Students from Ecole Heather Park Elementary in Prince George had the opportunity to interview the wonderfully talented Kenneth Oppel, author of The Nest.
EHPE: What inspired you to write the book, The Nest?
KO: A whole bunch of things. I had a title, and I wishlist of creepy things I wanted in my story: a toy phone that allowed you to talk to a mysterious person; a knife grinding van that kept returning to your street again and again; a person called Mr Nobody – and a wasp nest that was growing a human baby.
EHPE: Does anything in The Nest relate to something you experienced?
KO: The biggest influence for The Nest was very personal: the birth of our third child 11 years ago. She was born with Down syndrome, and it really made me re-evaluate how we look at what normal is and what that means. Is it possible for anyone to be truly normal? Is it a certain model of behaviour we must all try to live up to? All of us have weaknesses, flaws, things that make us “less than.” It made me think about how we value people, and how we look at who’s worthy, who’s lovable. For sure I was drawing on my own experiences for the emotional core of this book, because at the beginning when you have a baby who’s “different,” there’s so much you don’t know. There’s surprise, there’s worry, there’s questioning about what her prospects were going to be.
I now had this notion of a baby born into a family with something that’s very worrying. And in the book, the oldest child in the family, Steve, who’s 12, starts having dreams about an angel creature who offers to fix the baby, offering him a perfect baby to swap for the original baby. Steve just wants things to go back to normal. He wants them to be safe. We’re all trying so hard to get perfect bodies and partners and lives, and I think sometimes it can lead us to make choices that aren’t beneficial to ourselves and to others. Kids really want to fit in. They want to be part of a pack, and they want to be accepted. It’s very lonely to feel like you’re outside of normal. I wanted to show that no one is really normal, and we’re better for admitting that we’re flawed.
EHPE: Why did you dedicate The Nest to Julia, Nathaniel and Sophia?
KO: They’re my three kids – they’ve actually had quite a few books dedicated to them over the years!
EHPE: You have written many different kinds of novels. What genre of books do you prefer to write?
KO: I don’t have a favourite genre. I just write the idea that most excites me, whether it’s fantasy, or gothic thriller, or historical fiction, or contemporary fiction. With each of my books there was something about the idea or subject matter that grabbed hold of my imagination, and took my thoughts in all sorts of directions.
EHPE: How long does it take you to write a book?
KO: For a novel, between 12 to 24 months.
EHPE: Do you have a new book coming out soon? Can you tell us something about it?
KO: Well, I just had one come out called Every Hidden Thing, about two teens who discover the first T-Rex fossil. And the next thing you’ll see from me is called Inkling – which is a big rollicking adventure with lots of humour and magic.
EHPE: Who was your favourite author when you were a kid?
KO: Roald Dahl!
EHPE: What are your hobbies?
KO: I like to travel, read, watch movies, spend time with friends, go for long walks, sail, go on train rides!
–The Red Cedar Club (Everett, Charlotte, Nina, Jasmine, Breanna, Emily, Maya, Abby, Tayler, Braden, Morgan, Wynter, Trinity) and Maria Weisgarber, Teacher-Librarian, Ecole Heather Park Elementary, Prince George, BC