Skip to main content

Side by Side: Frosty Reads

Side by Side

Side by Side: Frosty Reads

The leaves may be just starting to turn in most parts of the country and some of us are still stubbornly clinging on to our t-shirts and shorts, but in the YA book world, things are a whole lot chillier --- by about 50 or 60 degrees.

For this side by side, we’re taking the polar plunge and exploring two particularly “frosty reads”: WINTERKILL by Kate A. Boorman and THE WINTER PEOPLE by Rebekah L. Purdy. In WINTERKILL, Emmeline and her community are trapped in their freezing, isolated village because the enemy who killed half of her people lives in the woods just outside.  When her dreams urge her into the forest, however, she can’t help but follow. In THE WINTER PEOPLE, Salome has been desperately afraid of winter since she fell into a frozen pond as a child, but when her grandparents leave her in charge of their estate, she learns about an entirely other world --- and an evil that swirls in the snowy backdrop.

Read our side-by-side interviews with Kate and Rebekah below to learn the coolest thing they learned when researching their books and their favorite high school winter memory. What inspired you to write this book?

Kate A. Boorman: Many things! My love of the spooky/otherworldly, my interest in certain events in history (and how they might’ve gone differently), my fascination with the concept of fear and my love affair with the natural landscape I grew up near, to name a few. 

Rebekah L. Purdy: Believe it or not, this book actually started out as a short story project for a creative writing class I took my senior year of high school (which was a loooong time ago --- like 18 years ago)! About 4 ½ - 5 years ago, I decided I wanted to flesh it out more, as there was SO much more story to be told. I also think being from Michigan helped to inspire this. We get some pretty nasty winters up here, so I think that helped in being able to build up this spooky, cold, dark and sometimes beautiful atmosphere.

TRC: Did you do any research for this book? What's the coolest thing you learned?

KAB: In building my fantasy world, I researched a variety of topics, including the history of the fur trade in North America, the railroad expansion west, plants natural to pre-colonial prairies, sheep husbandry, bison hunting, parasites, natural remedies, Judeo-Christian mythology,  17-18C weaponry, exponential growth rate in developing nations and Metis traditions. The ceinture fleche --- the Metis sash --- is one very cool thing I learned more about.  It is a long woven belt and, back in the days of the voyageurs, was used for a variety of things: for warmth, as a tumpline (a strap over the head to carry heavy loads), a rope, a tourniquet in an emergency, a wash cloth, a saddle blanket, a lead rope --- the list goes on!  I learned a basic finger weaving pattern for such a sash, but I think my skills are only adequate to produce something like a bookmark or keychain. Less useful!

RLP:I didn’t do a lot of research on this book just because most of it had to do with winter, and since I’ve lived in Michigan most of my life, I could pull a lot from that. But I think it was interesting in looking at how debilitating some phobias are. My main character, Salome, is deathly afraid of winter. As in she freaks out when it snows and isn’t able to function during the winter months (with good reason). Some people might look at this as kind of extreme, but you’d be shocked at how fear can control someone’s life. There is actually a girl who lives in our area who suffers from something similar to my character Salome. This girl didn’t want the snow touching her or having to walk through it. Her dad would come to pick her up from school, but she wouldn’t leave the safety of the overhang of the roof. She’d cry and be immobile. On one particular day, I remember someone actually putting their coat on the ground so she wouldn’t have to step in the snow. The girl would stand there, sobbing, saying she couldn’t walk in the snow. So yeah, I never realized how life-altering a phobia could be until writing this book and trying to get into the head of my main character.

TRC:  What's better --- winter or summer --- and why?

KAB: I do like winter (despite what the title of my book may lead you to believe) but I have to say summer. Where I live, winter can be lovely in a crisp snow/blue skies sort of way, but it totally overstays its welcome. The layers of clothing, the clunky boots, the forty below, the potential frostbite --- all of this is only charming for a couple of months, you know? Summer is fleeting, but it’s green and fragrant and warm and BBQ-y and festival-ish and campfire-ful. Definitely summer.

RLP:Although my book is set in winter, I actually like summer better (LOL). I hate driving in the winter --- plus summer is when I always take vacation with my family. I LOVE going to the beach and camping and summer thunderstorms. Winter can be beautiful, but I’d much rather have summer. I just feel that I can get out and do more in the warmer months. But I do LOVE hot cocoa and Christmas.

TRC: You and the protagonist of your book are stuck in a cabin together during a winter storm. What will you talk about?

KAB: Hmmm, Emmeline is used to rather simple living, so I’d probably want to introduce her to fuzzy slippers and Cadbury chocolate. I would explain their virtues in great detail. And she’d wonder how I could grow up so soft that I would need such luxuries, and besides, wouldn’t I like to learn about the healing properties of rose hips? And then I’d break out my emergency stash of Peanut Butter & Pretzel Dairy Milk bar from the pocket of my winter coat (where it always resides, obviously) and then she’d see what I’m on about. And then we’d probably have to wrestle over the last square (I grew up with three brothers --- I WOULD WIN). Also, the topic of "how much wood we have and how long can we stay alive here?" might come up.

RLP:Probably Damon Salvatore from “The Vampire Diaries” --- he’s so adorable! HA. Just kidding. Actually, I think we’d likely end up talking about what stalks around in the woods and whether or not it might get in. Because Salome is so fearful, I think we’d find ways to bar our cabin against anything getting in, especially since there’s something out there that is trying to hurt Salome. We’d also have a few chats about the mysterious and hot Nevin, who she met on her grandparents’ property and whether he’s a friend or foe. But mostly, I think I’d end up trying to keep her calm, so I’d talk to her about books, movies, music, guys…anything to keep her mind off of the weather.

TRC: What's your favorite winter memory that took place when you were a teen?

KAB: Probably the total debacle that was cross-country skiing with my Phys. Ed class. Our teachers had such high hopes for our cross-country skiing skills, and would nurture those hopes by taking us somewhere that seemed a bit challenging, but fun --- like the local golf course that had rolling hills. And it was an immediate disaster for nascent skiers, a "hurtling down the hills, arms pin-wheeling, crashing through saplings, losing bits of winter clothing to low hanging branches, scraping skis and bending poles” disaster. I remember one kid got hung up in a tree and it took both male and female phys ed teachers to come retrieve her. This trip happened more than once, which is a bit perplexing in retrospect, because you’d think our teachers would’ve given up on the idea. I guess hope springs eternal.

RLP:OMG, I’ve actually got two. But I think one of my most memorable winters was my senior year. There was a snow day from school (woot-woot). So we had a huge sledding party at one of my best friend’s (and neighbor’s) houses. All of our friends/group that lived in our “neighborhood” (we lived out in the country), came over and we spent the day sledding and goofing off. My other favorite memory was from my junior year, when my then-boyfriend took me to Frankenmuth (Michigan) to this huge Christmas store. The whole town is decked out in Christmas lights, etc. We walked around for hours looking at the lights, shopping, sipping hot cocoa and watching the horse carriages go by. It was fabulous.