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S.J. Wills

Author of the new early teen mystery-horror 'Bite Risk' discusses her writing process.

My review of  the book is here.


1) Who or what inspired you most to write Bite Risk?


I remembered the kind of books I used to love when I was growing up (and still do love) – books such as The Tripods, with worlds in them that are a lot like ours, but weirder, with people living in them who don’t even realize how strange it all is. The idea didn’t come because I was hugely into werewolves, or anything like that - they were a useful peg to hang the story on. I knew I didn’t want to stick to all the usual tropes that go with them; I wanted to make them my own.


2) The book is pitched at an early teen readership, bridging the gap between Upper MG and YA. What were the main challenges of writing for this age?


You’re always going to get a variety of tastes and readiness for different levels of intensity in fiction, so it’s impossible to hit the perfect notes for everyone, even within that relatively narrow target age group. I wanted teen readers to be thrilled and occasionally grossed out, but not traumatized. I initially held back more than I needed to, and my editors encouraged me that it was OK to push some scenes a little further. So I rolled up my sleeves, cackling evilly, and did that.


3) Avoiding spoilers, there are twists and shocks at the end of Bite Risk. Did you always know a bigger plan for the story or did it evolve through the writing of it?


After coming up with the initial concept – being a werewolf is normal – I went ahead and wrote the first chapter, which has pretty much remained the same right from the first draft. That was the image I had in my head: a teenage boy going down to feed his mum, who’s locked in a cage so she can’t kill him. And then there are his mates, who are all doing the same, on what is a perfectly ordinary night for them all. After that, I asked myself lots of ‘why’ questions, came up with a sort of plan, wrote a little more. Then I stepped back a bit and decided which bits would be fun to turn upside down and inside out. After that, while I was writing, I’d notice little details and symmetries that I could tie together or subvert.

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