Come one! Come all! And meet the stupendous, the marvelous, the fabulous Shark Lady!
I had the pleasure and privilege of reading Before We Go Extinct (find the review here) and then interviewing its wonderful author. Without any further ado, I present to you Karen Rivers!
First and foremost: Who are you? Tell us a bit about yourself!
I’m an author. I live in Victoria BC where I’m the single mum to a couple of kids (and a couple of dogs) (and a couple of birds).
What is your book about?
My book is about the aftermath of the death of JC’s best friend, The King, when he falls from the 42nd floor of one of his dad’s under-construction high rises in NYC. Struck mute by grief, JC is sent to spend the summer with his estranged dad on an island off the BC coast. His obsession with sharks is validated when he sees something in the water. Is it his imagination, or the real deal?
Why should we read it?
I think that we read fiction to explore different parts of ourselves and our own lives. Fundamentally, it’s a book about grieving and answering the question about how we go on when someone we love is gone.
Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote?
I’ve been writing for my whole life! My mum recently gave me a “book” that I wrote when I was six. It was about a rabbit who stole vegetables from a farmer’s garden. If I were going to review it, I’d say it was awfully derivative of a certain famous rabbit story…
After his best friend’s death, JC refuses to speak to anyone. At all. What made you decide to have him deal with his grief in this manner?
I rarely feel like I’m consciously making a decision when I’m writing. My imagination delivers a character and a situation and I just write it down. I don’t remember deciding this, much like I don’t think JC consciously decided it. It just happened!
Is the island in this story a real island? Or just based on the islands near Vancouver?
The island is a real island. It’s one of my favourite places in the world. I’ve been going there every summer since I was five years old. I’m going there later today, in fact.
It seems that like JC you are a bit of a shark aficionado yourself. What is your favourite kind of shark?
My favourite kind of shark is easily the Great White. While I find them terrifying (particularly in movies), they are also incredible survivors, largely unchanged since they first appeared on the evolutionary timeline around eleven million years ago. As high as they are in their food chain, they also keep our oceans in balance (a balance that humans seem bent on destroying).
I love that JC’s father cries quite easily. Why did you give him this trait?
I think that before he moves in with his dad, JC sees him largely as two-dimensional, almost a cartoon buffoon. But once he moves in with him, he sees the humanity in his dad that he had never seen (or cared about) before. Crying is part of life. We all do it! Some of us just hide it better than others.
JC writes emails and texts that he never sends. Do you ever do that?
I absolutely do. My ex-husband and I used to have some of our most intense fights via email. The unsent ones probably tell more of the story than the ones we sent!
Saving the environment is a cause that is very important to JC. What resources can you suggest for people who want to get involved?
JC talks a lot about the movie SHARKWATER, which I would strongly recommend that everyone should watch. There are a lot of ways to get involved in stopping the shark finning industry, which kills millions of sharks every year. (Click here to find more information)
We all experience loss. What words of advice do you have for teenagers who have suffered in this way?
This is a very difficult question. I think the only thing I can advise is for you to feel your feelings and be kind to yourself. You can’t control how much you feel or how long you grieve for. Allow yourself time and space to mourn.
What was your favourite part of writing this book?
I love the characters in this novel. I wanted to see what they would do, and I loved the feeling of watching it unfold. It’s set in one of my favourite locations, too.
How long was your journey from first idea to holding a copy in your hands?
This one took a few years! It’s a book I started, then put on hold, then came back to again. I loved every part of it.
If people only take one thing from your book, what would you want it to be?
There are so many things! You asked for one, and I’ll give you two:
1. It’s OK to grieve when you’ve suffered a loss.
2. Sharks don’t want to eat you!
What’s a question you’ve never been asked about your book, but have been dying to answer?
No one has asked me to fantasy-cast the film yet! I definitely picture Amandla Stenberg as Daff. Maybe Elle Fanning as Kelby? And Tom Holland as JC…
Where can we find you?
Quillable’s tagline is “For all things noteworthy.”
Could you share something noteworthy you have come across recently?
I’m just going to keep promoting SHARKWATER. The more people see it, the more they’ll care and want to help make a difference. It matters: Trailer