I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the Playing with Fire by April Henry blog tour hosted by The Book Terminal Tours.
About the Book
When a fire cuts off a popular trail in the Oregon forest, a small group trapped by the flames must find another way out―or die―in Playing with Fire, an unrelenting teen-vs-nature YA thriller by New York Times bestselling author April Henry.
Natalia is not the kind of girl who takes risks. Six years ago, she barely survived the house fire that killed her baby brother. Now she is cautious and always plays it safe. For months, her co-worker Wyatt has begged her to come hiking with him, and Natalia finally agrees.
But when a wildfire breaks out, blocking the trail back, a perfect sunny day quickly morphs into a nightmare. With no cell service, few supplies, and no clear way out of the burning forest, a group of strangers will have to become allies if they’re going to survive. Hiking in the dark, they must reach the only way out―a foot bridge over a deep canyon―before the fire catches them.
What draws you to writing YA Thrillers?
Mysteries and thrillers, by their very nature, have built-in suspense which makes the plot just tick along. They also have life-or-death stakes. I’m never going to write a book, say, about a girl who can’t decide who to go to the prom with. I’m also very interested in police procedure, forensics, and characters—both good and bad—who have a streak of ingenuity.
What is your research process for writing a thriller?
I research both before and during. For Playing with Fire, I started by reading accounts of people who survived the Eagle Creek Fire and then broadened that out and read about wild land fire fighters. In Playing with Fire, it’s like the serial killer is nature, so before I started writing I brainstormed worst case scenarios with a Search and Rescue leader who volunteered during the Eagle Creek Fire. He also sent me a bunch of cool photos, including of a burned-out bridge.
I wanted a character who knew how to deal with the types of accidents and injuries the characters might face, so I took a three-day course and became certified in Wilderness First Aid. I watched YouTube videos on how to hack Epi-Pens (not recommended in any but the most dire situation). I interviewed a fire captain about how house fires behave, a honey bee expert about wild hives, another firefighter about the best way to torch a car, and a diabetes specialist about what would happen if a person with diabetes hiked for hours and didn’t eat. I even sent the president of a baby-wearing club questions about how to carry a toddler in various dangerous scenarios. And finally, for the dramatic crossing of a burned-out bridge, I talked to a structural engineer about how bridges work.
Do you watch or read a lot of True Crime to help you get ideas?
This might be surprising, but not really. Usually I get my ideas from something I see on the news, or something that happens to me. In both cases, I’ll take the real thing and give it a million twists. However, if there is a show or a book that covered a case I’m already interested in, I might seek it out.
Writing for both teens and adults, have you found your writing process to be different for each of them or do you tend to stick with the same formatting? Are you a plotter or pantser?
My books for teens are shorter. And unlike adults books, they have to have teens as main characters – although they don’t have to be the only characters. Other than that, I don’t change anything, including vocabulary. I wrote seven adult books for Thomas Nelson, and they want their books clean, clean, clean. It taught me that you don’t really need to write exactly what someone says when they curse, you can just write, “He swore.”
That goes for violence, too. If I leave the reader to fill in the blanks, they will do a far better job than me – and it will be at a level of scariness that’s appropriate for them. A sheltered sixth grader is going to imagine something completely different than an eleventh grader growing up in a tough neighborhood. This is a powerful technique for both adults and teens. The monster in the attic is far more frightening than the monster you can see.
It’s the more the things around the two types of books that are different. You are given more time to be successful for YA books, and librarians are key to success. There are also more review publications for kids’ books than there are for adult’s.
As for plotting, I have written books all kind of ways. Right now, I like to say I’m a plotser. Plotting makes for more productive writing and at this point I’m writing two books a year. But my plot framework is pretty loose and allows for improvisation.
What are some of your favorite thrillers?
One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus
Sadie by Courtney Summer
I am Still Alive by Kate Alice Marshall
Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips. That was my favorite book of 2017. We ended up at the same function together and she probably thought I was a stalker by how much I fan-girled.
About the Author
New York Times-bestselling author April Henry knows how to kill you in a two-dozen different ways. She makes up for a peaceful childhood in an intact home by killing off fictional characters. There was one detour on April’s path to destruction: when she was 12 she sent a short story about a six-foot tall frog who loved peanut butter to noted children’s author Roald Dahl. He liked it so much he showed it to his editor, who asked if she could publish it in Puffin Post, an international children’s magazine. By the time April was in her 30s, she had started writing about hit men, kidnappers, and drug dealers. She has published 25 mysteries and thrillers for teens and adults, with more to come. She is known for meticulously researching her novels to get the details right.
Tour Schedule – Bloggers
Storme Reads A Lot – Spotlight
The Paper Reels – Review / Fav Quotes
The Clever Reader – Interview
Books Are Magic Too – Review
What She Will Read – Mood Board
The Book View – Review
leosthetics – Review / Fav Quotes
forthenovellovers – Review
theworldofceliamcmahon – Review