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Q&A with ‘Wolf By Wolf’ author, Ryan Graudin: wolf-dogs, WWII & what inspired such an original story

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Ryan GraudinWe had the amazing opportunity to chat with Ryan Graudin, author of ‘Wolf By Wolf’ about first kisses, YA cliches and what prompted her to write such a unique book. 

Hi, there Ryan! It’s fantastic to have you on MaximumPop! and we’d love to ask you a few questions we just know that you’ve asked yourself from time to time. Thanks so much for having me! I’m thrilled to be here!

 We know all authors have to be at least a tiny bit fond of their writing. Can you quote your favourite line from your own work? It helps to have faith in yourself. In fact, it’s essential in this industry! J My very favorite line from ‘Wolf By Wolf’ comes from the end of Chapter 33. Some of the power might be lost out of context, but I think this passage pulls the entire novel together perfectly:

“These were the names she whispered in the dark.

These were the pieces she brought back into place.

These were the wolves she rode to war.”

 And obviously, authors not only love writing, but are big book nerds too. What’s your fave book EVER? Just one book? Ack! I’m going to cheat a little and say all of the Harry Potter novels! I grew up reading the series. They were incredibly formative to me, not just as a reader, but as a human being. JK Rowling created something so timeless, every time I reread them I find new nuances and deeper meaning in Harry’s story. I was actually a Teacher’s Assistant for a Harry Potter English Class at university (and did an independent study on the series). Learning just how much literary tradition and allegory and symbolism Rowling infused into the books is mind-blowing. When a work can be relative to both a six-year-old child and a full grown adult, that means it’s something special.

 What inspired you to write such a unique story? We don’t think we’ve ever come across anything quite like it! History was always one of my favorite subjects in school. As an author, my job is to always be asking questions about the world and imagining different outcomes. Alternate history is an established genre in adult fiction, but when the seeds of ‘Wolf By Wolf’ started sprouting in my imagination, there weren’t many YA alternate history books. None dealt with World War II. That was part of the reason I decided to set the story in an alternate 1956.

The cross-continental motorcycle race from Germania (old Berlin) to Tokyo was inspired by watching the mini-series ‘Long Way Round’, which features Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman as they travel from London to New York via the Road of Bones in Siberia. They encounter so many different landscapes and unique challenges. I was drawn to the idea of featuring a long distance race to show the global impact of an Axis victory. Plus I love writing setting, so to have so many different landscapes to describe was a nice challenge.

The skinshifting aspect was a part the story from the beginning. The very first piece of ‘Wolf By Wolf’ that came to me was the opening line: “Once upon a different time, there was a girl who lived in a kingdom of death. Wolves howled up her arm. A whole pack of them—made of tattoo ink and pain, memory and loss. It was the only thing about her that ever stayed the same.”

Hitler’s Third Reich and his horrific vision for the New Order were constructed from intense racism and Anti-Semitism. Introducing a character with a malleable outer appearance became a way for me to address questions of identity and prejudice in this nightmarish landscape. What makes people who they are? Certainly not the outer appearances we so often use to judge.

 Any YA clichés that drive you crazy? None in particular. For me, it’s not so much about a book’s subject matter as the writing. Any cliché can become original in the hands of the right writer. I love finding books that take standard fare and transform them into an unputdownable read. 

Speaking of Young Adult, if you met yourself when you were 15, what would you tell yourself?  You’re doing good! Keep going! You’ll become an author one day, but only if you keep reading and writing! Also, don’t worry so much about boys. They’re not worth the angst. 

And if we’re travelling back in time, what would you want to say to the first person you kissed?  Fortunately, I don’t need a time machine for that, because I talk to him every day! I’m a bit of an odd-duck in that the first person I ever kissed was my fiancé, who is now my husband of seven and a half years. Every day I tell him he’s worth it. (Because he is.)

 Finally, because we all want to know where the magic happens, send us a picture of where you write. I’m somewhat nomadic when it comes to my writing spaces, so I’ll send you my top three locations. I have an office, with a desk and a resident wolf-dog who still thinks he’s small enough to fit under it. (This is up for debate.)

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When I’m craving people time, I go to my local coffee shop. Sometimes there are paintings of Bill Murray on the wall and I think he’s silently judging me about finishing my projects.

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When I’m craving sunlight, I go to my dining room, which gets a nice bright dose of afternoon sun.

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We want to say a BIG thank you to Ryan for speaking with us. Do you have any opinions on anything Ryan mentioned or about her brilliant novel ‘Wolf By Wolf’? Tweet us at @maximumpopbooks.

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Written by Laura Fulton

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