Jamie Robyn Wood is the author “Bearskin,” a YA novel. Jamie was a guest reviewer for Cracking the Cover from November 2011 to February 2013. The following is a complete transcript of her interview with Cracking the Cover leading up to the release of “Bearskin.”
Why do you write?
I started writing my first child was one. I was very busy taking care of her – when it came to physical tasks, but my mind was going crazy. I needed to challenge myself and have a project. Now I write partly out of an obsession to make a book exist, party because I want to know what happens to my characters.
Why specifically do you write for young people?
I think my head is stuck in young people word, and most of the books I love are young people books. I would love to write an adult book one day in theory – but an adult book has never jumped into my mind and demanded to be written.
Where did your idea for “Bearskin” come from?
There are two version of Bearskin – the early version, and the later version. I think the earliest thoughts came from a children’s book called The Bearskinner. There was an image in that book of a woman deciding to love an ugly man, and how she was true to him through a lot of time passing. Those pieces are still in the book today.
Sum up “Bearskin” in two sentences.
After Heart’s sister is turned into a bird, she must find her sister’s true love to make things right. Only a wild bear, and his magical bearskin, can help save her sister.
This book has five main characters – which is a little silly. Heart came to exist in the very first draft, when a secondary character caught my interest more than the main character. The main character became her sister, Lark. Moiria happened almost the same way. I needed to get rid of a stock-character villain, and when I created Moiria instead I found I liked her too much to not flesh her out. As for Conrad and Heppson, I got a little of Heppson from Maggie Steifvater’s Raven Boys. Conrad doesn’t have a story behind him.
How much did the story change from original idea to final draft?
The other day I read the first draft of Bearskin to prepare for a workshop I’m doing. I hardly recognized it, and laughed to think I could use whole thing in an entirely different book. The actual sentences are completely absent from Bearskin today, the characters are very different, and the storyline has changed almost entirely.
Describe for me your writing process.
I have to write at least four days a week. This is the mandatory. I try to write at least six days a week… which doesn’t always happen. I write in the afternoons during nap time, although right now I’m moving writing time to the morning because of homeschool needs. I usually write a first draft up to about 80 pages. At that point, I get stuck and have to start over at the beginning. I find that going back and writing my way back through a draft reveals things about plots and characters that I didn’t see before. Usually by the time I correct myself back to my stuck point, I have several more pages of writing and a direction to go. I keep doing this. Getting stuck, going backward, moving through, and stretching further. And eventually I get to the end. Then I hand it to my friend Elena and try to leave it alone for a while. Edits are another story entirely.
You homeschool your children. How/when do you find time to write?
My kids know that they can’t interrupt during writing time. And I give myself two hours of shoving them out the door – guilt free. They are going to survive. Beyond that, I try to find little moments. I’m not very good at this. I’m better when I can sink into my writing. I’m also not an excellent house-cleaner, and I’m horrible at laundry. I have no idea how to get stains out, and I never iron. Cooking is also not on my list of excellence. But we’re not starving, so that counts!
What do you hope readers gain from your book?
Mostly this story became about Moiria for me, and Moiria makes lots of mistakes. I hope my readers realize that they’re never too down the mistake road to turn around and come back.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on a SF book that intersects with some Native American stuff I’ve been reading. It also has poetry in it. Hmmmm.
Is there a book from your own childhood that still resonates with you today?
I don’t know if I can separate “books from childhood” with “books from adulthood”. I think I’d say Juliet Marillier’s Daughter of the Forest. That book made me sob. And then it gave me hope and love. If I could do that someday, as well as her, I’ll be happy.