Happy Wednesday and welcome to my stop on the PLAYING WITH FIRE blog tour! I’m so excited because today I have a guest post by April Henry to share with you! This book is truly amazing and I’m so so excited to for you to find out more about it, PLUS enter for a chance to win a print copy!
Playing with Fire by April Henry
Published by Henry Holt & Company on January 19, 2021
Genres: YA, Contemporary, Thriller
When a fire cuts off a popular trail in the Oregon forest, a small group trapped by the flames must find another way out―or die―in Playing with Fire, an unrelenting teen-vs-nature YA thriller by New York Times bestselling author April Henry.
Natalia is not the kind of girl who takes risks. Six years ago, she barely survived the house fire that killed her baby brother. Now she is cautious and always plays it safe. For months, her co-worker Wyatt has begged her to come hiking with him, and Natalia finally agrees.
But when a wildfire breaks out, blocking the trail back, a perfect sunny day quickly morphs into a nightmare. With no cell service, few supplies, and no clear way out of the burning forest, a group of strangers will have to become allies if they’re going to survive. Hiking in the dark, they must reach the only way out―a foot bridge over a deep canyon―before the fire catches them.
Were there alternate endings you considered, or did you always know where the story was headed?
Sometimes I know exactly how a book is going to end. I think when you are writing a mystery, a who-done-it, you need to know the answer before you get very far. But when you are writing a thriller, you don’t have to know the ending when you begin. You just put your character in a bad place and then ask yourself what could make it worse. Things must go from bad to worse to worst until it seems almost unbearable. And ideally, the events in the present should echo something that happened in the past.
So I gave my main character, Natalia, a terrible secret that has left her with physical and emotional scars. In that past moment, she made a terrible mistake, but this time she will have a chance to get it right.
Natalia’s original mistake involved her little brother. So as part of the stranded group, I added a couple with a child of about the same age. And since this couple are strangers, they know nothing about her past. Almost against her will, Natalia finds herself caring for the little boy, Trask.
As I wrote about Trask, I found myself thinking of my daughter when she was that age. They don’t call them the terrible twos for nothing. They want what they want when they want it.
I knew at some point Natalia was going to need to save Trask, but I didn’t know how or from what. Then a friend who volunteered for the Eagle Creek Fire sent me a picture of a bridge over a slot canyon that had burned down to the metal supports. The wooden floor of the bridge was completely gone.
I always say authors should write scenes that personally make their palms sweat. I’m so afraid of heights that I have trouble getting on a ladder to change a lightbulb. (In my defense, our old house has high ceilings.) So getting my group of characters safely across this burned out bridge had me feeling very anxious. I even spent time climbing around the outside of our deck (which is about four feet off the ground) so I could clearly picture how they moved and what they felt.
And that bridge gives Natalia a chance to rewrite the past.
April Henry is the New York Times–bestselling author of many acclaimed mysteries for adults and young adults, including the YA novels The Girl in the White Van; Girl, Stolen; The Night She Disappeared; The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die; The Girl I Used to Be, which was nominated for an Edgar Award and won the Anthony Award for Best YA Mystery; Count All Her Bones; The Lonely Dead; Run, Hide, Fight Back; and The Body in the Woods and Blood Will Tell, the first two books in the Point Last Seen series. She lives in Oregon.
Have you added this book to your tbr yet? Let me know in the comments and have a splendiferous day!