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Writing about what it means to be alive

Campus Correspondent

Published: Sunday, February 2, 2014

Updated: Sunday, February 2, 2014 22:02

Lucy Christopher’s latest novel, “The Killing Woods,” is a must read.

As part of a series of author talks, the UConn Co-op Bookstore hosted Christopher on Friday to discuss her latest novel, among other topics. Christopher shared a personal recount of her experiences as a writer and encouraged the small crowd to do the same.

Christopher comes from South Wales, although she will readily explain that she feels at home in multiple places. She moved to Australia as a child and has visited Africa and the United States frequently.

Today, she lives, teaches, and writes at the Bath Spa University in Wales. It was at this university that she received her master’s degree in creative writing and eventually earned a doctorate as well. During that educational period, Christopher published her first novel “Stolen,” which–after a rough start–received numerous awards.

Due to her varied living locations, Christopher’s writings start with setting and move into plot. She said believes this is why she is a unique author.

“When I start a novel, I don’t think about the plot. I think about the setting and ask myself, ‘What could happen there?’ Then, the story writes itself,” Christopher said.

Although she initially wanted to write a book about the African rainforest, the story never connected for her. Christopher spent two weeks in Nigeria but the scene never unfolded.

Back home and experiencing writer’s block, the author took long walks in the woods behind her house and continued reading the news. She realized her next novel would take place in a Welsh forest. She also determined it would focus on the epidemic of PTSD that was occurring with the increased return of soldiers from the Middle East. This is the basis of “The Killing Woods.”

The novel, written for a teenage audience, tells the story from the perspective of two adolescents, Emily and Damon. Emily’s dad has recently returned from war and has trouble re-adjusting to civilian life; Damon is dating Ashley, a pretty girl. Emily and Damon’s worlds collide when Emily’s dad walks home carrying Ashley’s dead body. The rest is an extraordinary journey.

“The novel is about the presence and ability of darkness within a place and within a people,” Christopher said. “It is a psychological thriller while also acting as a commentary on soldiering. I recommend it only for mature teenagers.”

When asked about why she wrote solely for young adults, Christopher gave an intriguing response. She determined that she has the most connection to her younger self as a 14 to 16 year old girl; with this understanding, she finds it easier to write to an audience of similar age.

“Being a teenager is a gritty, emotional time, and kids today want to read about that, about depression and loneliness and what it means to be alive,” Christopher said, “I want to write for that audience.”

“The Killing Woods” is now available at the UConn Co-op Bookstore, along with Christopher’s other books “Stolen” and “Flyaway.” They are thought provoking young adult novels that are easy reads for busy college students.

The Co-op’s next event will be led by acclaimed poet Marilyn Nelson on “How I Discovered Poetry,” Feb. 5 at 4 p.m.


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