Kristin Thorsness: The Wicked Tree
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The Wicked Tree
by Kristin Thorsness
Deep in the woods, a gnarled tree grows. Its thick, black trunk twists angrily up into the night sky. Held in place by the magic of a long-ago patriarch, it has waited centuries to lure a descendant into its trap.
Eleven-year-old Tavorian Kreet hates it when money troubles force his mom to move them in with his great-grandmother – though the historic house and grounds are pretty awesome. Tav is told to stay out of the estate’s woods, but he can’t resist the chance to explore.
After Tav’s first trip into the woods, he begins to have strange dreams about a supernatural tree. The dreams start out pleasant, but soon grow dark and menacing. On a dare, Tav ventures further into the woods with his new friend Harper, and they meet a mysterious, mute boy named Edward who lives in a decrepit cabin there. Though he’s unable to communicate where he came from or why he lives alone, in clear distress he scrawls two words: Bad Tree.
Tav knows what it’s like to be afraid. If he’d been brave enough to act four years ago, he could have saved his dad from the fire that took their home. But he wasn’t, and he’s been trying to redeem himself since. Now Tav is determined to help Edward. He enlists Harper, and together they search the estate for clues to Edward’s identity and how to help him.
While searching, Tav and Harper find antique photo albums, ancient diaries, and a secret laboratory. They piece together the Kreet family history, and discover a curse that’s been waiting generations for an heir. Tav’s dreams grow more ominous, and he realizes time is running short. To save himself and his friends, Tav must go to the heart of the woods, find the Bad Tree, and confront an evil magic before it consumes him completely.
October 8th, 2019
Introduce yourself and your debut novel!
Hi! I’m Kristin—a former 5th and 6th grade teacher living just outside Seattle with my husband, our two kids, and two spoiled dogs. In my creepy middle grade debut, The Wicked Tree, eleven-year-old Tav ventures into a forbidden wood, uncovers a family curse, and faces off against a tree that calls to him when he sleeps.
What’s the most surprising part about your debut journey so far?
I’ve always known the writing community is full of wonderful people, but I’ve been completely floored by the support of fellow writers as I’ve gone through the (often very stressful!) year leading up to my debut. Hugs and chocolate to all my writerly peeps!
Give a shout-out to a fellow debut!
Oh my goodness … there are too many to choose from! Chris Baron’s book, All of Me, hit me right in the feels and had me crying and laughing out loud. Since my own book is spooky, I feel I should also give a shout out to the next book on my TBR stack (which is a TOWER of Novel19 books at this point), Heather Kassner’s The Bone Garden, its concept is deliciously creepy, and I can’t wait to jump in. I could go on and on though … so much talent in this group!
What’s a cool thing about your book that isn’t in the blurb?
I’ve always loved all manor of antiques, and in The Wicked Tree Tav and Harper uncover the Kreet family history using clues from an antique photo album, an ancient diary, and an heirloom locket.
What inspired you to write this book?
My son. I’d hit major writer’s block a couple years back and said aloud, “What should my next book be?”
My son, who was about four at the time looked at me and without missing a beat said, “You should write a book called The Nightmare Tree.”
I thought to myself, Yes. Yes, I should.
That seed of a title grew into a plot which grew into a whole book that is now going to be out in the world! I still can’t believe it. While the title changed, the story is the same and my son is always delighted to tell people my book wouldn’t exist without him. (He’s right!)
What advice would you give to a new writer?
Read. Read more. Then read even more. In my experience, the very best way to improve your craft is to immerse yourself in great writing. Read widely, not just the genre you write. Pick a couple award-winners or books your friends have loved. Enjoy the experience of reading, then ask yourself why you liked (or didn’t like!) a book. You’ll pick up little tricks along the way, and there’s nothing better than spending a guilt-free afternoon curled up on the couch with a mug of coffee doing “market research” for your job.
How do you select character names?
I like to pick words that describe the character I’m trying to write and look them up on baby name sites to find corresponding names. Tav is short for Tavorian, which, according to one site, means misfortune.
What is your favorite word, and why?
Maw. I’m not completely sure why, and I haven’t found a perfect place to use it in one of my books yet, but I love to say it and I love to read it.
What book or author has most influenced your own writing?
Mary. Downing. Hahn. No. Question.
Her book, Wait til Helen Comes, was the first scary book I ever read—recommended to me by my elementary school librarian in third grade. I devoured the book in a single night and decided I wanted to become a writer. I still buy every book she publishes (yes, she’s in her eighties and still putting books out almost every year!). When I was still in the classroom, my 5th and 6th grade students loved her books too, and they inspired me to write creepy stories for middle grade readers.
What are two of your favorite covers of all time?
Nicole Melleby’s Hurricane Season has a GORGEOUS Van Gogh-inspired cover that took my breath away the first time I saw it, and I love the cover of K.A. Reynolds’s debut, The Land of Yesterday—the image is made of paper cutouts in shades of purple (my favorite color).
Share your favorite doggos!
Thanks for interviewing, Kristin! I can't wait to read your spooky book on 10/8/19!