Wednesday, March 26, 2014

YA Guy Presents... YA for Nature! With Chris Struyk-Bonn, author of WHISPER

In case you didn't figure it out, YA Guy is a huge fan of Nature, and a huge believer in humanity's responsibility to care for and protect it. My writing isn't "political," strictly speaking, but it definitely reflects those beliefs.

But of course, there are lots of YA books that address issues having to do with Nature. So I decided, why not feature some of those books here? Thus was born an occasional series: YA for Nature!

We begin today with Chris Struyk-Bonn, debut author of WHISPER, which releases on the first of April. I've asked Chris some questions about her book and its environmental themes, and she's provided some great answers.

So, without further ado, here's Chris and YA for Nature!

Welcome to the blog, Chris! Can you tell us about yourself and your debut, Whisper?

Thanks so much for including me on your blog! Who am I? Hmm…well, my titles are as follows: mom, wife, teacher, writer, runner, arachnophobe, glossophobe, inadvertent houseplant killer, and Breaking Bad Addict. When I look at myself outside of the titles, I realize that I am a lover of stories. I love to read them, have them read to me, watch them, tell them, write them, and become completely lost within them. I do this as much as possible in my life because going to those make-believe places helps me look through a window into someone else’s life, and look in a mirror, better understanding my own life.

My young adult novel, Whisper, gives readers a glimpse through the window into a life very different from most of ours, but a life that many do live in reality. Whisper has a medical condition that could easily be remedied, but hasn’t been. She looks different from everyone else and is treated differently because of it. We get a small idea of what that might look like by taking a glimpse at Whisper’s life and circumstances.

One of the things I love about Whisper is how vividly you describe the natural world. Why was it important to you to surround your characters with Nature?

Whisper’s medical condition, a bi-lateral cleft palate, may be caused by contaminants in the environment. This is a question raised in the book, so because the environment plays such a critical role in her own development, the readers need to know what that natural world looks like, smells like, and sounds like. Also, we see this world through Whisper and she is a very observant person. She examines her world closely and paints pictures for the reader as she does so.

As you just mentioned, there are hints in Whisper about environmental damage and its effect on individuals and society. What played into your decision to explore this aspect of people’s relationship to the environment?

As I watch my two children grow up and see how aware of issues in the environment they have become, I realize how important our understanding of the environment is. Every day we are bombarded by changes in weather patterns, increases in global warming, and threats to current plants and animals. It has become such a pervasive concern, that it became a very real and very important element in Whisper. We can’t ignore these issues and as we are affected more and more by contaminants around us, we need to face them head-on to really understand how they are at work in our world.

Whisper has a lot to say about how we define beauty. What’s the most beautiful natural place you’ve ever visited? Did it have any impact on Whisper?

I love the woods. When I first moved to Oregon, I went to a place called Silver Falls State Park and it felt like walking into a fairytale. Moss hung from the trees like green lace and the colors were so vibrantly alive, it felt like an unreal setting. I had moved to Oregon from Iowa, and the trees in Iowa are not covered in moss, and winters can be very grey. Winters in Oregon can be just as green as the spring.

Did this have an impact on Whisper? Absolutely. When Whisper is ostracized from her family and hometown, she grows up in the woods, in an idyllic setting surrounded by trees, flowers, streams, and animals. Nature does not care that Whisper’s face is imperfect. Nature accepts Whisper as she is and in return, Whisper is a great observer of nature and feels accepted by it. This becomes a relevant part of the story because once she leaves the natural setting, her place in the world becomes unstable and she begins a journey into the unknown.

You and I are fiction writers, not politicians or pundits. What’s the role, if any, of fiction in calling attention to environmental issues and problems?

Such a good question. Again, I believe that fiction writers offer windows and mirrors. Specifically in science fiction, I believe that as writers, we can pose those troublesome “what if” questions. What if the environment affected gestation and how children emerge from the womb? Where do those children fit into the world and what would make for a “normal” child, then, if all children came out “damaged”? Would our definition of beauty be redefined? Also, what if we knew that some of our current practices were greatly affecting children? Would we change our ways?

Science fiction is about social commentary. We take a look at a current problem, provide a new spin on it, and show readers what life could look like if we continue down our current path. The beauty in not being politicians or pundits is that we’re not trying to garner votes or establish a platform; we’re simply providing readers with a new way to look at the world, and a new way of looking at how we live now. This opens up a dialogue and self-evaluation. We don’t have answers, but we also don’t claim to have answers.

Thanks for being on the blog, Chris! Readers, here's where you can connect with Chris and Whisper:

Twitter: @ChrisStruykBonn
Order through Orca:

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