Saturday, October 14, 2017

0 Tracey Neithercott, author of GRAY WOLF ISLAND, on still waiting for that aha moment

We're happy to have Tracey Neithercott stop by to share more about her debut novel, GRAY WOLF ISLAND.

Tracey, what was your inspiration for writing GRAY WOLF ISLAND?

It started with Stand by Me. I was watching it (again) one night, and just as Chris was pouring his heart out to Gordie, I realized how much I wanted to write a YA friendship story. I didn’t have anything as fancy as a plot, but the idea wouldn’t let go. And then it hit me: I wanted to send a group of characters on a treasure hunt that would forge intense, lifetime friendships. A couple weeks later, my husband began watching The Curse of Oak Island on the History channel. It follows the real-life treasure hunt on a small island off the coast of Nova Scotia, where an endless pit is said to hold a massive treasure. It was so perfect I swear I heard a “click” when the two ideas slid into place.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

Gray Wolf Island deals with a lot of dark topics, so there were a few chapters that I found really tough to write. The hardest by far was the prologue. It took me a very long time to write that single chapter—probably twice as long as the first ten chapters combined. It was a really emotional scene, and I remember making myself cry to get into the main characters head then, when it was finished, being unable to stop. In the end, it’s definitely one of the scenes I’m most proud of. Fun fact: This scene barely changed from the first draft to what you’ll read in the finished book.

How long did you work on GRAY WOLF ISLAND?

It felt like I spent a literal eternity writing this book. I started the first draft at the very end of 2014 and sent the finished draft to my agent on Oct. 11, 2015. ( I didn’t realize until this very minute that my book released almost exactly two years from that date.) I did a couple revisions, waited out the holidays, and went on submission to editors in mid-January. The book sold two months later, and then came more revisions with my editor. After the absolute angst of drafting the book, I kind of enjoyed all of those rounds of revisions.

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

I’m forever envious of authors who can speed through a draft. I tried that, desperately. But in the end, I’m not very successful at shutting down my inner editor and the idea of a messy first draft leaves me a ball of stress. This book was the first to show me that I’m not broken; I’m simply slow. It also helped me see that my process isn’t all terrible. Drafting might take an eternity, but revising is a breeze. As I'm drafting my next novel, I keep looking back at Gray Wolf Island for that reminder.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

Gray Wolf Island was the third book I wrote and the first I sold—thankfully. My first book helped me meet great writer friends and introduced me to the YA community, but it wasn’t ready in the least. I stopped querying it once I got a few chapters into my next book. That, I realized, was infinitely better than the first—and it’s the book that eventually got me my agent. Months later, when my agent mentioned sending that novel out to a second round of editors, I asked to pull the plug. I know. But after writing the first chapter of Gray Wolf Island, I knew it was The One. I’m not sure whether this means I give up easily or trust my gut. Either way, it worked out.

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

I’m still waiting for that aha moment. I’m not even sure you can learn the key to writing a novel—or that there’s a single key that will unlock the secret. For me, each novel is a learning experience. The novel I’m writing now has challenged me in ways Gray Wolf Island didn’t, and I’m sure my next novel will stretch my writing in a completely different direction.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I have a day job, so all of my writing gets done at night or on weekends. I find words and lyrics distracting, so no public places or music for me. Instead, I have a very specific at-home ritual: I pour a cup of tea or coffee, put on a face mask, and turn on my Brainwaves app. I use the Creativity setting with the ocean waves ambiance, and it keeps me focused. (I was skeptical, too, until I tried the app—it works. Or the placebo effect works.) A new trick I’ve been using is to write in Scrivener’s full-screen mode with an inspiration image as the background. It keeps me in the zone.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Make friends with other writers. These are the people who will commiserate with you over rejections, who will hold your hand while you’re querying agents or submitting to editors. They’ll cheer for you over good news and be your biggest supporters when your novel sells. The writer friends I made years before my book ever sold—years before I ever got an agent—are the same friends who I turn to when I’m stressed or excited. Plus, debuting beside friends make the entire process more exciting.

What are you working on now?

I’m drafting a modern fantasy novel that I’ve been describing as Rumpelstiltskin, if Maleficent was the miller’s daughter.


Gray Wolf Island
by Tracey Neithercott
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Released 10/10/2017

Right before Sadie died, she begged her sister, Ruby, to do the one thing she could never do herself: Find the treasure on Gray Wolf Island.

With just a mysterious treasure map as a guide, Ruby reluctantly allows some friends to join her on the hunt, each of whom is touched by magic: a boy allegedly born to a virgin, a girl who never sleeps, a boy who can foresee his own death, and a boy with deep ties to the island. Each of them is also keeping a secret—something they’ll have to reveal in order to reach the treasure.

As the secrets come to light, Ruby will have to decide: Can she make peace with her friends’ troubled pasts and continue to trust them? Can she forgive herself for doing the unspeakable? Deep in the wilderness of Gray Wolf Island, Ruby’s choices will determine if they make it out with the treasure—or merely with their lives.

From debut author Tracey Neithercott comes a darkly compelling tale of profound friendship, adventure, and finding the strength to tell the truth.

Purchase Gray Wolf Island at Amazon
Purchase Gray Wolf Island at IndieBound
View Gray Wolf Island on Goodreads


Tracey Neithercott’s first book was written by hand and illustrated with some really fancy colored pencils. It was highly acclaimed by her mother. Now, she writes YA stories of friendship, love, murder, and magic. (None of which she illustrates—you’re welcome.) She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, who suggests improving her novels by adding Star Wars characters.

She is the author of GRAY WOLF ISLAND, a YA novel about the truth, a treasure, and five teens searching for both. Coming fall 2017 from Knopf/Random House.


Have you had a chance to read GRAY WOLF ISLAND yet?

Have you written a novel inspired by a movie you love?

Have you tried any of the brain apps for boosting creativity?

Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

Charlotte, Jocelyn, Anisaa, Erin, Martina, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, Emily, and Lori Ann

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