Monday, February 22, 2016

Guest Post: If My Characters Had a Spirit Animal... by Kim Savage

by Kim Savage
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release Date: February 23rd 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller, Realistic Fiction, Suspense, Horror
Rating: 4/5


Would you risk your life to save your best friend? 

Julia did. When a paroled predator attacked Liv in the woods, Julia fought back and got caught. Liv ran, leaving Julia in the woods for a terrifying 48 hours that she remembers only in flashbacks. One year later, Liv seems bent on self-destruction, starving herself, doing drugs, and hooking up with a violent new boyfriend. A dead girl turns up in those same woods, and Julia’s memories resurface alongside clues unearthed by an ambitious reporter that link the girl to Julia’s abductor. As the devastating truth becomes clear, Julia realizes that after the woods was just the beginning.

In After the Woods, Julia avoids the natural world as much as possible. You’ll have to forgive her. A year ago, she was tracked in the woods by a paroled predator and wound up with a wrecked ankle, hypothermia, and a raging case of PTSD to boot.

Even though Julia doesn't like to hang with the furry folk doesn't mean my characters can’t claim their own spirit animals. Because: fun!

Let’s start with JULIA. A year ago, a simple run in the woods ended with her best friend Liv leaving her in the hands of Donald Jessup. Her mental toughness is what gets her through: counting stars, doing long-form math, and thinking about her mother in the long hours between night and morning. Later, she learns a devastating truth that would break anyone’s spirit.

Julia’s spirit animal? The mouse-bench-pressing-the-hammer-bar of his mousetrap in that chirpy meme of the same. Because Julia is living proof that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

LIV’s spirit animal is the cheetah. Cheetahs are fast and Liv is fast, in every sense of the word. But that’s way too literal for my tastes. See, Julia’s not the only survivor. Whereas Julia toughens overnight, Liv has evolved into a survivor over her lifetime. Like the cheetah whose evolutionary tweaks (an elongated spine, enlarged heart and lungs) help her track down food and escape predators, Liv’s character has evolved in ways that help her survive—and prevail against— a kind of oppression that even Julia can't fully understand.

Speaking of literal, and predators: DONALD JESSUPV is the convicted sex offender who takes his gaming to a whole new level when he acts out his favorite past-time, Prey. But Donald has a backstory, and like his spirit animal, the Chupacabra, he’s not exactly what he seems. The legendary goat blood-drinking creature has been proven to be just a coyote with a bad case of mange. You don’t necessarily want to run into a hairless coyote—in the woods, for example—but it’s not on par with, say, a really scary mother.

Which leads me to DEBORAH. Liv’s mother is a classic narcissist, prone to exclaiming things like “The mother of that [dead] girl could have been me!”. For Deborah, it’s all about appearances, and her spirit animal is Dottie the Texas Barn Owl. Dottie kills an invading snake to save her newborn owlet babies for the camera. I would argue Dottie knows exactly what she’s doing when she disembowels that snake and nets 190,000 likes in one swoop.

SHANE, Liv’s new boyfriend, is a real catch. He smokes too much, hits too hard, and makes Julia want to shower in Purell. Shane’s Spirit Animal is Ser Pounce from Game of Thrones. Ser Pounce is adorable, you say! But he’s also a pawn in a sick, sexy little game between underage Tommen and his older bride, lusty Maergery. Cue Shane, whose purpose in Liv’s life only Liv understands for most of the novel.

In keeping with the GOT theme, KELLAN is so clearly a Direwolf I scarcely have to point it out. Julia’s love interest shows up at all the right times, is fiercely loyal, and has probably warged into a hot guy, if GOT viewers are lucky this season. It just fits.

Another character known for her loyalty to Julia is ALICE, who is also Hedwig the Owl from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (and beyond). JK Rowling has said that Hedwig’s death represents Harry’s loss of innocence. Alice is Julia’s past incarnate, an old friend from a time before things got complicated, messy, and way too adult.

Finally, Paula Papademetriout, the aggressive reporter who befriends Julia for her own purposes, is a Jabberjay, the bird in The Hunger Games bred to eavesdrop on, memorize, and report human conversations to the Capitol. Jabberjays stuck it to their breeders by mating with mockingbirds and starting a new breed that would later be a symbol of the resistance. Like the Jabberjay, Paula’s faces extinction: her career is on the wane; she’s in an era where j-cred isn’t critical to success as an on-air personality. Still, with two juicy stories to pursue at the end of the novel, Jabberjay Paula remains as relevant as ever.

And the author’s spirit animal?

I vacillate between Grumpy Cat and the cat scared by the cucumber. Because on one hand, when things get between me and my writing, this:

On the other hand, AFTER THE WOODS is about to go out until the real world. And that has me all:

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Follow the After The Woods by Kim Savage Blog Tour and don't miss anything! Click on the banner to see the tour schedule.

Kim Savage is the author of AFTER THE WOODS, a debut psychological thriller for young adults coming on Feb 23, 2016 with Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Macmillan. Her second thriller for young adults comes from FSG is 2017. Before writing fiction, she worked as business journalist, pitching stories along the lines of “Stigmatized Properties: When Murder Kills Property Values”. You get the idea.


  1. The cover looks like fantasy, which is what caught my interest, but then the summary made me want to read it. I'm really curious about it...

    1. -Victoria
      (Just realized that my name is different on this lol)


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