S.M. Wilson lives on the west coast of Scotland with her fiancé and two sons. Her day job is as a nurse in public health – and her dream job is writing fiction. Her love of YA fiction started as a teenager and has never stopped. She wrote The Extinction Trials to try and infect her sons with the same love of reading that she has – watch out, she’s hoping it’s contagious!
SK – Could you tell us a little bit about S.M.Wilson?
S.M.W – I live on the West Coast of Scotland with my fiancé and our two kids. During the day I’m a nurse and health visitor working in public health, but the dream job is definitely writing fiction. Exile is my second young adult book.
SK – What was your earliest engagement with literature?
S.M.W – Enid Blyton – I read every single book she ever wrote – probably a dozen times. Then I moved onto Chalet School then Sweet Valley High. I read around a book a night and can’t stop.
SK – For those who may not have read your ongoing series of books, could you describe them in one sentence?
S.M.W – The tag line on the book probably does it best – Jurassic Park meets The Hunger Games.
SK – Starting with The Extinction Trials – where did this idea spring from?
S.M.W – My boys aren’t really readers and although I bought them a million different books I couldn’t really get them to read. I asked them what they wanted – dinosaurs, a young Indiana Jones, and a young Lara Croft was the answer. I can do that I thought…
SK – Could you explain to us some of your writing habits?
S.M.W – I write every day – always. I write only about 1,000 words a day and can do it in around half an hour – I’ve written at the side of football parks, in Tae Kwon Do halls… I write four romance books a year and the rest of the time I spend on YA.
SK – When did you decide that the book would be a series, was this early on in the creative process? What were your reasons for doing so?
S.M.W – I always thought there would be a second book but I’m not a planner at all. I know my editor would have liked a proper synopsis for Exile but I find it really difficult to work that way. I told her that I would find a really good reason to send them back to the dinosaur continent and she trusted me enough to let me go with that.
SK – Your first book The Extinction Trials was commented as being like ‘The Hunger Games meets Jurassic Park’ how do you feel about that comparison and what are your thoughts on both The Hunger Games and Jurassic Park?
S.M.W – I liked the uncertainty of what was going to happen in The Hunger Games and I love, love, loved the terror in Jurassic Park. Dinosaurs will always be my favourite.
SK – When creating your series how much thought did you have to give to which dinosaurs to include? Which ones were contenders but remain extinct on the cutting room floor as it were?
S.M.W – Some days started with me flicking through a dinosaur encyclopaedia asking ‘What dinosaur can eat this character?’ That was fun! I’ve left no one on the cutting room floor!
SK – Could you detail your research you had to undertake with regards to the landscape, animals to build this fully immersive world?
S.M.W – I studied History at school not Geography so had to invest in a few books about landscape formation and climate change.
SK – What was your reasoning for your main thematic element of a world running out of natural resources, overcrowding and hostile takeover – do you feel this reflects something of our current state of affairs, was this something you aimed for or was this organic?
S.M.W – I remember going to a museum in Scotland where they had an electronic population counter and as you stood for a few minutes the numbers just went up and up. It was more or less terrifying. The thought of sustaining a population that size definitely had an effect on this book, what happens when there are too many of us?
SK – I personally love a book with a map in it, I love how this map has developed within the second book ‘Exile’ from the bare bones of the original ‘The Extinction Trials’ – did you personally design the map? Or did you have something you referred to when writing?
S.M.W – I campaigned for a map right from the beginning. I am a terrible artist but sent a sketch on paper to a guy on Etsy who hand painted my continent with dinosaurs. I showed it to my editor and she agreed they would make their own map for the inside of my book.
SK – ‘Exile’ builds on all that went before it with ‘The Extinction Trials’ what was it like returning to this world, did you feel you had to build on the tension, terror, action – as they say the sequel always tries to outdo and offer more than the original?
S.M.W – There had to be more dinosaurs, more terrors and definitely more deaths. I was desperate to get back to the dinosaur continent but had to build the story properly so there was a good reason for them all to end up there.
SK – With your thematic elements of the book; running out of resources, power struggles, class divides etc. do you think that it is important for YA fiction to challenge and highlight these difficult, prevalent and in today’s society relevant questions? What do you hope that your series offers a reader?
S.M.W – I hope it leaves them asking questions, because that’s what everyone should do. Not just about the world and resources, but also about people and relationships. YA fiction is brilliant at bringing all these things to the forefront and starting conversations.
SK – What is your favourite YA Book and why?
S.M.W – At the moment it’s The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw probably because it is so atmospheric.
SK – What was your favourite book as a child and why?
S.M.W – It would be the Malory Towers series by Enid Blyton – very out of date now! I also loved The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken and The Wickedest Witch in the World by Beverley Nichols.
SK – If you could give one piece of advice to young writers what would it be?
S.M.W – Put pen to paper. I hear lots of people talking about wanting to write, but not actually doing. The only way to learn is to start.
SK – What is the best piece of advice you have ever received about writing?
S.M.W – Write every day and it’s the thing I recommend to my fellow authors when they’re struggling. Even a thousand words a day really adds up.
SK – Could you recommend a few personal favourite books for our readers at STORGY KIDS?
S.M.W – For YA it would be The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw, Scythe by Neal Shusterman and They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera.
SK – So what’s next for you and The Extinction Trials Series? Are you working on anything new?
S.M.W – There’s ongoing work on the Extinction Trials series and a space book further along in the pipeline. I’m a huge Star Wars and Star Trek fan so it was inevitable I’d head into space at some point!
Quick Fire Questions
SK – The Hunger Games or Jurassic Park?
S.M.W – Jurassic Park
SK – Jurassic Park or Jurassic World?
S.M.W – Jurassic Park
SK – T-Rex or Velociraptor?
S.M.W – T-Rex
SK – Which nesting site would you choose to go to first?
S.M.W – T-Rex
SK – What is your favourite dinosaur?
S.M.W – T-Rex
SK – If your book had brothers and sisters (other books) who would they be?
S.M.W – None, my dinosaurs would eat them all!
The Extinction Trials series is published by Usborne and is available to purchase here.
You can read our review of The Extinction Trials here.
You can read our review of The Extinction Trials: Exile here.
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