Lauren Blackwood’s Wildblood isn’t the kind of book she wrote to send a message, but like a lot of good books, there ends up being a very clear message in it, one that’s perfectly conveyed by a pretty intriguing character you find yourself rooting for before you even know where the story will take you. Fangirlish had a chance to talk to Blackwood about the book, being a visual writer, and of course, that beautiful cover we cannot stop staring at.
First things first, there’s a lot of Blackwood Jamaican heritage in the book – and in the cover. Blackwood’s grandparents were from Jamaica, and she told us that “it’s really their stories that sort of melded me to my culture.” And this culture is reflected in Wildblood’s beautiful cover, which features the Jamaican flag colors, at the author’s request. “The color scheme is sort of the Jamaican flag colors other than the red. The red is important for the book, though.” But that’s not all. “There are a whole lot of little Easter eggs on the cover, like little creatures and everything, which do show up in the book.”
Cover do not make the book, but they do help with that first spark of interest. Then, the book’s gotta grab you, of course. But Blackwood has no problem doing that – because Wildblood gives us an emotional story that is very specific, but still speaks to ideas we can all relate to. “I kind of focus on human emotions and experiences, and I feel like those are universal anyway. We all feel those. So even if you’ve never been through the situation before, you can understand the emotions that the characters are feeling during it.”
Blackwood added that “if you try to do experiences that everyone had, there’s always going to be somebody left out. So, I try to focus on how people would they feel during this. And I feel like that’s relatable to everybody.”
Then comes the story itself, which Blackwood confesses to visualizing as she’s writing. “I imagine everything like it’s a movie as I’m writing it,” she shared with us, and that includes the (spoiler alert!) monsters. “I do have to visualize them to describe them,” she explained, laughing. “I’m very visual, but for some reason, my own imagination doesn’t scare me. I don’t do horror movies, but my own imagination, I can take it for some reason.”
As someone who, likewise, doesn’t do horror movies, there’s enough magic in Wildblood to brave the monsters, and for Blackwood that magic comes from the setting. In the book, “the magic comes from the jungle,” the author shared. “The areas where they cut down the trees to, like, build cities and stuff, not much magic going on there. But, like, within the trees, there’s magic.”
There’s also magic in Victoria, the book’s main character, who acts like “the bridge from the jungle to the normal world.” And even though Victoria’s story has to do with magic, and she is the one who carries the weight of the message, she also gets some good stuff. Like romance. “I did want [the romance] to be, like, super sweet and wonderful because, look, she’s had a hard life. So, I gave her a sweet boyfriend, something good in her life. But it also does represent this journey she’s going on of her self-discovery. So, I was trying to play both angles with it.”
Well, there’s that and the fact that Blackwood shared she’s just a fan of romance – and that’s the reason why there’s a romance in the book. Which, fair, it is her book. And no complaints here, we kinda love our romance too, and in this case, it adds a lot to the story she’s trying to tell.
Blackwood, who is more of a pantser than a planner, confessed to big-picture thinking more than specific planning – even if traditional publishing has made her more of a planner. “I’ve sort of been forced to be a little bit of planner a little bit because I have to turn in a synopsis, but honestly, after I hand in the synopsis, I kind of stray from it a lot. So, like, the finished product is sort of pantsing with kind of a guideline, so it’s a little bit of both.”
There’s a certain magic in writing, and it can be felt as Blackwood explains her process. “I have main events plotted out, but how they get there, it’s up to the characters’ personalities. And if I haven’t written the book yet, I have no idea who these characters are. So, it’s like, okay, I’m just going to write stuff that seems cool and hopefully, I can stick with it [the synopsis]. And sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.”
But the message is always kinda there, in the background, percolating as she writes. Especially in a book like this one, which deals with monsters of all kinds – and has an environmental elemental. “Are the monsters the humans? Are the monsters in the jungle?” Blackwood questioned, and it’s a valid question both in real life and in the book. Victoria, the main character, at a specific point in the book talks about “what right do we have to invade the space of this jungle who existed way before we have and has sort of a life of its own.”
Victoria is, in many ways, right. And though Blackwood isn’t pontificating, she does want readers to think about monsters. Because sure, there are actual monsters in this book, but they are literally minding their own business. Meanwhile, the humans are cutting down the jungle, enslaving people and invading places that don’t belong to them. So, truly, who is the monster?
Everyone can make their own decision when Wildblood releases on February 7th.