, mannerisms, seemed astonishing to me. It made me wonder how much of whom we are destined to become is already written into us at a cellular level.
5. Can you recommend any books for young adults who love this book?
Reviewers most often recommend Spark for fans of Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series, Kathy Reichs’ Virals series and Veronica Roth’s Divergent series.
6. What is your favourite thing to do when you aren’t reading or writing, and why?
Binge watching internet television! I recently re-watched the entire series of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. It was utterly blissful. I love internet TV because it’s when and where you want it and as much as you like (now I sound like an advert). I prefer a 3-episode minimum and NO delayed gratification.
If you want to know more about Rachael, check out her website here.
For reviews of her book, check out the Booksellers NZ review here.
There is a Spark discussion guide available here.
This is day five of the blog tour featuring each of the finalists in the Children’s Choice category of the awards, and the last of the YA features. Tomorrow’s feature will be picture book I Am Not a Worm, by Scott Tulloch, which will be covered on the Thrifty Gifty blog.
What you might have missed from the Young Adult list:
Night Vision, by Ella West – review | interview | giveaway
Awakening, by Natalie King – review | interview | giveaway
The Red Suitcase, by Jill Harris – interview | giveaway
I Am Rebecca, by Fleur Beale – review | interview