About the author:
I have been writing for intelligent children of all ages for almost 20 years, helping create educational books, documentaries, and online content for Discovery Networks, National Geographic, the Library of Congress, Scholastic, and Time-Life Books. Ever since seeing puffins at the Baltimore Aquarium, I have wondered why penguins are so much more celebrated than their equally adorable northern counterparts.
For NEVERSINK, my first book, I conducted extensive research at the legendary walrus library at Ocean's End. I currently live with a walrus-sized cat named Charlie in Memphis, Tenn.
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1. In eleven words, tell readers why they should run and grab a copy of Neversink (right this minute)?
Imagine the Hobbit as a Pixar creation with amazing, adventurous animals.
2. Okay, ever since I read Neversink last year I have been dying to know....why auks? What was the appeal for using those cute little guys?
Because penguins have had their day, that’s why! Seriously, I remember seeing an auk exhibit at the Baltimore aquarium and being enchanted by these crazy adorable birds that fly underwater. So I looked into it and was horrified to find that while penguins colonize children’s entertainment in great numbers, auks (puffins in particular), were sorely underrepresented. I consider myself the personal champion of the puffin.
3. Lockley, was definitely an interesting character and one which I enjoyed watching change throughout the book. What did you enjoy most when it came to writing about Lockley and the rest of the characters? Any favorites?
It was fun and challenging to create personalities that matched the way these animals look and the strange names they have, sort of like in a Dickens novel. We know walruses eat a lot, but it also seemed fitting that they would have a great appetite for other things as well — knowledge, attention, adoration. And it’s hard to look at a puffin without imagining a sort of diffident, awkward (aukward?) bird that would be reluctant to assume the role of hero. It’s hard to pick favorites, but I really love Astra, the snowy owl who undergoes a sort of redemption herself.
4. If you were to be transported into the world of Neversink, which of the creatures from the book would you be? What would be the first place you'd visit there?
There’s probably a smidgen of me in all the main characters — even Rozbell! I would love for Egbert to take me to the Library at Ocean’s End, though. It would be like going to the Library of Congress of the ancient animal world.
5. If you could only save three books from destruction, which three would you save and why?
How much can I cheat on this question? Okay, first and foremost, I would save a comprehensive book of world myths and folklore. I don’t even know if the book I’m imagining exists, but these patterning stories are essential to the human record. Second, a gigantic poetry anthology. Poetry is like the physics of literature — the essential matter and energy of all creative writing. With such an anthology, the survivors of your book-destroying apocalypse would have the inspiration they need to create a new body of imaginative literature. And finally, NEVERSINK, because by being one of only three books in the world, its sales would improve dramatically.
6. Fiction and reality have collided and you have been chosen to set forth on the adventure of a lifetime, do you accept the challenge and upcoming danger or run away? If you accept, which literary character would you strike out for adventure with?
My favorite protagonists are the kids (or adults) not born from gods or with hidden superpowers, but mere mortals who are clever, curious, resourceful, and likely fun to talk to. (There is a lot of down time between battles and on long quests.) I would love to have Lyra Belacqua, aka “Silvertongue,” on my team (hoping she would have access to Iorek Byrnison and Serafina Pekkala, of course), or Ulysses, or Huckleberry Finn. Or how about Bugs Bunny? That dude always has the last laugh.
7. The world has fallen to a robot invasion and only one heroine/hero can possibly save the day, who do you choose?
Hmm, if it’s robots I should choose someone from the sci fi universe, perhaps with a working knowledge of robotics. I think Dr. Who or Jean-Luc Picard might be useful here, especially since Picard can class up the action with some dramatic Shakespearean dialogue.
8. Care to tell us about your writing cave (include picture if you want)?
My “cave” is an 8 x 10 sun-filled room at the back of my house, with nothing but a clean desk, a vintage Danish love seat, a bookshelf, and my cat’s favorite chair, often occupied by the aforementioned cat. It looks out onto my backyard, which I’ve spent a few years slowly landscaping into something worth looking at, full of plants native to my part of west Tennessee.
9. Any upcoming projects that you can share with us?
I am working on book one of an adventure trilogy for the same folks at Walden Pond Press, which is about the best place a writer can work. We even have a Walden Pond Press fantasy baseball league! The working title of the series is The Vanishing Island. It’s about a boy growing up in a fictional Seafaring Age who longs for adventure and gets more than he bargained for when he comes into possession of an incendiary artifact. I think of it as Moby-Dick meets Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Thank so much for stopping by Barry and for answering all of my questions...minus the one the got cut-off in my email. Love your answer for question #7 (it might be my favorite one yet).
Barry Wolverton's masterful middle-grade debut, Neversink, is an epic tale of some very un-epic birds, a fast-paced and funny story of survival, friendship, and fish, in the vein of Watership Down and Kathi Appelt's The Underneath.
Along the Arctic Circle lies a small island called Neversink, home to a colony of odd-looking seabirds called auks, including one Lockley J. Puffin. With their oceanfront views and plentiful supply of fish, the auks have few concerns—few, save for Lockley's two best friends, Egbert and Ruby, a know-it-all walrus and a sharp-tongued hummingbird.
But all of this is about to change. Rozbell, the newly crowned king of the Owl Parliament, has long had his scheming eyes on the small colony to the north. Now Neversink's independence hangs in the balance. An insurgence of owls will inevitably destroy life as the auks know it—unless Lockley can do something about it.