Jess spent her childhood between the UK and India, and grew up hearing stories about the Himalayas from her Grandmother. As soon as she was old enough, she went on her own adventures in search of story ideas. After her undergraduate, Jess studied a creative writing masters at bath spa university and now lives between the USA and the UK.
Her articles about creative writing, and short stories, have featured in publications such as the writers’ and artists’ yearbook and scoop magazine. She’s published three novels for children aged 9+, running on the roof of the world and when the mountains roared. Her fourth novel, Where the Wilderness Grows will be published in April 2020. Jess regularly visits schools and literary festivals where she works with young people and runs creative writing workshops.
Take a look back at a few of jess's interviews...
SWIMMING AGAINST THE STORM
WHEN THE MOUNTAIN ROARED
RUNNING ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD
ONE YEAR ON - DEBUT DIARIES
By Tizzie Frankish
Welcome to Debut Diaries—One Year On, where SCBWI-BI members share their highs (hopefully lots of these) and lows (hopefully fewer of these) of the post-publication year. This month, Tizzie welcomes Jess Butterworth, author of Running on the Roof of the World and When the Mountains Roared, to join her for afternoon tea.
After a whirlwind post-debut year, it’s a chance for Jess to put her feet up and share her insights over a cuppa and some carefully chosen sweet treats, which reflect the mood of the months following life after debut. Has the reality lived up to the dreams? What do you wish you’d known before the first thrills of your book birthday became a distant memory? And are launch parties and school visits really that terrifying?
June 2017 Cupcakes!
Running on the Roof of the World is published in the UK! And to celebrate I hold a launch party at Waterstones in Bath. I bring artefacts from my travels, including two toy yaks, cakes, snacks and wine, and am interviewed by the very lovely bookseller Bex, before doing a reading. They sell out of books, which is incredible and I sign them all too! (I did practice my signature beforehand; I have a long name and wanted a nice way to be able to write it quickly!)
Jess with fellow authors at Waterstones Piccadilly. Left to right: Amy Wilson, Christopher Edge, Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Sarah Driver, Jess
Jess outside Waterstones
I also have my first author event at Waterstones Piccadilly with brilliant authors Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Amy Wilson, Christopher Edge and Sarah Driver. It’s a panel on the wonders of writing middle-grade fiction. I’m very nervous beforehand but once we’re talking I enjoy it.
October 2017 Apple Cake!
My first book tour! I visit schools, bookshops, am interviewed on Funkid’s Radio, speak at Bath Children’s Literature Festival and Althorp Literary Festival. The highlight is meeting the children who are interested in the books! They ask me the most brilliant, inquisitive questions. It really is a dream come true to see students open up their copies and read along with you.
I also receive the most amazing news that Running on the Roof of the World has been chosen by Booktrust as one of their future classics in the School Library Pack.
At the same time, I’m desperately trying to finish edits for book two!
During this month, I’m on a rollercoaster of highs and lows as I try to fit everything in and balance writing with publicity and a day job. Following the flurry of publication, there is a moment after the tour when news about the book suddenly goes very quiet and I worry that everything isn’t going as well as I wanted. In reality, everything is fine! My main advice is to try not to worry during quiet moments and to use this time to catch up on your passion – writing!
Before publication, start thinking about as many of these things as possible: an author website and social media presence, school visits, your next book. If the prospect of doing school events is daunting, attend some author events at literary festivals to see how others do it. For the previous five years, I volunteered at children’s literature festivals, where I was lucky enough to attend a broad range of author events. This helped immensely with planning my own school and festival visits.
April 2018 Wedding Cake
At the launch of When the Mountains Roared
Book two, When the Mountains Roared, is published in the UK! I’m delighted that Waterstones in Bath are happy to host another launch party. The celebrations continue as my sister gets married the next day!
It’s also time to hand in a first draft of Book Three, Swimming Against the Storm.
Followed by another book tour!
May 2018 Blue Velvet Cupcakes!
Running on the Roof of the World is published in the US and Barnes & Noble sell out of books at the launch party, where I’m interviewed by Washington Post journalist, Marie Elizabeth Oliver. Running is named one of Amazon’s best books for May!
At the Bath Children's Literature Festival
Over the next year I’m planning to do many events in the US and the UK, and finish books three and four. My regular treats of choice to keep me company through all of this are dark chocolate oatcakes – I eat far too many of them – and dates! I love dates.
Interview with Author Jess Butterworth - Celia Jenkins
May 27, 2017
I have so much YA (young adult) fiction on my reading list this year - lots that I have put on hold because I've been living abroad and reading mostly on my kindle, but I prefer YA books in paper and so have been waiting for my return to the UK. One book that I have recently added to my hit list is Jess Butterworth's Running on the Roof of the World, which comes out June 1st. Having studied alongside Jess back in my BA days, I'm really excited about this book. India is a place that I have never been to or really considered in my top ten destinations, but so many people are setting their books there these days that I think I'll have to reconsider. I got the chance to ask Jess a few questions about her debut book.
Your first novel, Running on the Roof of the World, comes out on June 1st. What can you tell us about your debut book?
Running on the Roof of the World is an adventure story set in Tibet and India. It follows 12-year-old Tash on a journey of survival and hope as she tries to save her parents, armed with her best friend Sam and two trusty yaks. But to do so they must escape Tibet, cross the mountains, and seek help from the Dalai Lama in India.
You are currently working on your second book. Is this a sequel to your debut work, and how is it similar to / different from Running on the Roof of the World?
Book 2 is a stand-alone novel with new characters, although it is connected to Running on the Roof by its adventure genre and setting. It also features a strong female protagonist. The story takes place mainly in the foothill forests of the Indian Himalayas and is inspired by time spent at my Grandma’s house there. Revisiting my childhood memories and love for the place has been magical.
Your first book was written while you were studying the Writing for Young People MA at Bath Spa University. How is writing within the support of an MA (as with your first book) different to going alone (as you have done with your second)?
I’ve lost count of the number of drafts Running on the Roof of the World has been through, its word count has grown and shrunk and grown again. Many of these drafts occurred on the MA, where I received regular constructive feedback along with support. This process equipped me with the tools and courage to do it alone for book 2. What I really enjoyed about writing the second book was completing a whole draft before having to go back and edit, as opposed to working chapter by chapter. I was able to really immerse myself in the story. I have a workshop group to bounce ideas off too.
Creative Writing courses (be they BA, MA or other) often take a lot of criticism. What can you say in defence of these courses, which are often branded as over-expensive and unnecessary?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer and also complete an MA. In a way, doing the MA was me giving myself the time to do that; the space to finish a complete book and build knowledge and skills while doing it. I learnt so much about publishing and am now part of a wonderful and supportive community of tutors, alumni and students. The MA enabled us to showcase our work to agents at the end of the course, which is how I met Sallyanne Sweeney. It was a vital part of my journey to publication, I would actually do it again now if I could!
Tell us about your writing habits. When you are at home, do you have any special places that you go to when you want to write, or any writing rituals?
For the first time in a while I have a desk and an actual computer, instead of laptop which I drag around different countries with me, writing on beds, trains and under shady trees. I have photographs of the places I’m writing about pinned to the wall and messy storyboards stuck next to me. I’ve just adopted 2 kittens who keep me company (and provide many distractions). I often use music to help me write; it’s so evocative it helps me get into the mood of my characters, or the theme of the book, and focus’s my concentration.
As you spend a lot of time travelling, how does this affect your working life? Do you have any special tips for other travelling writers?
Notebooks! Write everything down. If you write on a laptop back your work up every time. Prepare for things to sometimes go wrong, my laptop once got struck by lightning, which was not something I had anticipated. Take advantage of long journeys to read!
The wonderful thing about writing is that you can do it anywhere and everywhere. I find keeping in touch with writing communities through email and Twitter helpful in allowing me to feel connected wherever I am. I like to know what’s going on in the publishing world. This applies to general life but I find I’m much more productive when I designate my time if I’m busy. That way I get to explore or do a day job and have time to write, rather than feeling like I should be writing all the time. (Although this is something I still need to work on!)
Which authors did you read a lot of in your youth? Do you have any favourite YA authors who you read nowadays?
Growing up, amongst many others, I adored Malorie Blackman, Philip Pullman, David Almond and Louis Sachar’s Holes.
I most recently loved Claire Fayers’ Accidental Pirates, Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce, The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell and The Wilderness War by Julia Green.
There is so much good YA and middle grade out there. My to-be-read pile is rapidly growing. Some books currently on it are Orange Boy by Patrice Lawrence, A Girl Called Owl by Amy Wilson and The Huntress: Sea by Sarah Driver.
Running on the Roof of the World is set in Tibet and India. Do you have any favourite travel destinations that you'd love to return to, or any places that you've yet to visit which you are dying to see?
Yes, so many! I still have lots of family India so I’ll return there regularly. I’ve never been anywhere in South America and I’d love to visit there one day but for now I’ll be bouncing back and forth between the UK and the USA.
This interview was first published on celiajenkins.com
Swimming Against the Storm - Armadillo Magazine.
Amy Grandvoinet again speaks to Jess Butterworth about her passion for the environment and her latest book for junior and teen readers.
Jess Butterworth’s third book, Swimming Against the Storm, is out! An adventure story for young readers based in Louisiana, where rising sea levels in a global scene of troubling climate change, Jess makes another stellar creation that champions hope and action. Following her book launch on Tuesday 16th April 2019, Jess answers a few questions from Armadillo, revealing a little more about her current tale, and a little too about the next one…
One sentence to sum up what the book means for you? Swimming Against the Storm is an adventure set in the swamps of Louisiana with themes of environmentalism, friendship, growing up, and fighting for what you believe in.
The relationship between Eliza and Avery, specifically thinking about responsibility, was very interesting – do you see this linking to other considerations on this theme that come up elsewhere in Swimming Against the Storm? Eliza feels a huge responsibility of looking after Avery because Avery is younger than her, and she worries that Avery doesn’t realise how dangerous the swamps can be, even though Eliza’s taught Avery everything she knows. Eliza’s also growing up and trying to carve out her own identity, one that’s separate to Avery. I think it’s in Eliza’s personality to care about things deeply and feel responsible for looking after those things, like her family and friends and pet cat, her home and all the creatures that inhabit it, and the sinking land they live on. This also provides a contrast to the oil company that works in the area, who don’t feel any responsibility to care about the impacts they are having on the area.
‘Soileron’ – what was the thinking behind the choosing of this name, Jess? Soileron is the name of the oil corporation that operates in the area. It was actually very hard to find a name that wasn’t already taken by a product or company. I wanted a name that was connected to the earth in some way, and that also sounded like it could be a real, and one that didn’t immediately conjure images of an oil company.
Any personal encounters with sinking mud yourself in Louisiana? Luckily I’ve never fallen completely into sinking mud but I have got my foot stuck before and when I pulled my pulled my foot out, it left the shoe in the mud!
… And any personal encounters with eating worms (and therefore some mud) in Lousiana too? No, I’ve never eaten worms in Louisiana (and hopefully will never have to!) but I’ve been told some stories of children eating worms which is where I got the idea from.
Have you ever tried a King Cake? If so, can you tell us what it is like? I love King Cake. Like Christmas Cake it’s only around once a year, which makes it extra special. It’s always in the shape of a giant ring, and decorated in the Mardi Gras colours of green, purple and gold. There can be different fillings inside the cake, but my favourite is cinnamon and pecan.
What do you hope readers might take away from reading your book? I hope readers come away feeling like they’ve been on their own adventure, that they’ve had a peek into a place that’s different to where they live, and that they feel empowered that they can make a difference in the world in the ways they want to.
And finally, is there anything you might share with Armadillo about what’s coming in your new Wales-based story (I feel I might be able to ask this, with an ounce of cheek, as I am writing to you from Welsh lands!)? It’s going to be about four brothers and sisters who go on a quest to find their father who’s living in remote Wales, but on the way they get lost in the Preseli mountains. Unbeknownst to them, they’re also being pursued by a group of criminals because of an object they’re carrying. There’s going to be lots of Welsh folklore woven in too. I’m very much enjoying writing it.
And I can reveal that the title will be Where the Wilderness Lives.
Jess, thank you so much!
Swimming Against the Storm - The Reading Realm
Jess studied a Creative Writing Masters at Bath Spa University and now lives between the USA and the UK. Her books for children aged 9+ include Running on the Roof of the World, When the Mountains Roared and Swimming Against the Storm!
Without giving too much away, can you tell us a bit about your new book Swimming Against the Storm?
Sure! The book follows twelve-year-old Eliza and her sister Avery who live in a small fishing village on the coast of Louisiana, alongside turtles, pelicans and porpoises. But with sea levels rising, their home is at risk of being swept away.
Determined to save the land, they secretly go searching in the swamp for the dangerous, wolf-like loup-garou. If they can prove this legendary creature exists, they’re sure that the government will have to protect its habitat – and their community.
But there’s one problem: the loup-garou has never been seen before. And with a tropical storm approaching and the sisters deep, deep in the swampland, soon it’s not just their home at risk, but their lives as well.
How is Swimming Against the Storm similar to Running on the Roof of the World? How is it different?
I love to write adventures set in wild places that exist within our world. Both books are grounded in real events. In Running on the Roof of the World the story is centred around the Chinese occupation of Tibet. In Swimming Against the Storm I explore the effects of land loss in Louisiana from rising sea levels and land subsidence. There’s also an element of a journey in both, travelling over the Himalayas, or into the swamps, and a race against time. But the settings are very different and Tashi and Eliza are very different as characters, facing their own set of obstacles.
There’s a really interesting poem at the beginning of the book by Joshua Clegg Caffery called In the Creole Twilight. Can you tell us more about the poem? Did the poem inspire the story or did the story come first?
I feel like something magical happens when you’re writing a story – at times it almost seems like relevant bits of information and inspiration fly at you from nowhere. This is what happened with Joshua’s beautiful book. I had already written part of the loup-garou storyline but wasn’t sure how to introduce readers to the idea of this mythical creature yet. The book was a Christmas present and as soon as I read the poem, I got goosebumps. It was perfect. It was also a lovely way to celebrate Louisiana’s rich folklore and the legacy of reimagining traditional stories and songs.
The relationship between Eliza and Avery is central to the story. How did your relationship with your sisters help you when writing? How much of life with your sisters is included in the book?
I’m the oldest of four sisters which inspired the relationship between Eliza and Avery. Although their relationship is fictional, when writing I drew from my own memories of sometimes worrying about my sisters, whilst also seeking my independence. I also remember my sisters not understanding why I got to do certain things just because I was older which I used as inspiration for Avery.
I loved the excitement and tension in Chapters 20 and 21, when the children find themselves in the eye of the storm. Can you tell us a bit more about these chapters and what you were trying to achieve? Do you have a favourite moment in the story?
Thanks! Those chapters were incredibly fun to write as I’d been building the tension from the brewing storm since the beginning and finally it all comes to a point in this climactic moment. This is also reflected in Eliza and Avery’s relationship in those chapters. I think it’s my favourite moment too!
Many of the chapters in your stories are short and compact. Why is this? What effect do you feel short chapters have on a reader and the flow of the story?
I use chapter length to speed up and slow the pace, as well as create cliff hangers. When I was ten-years-old I loved fast paced stories and although I loved reading, I got distracted quite easily. I always try and write a book my ten-year-old self would want to read. It’s important to me to try and keep readers hooked the whole way through.
Eliza wrestles with the idea of destiny and the notion that she is destined to be a shrimper. Do you believe in destiny? Do you think it is your destiny to write books for children?
Eliza’s internal battle is about feeling destined to be shrimper because it’s what her parents expect her to do, but she’s not certain it’s actually what she wants to do. In some ways I think this is a universal coming of age theme – the importance of listening to yourself even though it might conflict with the expectations of others.
I decided that I wanted to be a writer when I was ten-years-old after an author visit at my school from Philip Pullman. There were definitely many people who suggested different career paths, and some moments myself when I felt giving up, but I’ve realised that I’ll always write children’s books. It’s my way of making sense of the world around me and capturing the wonder of what it was like to be a child.
You describe beautifully the ‘Symphony of the Swamp’ and music certainly seems to be an important theme throughout the story – all the children learn instruments and Huy’s accordion becomes a vital part of him. I wondered what role music has played in your life?
Thanks! Music has always been an important part of my life and when I was researching Swimming Against the Storm I was delighted to discover the music that was part of the culture there and wanted to weave this in. Growing up, I played the piano and my favourite pieces were ones that reflected the soundscape of nature, like Debussy’s Arabesques. The first time I heard a swamp at night I wanted to recreate it through music (but haven’t yet!). One day I would love to learn to play the accordion.
The children meet lots of different animals on their journey through the swamp, such as pink spoonbills alligators and nutria. Do you have a favourite swamp creature?
I adored observing all the creatures in the swamp. It’s so different to any landscape or ecosystem I’ve ever experienced before. I’m not sure I can choose just one! I loved seeing the birds – the pelicans, the pink spoonbills, and the egrets. I also loved watching the armadillos bumbling through the undergrowth. And in the water, it was always exciting to see the alligators and turtles.
In all your stories there is a strong female lead – Ruby, Tasha and now Eliza. How important is it to you to include strong female leads in your stories and challenge gender stereotypes?
Growing up, my favourite books were wonderful adventure stories such as Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and Kensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo. But often it was the boys in my favourite stories that got to go on the adventures. Coming from a huge family of women it’s incredibly important to me to write about girls exploring these wild places and adventuring, and that these stories with strong female leads can be enjoyed by all genders.
I was intrigued by the delicious dishes you include in the book, including crawfish etouffee and jambalaya. Did you get to taste lots of traditional Creole cuisine when writing this book? Do you have a favourite?
I did! I’m vegetarian though so often the dishes I tried were slightly different but still very delicious! My favourite is green gumbo. One of the things I love about Creole and Cajun cuisine is that it’s often made in large quantities and shared with lots of people. I would often hear from different people, ‘I’m cooking a gumbo tomorrow, come on over!’
Can you recommend any other fiction or non-fiction books to children who may be interested in the themes explored in the book, such as looking after the environment?
Definitely! Some of my favourites are: The Last Wild series by Piers Torday, The Lost Words: A Spell Book by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris, The Boy who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba, The Wilderness War by Julia Green, Exodus by Julie Bertagna, Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson, and everything by Nicola Davies and Gill Lewis.
You talk about the need for children ‘to learn about the land beneath our feet’. Do you have any advice or tips for teachers to help with this?
I think it’s about making connections with the world around us wherever possible, whether it’s taking a nature walk, bringing nature inside, litter picking, planting a garden or planting pollinator friendly plants, and helping young people feel empowered to come up with creative solutions to the problems they see around them. I’m part of Authors4Oceans which recently ran a great competition to make art out of plastic rubbish, and has some useful teaching resources on their website.
I’ve been blown away by the responses to my books that teachers have come up with that encourage children to connect to the world around them. My favourite includes adopting an endangered snow leopard through WWF.
I think every school should be given the funds to go on school trips outdoors so that every child has access to nature.
Finally, can you describe Swimming Against the Storm in three words?
Friendship – Swamp – Adventure
Thanks so much for interviewing me at The Reading Realm!
When the Mountains Roared - Armadillo Magazine
Hey Jess! Thank you for joining us at Armadillo Magazine to answer a few questions for our readers all about your new (and second - congratulations!) book, When the Mountains Roared. This wonderfully rich story spans different countries, explores family and friendships, troubles and challenges, and brave journeys. To begin with, can you tell us if there was an aspect of When the Mountains Roared that you enjoyed writing the most? If so, we'd love to hear some of your reflections.
Thanks so much for having me at Armadillo Magazine! I love the name by the way, and armadillos. They feature in my third book. My favourite parts to write in When the Mountains Roared were the scenes inspired from my own memories: moments like the scorpions crawling out of the cracks in the fireplace, the porcupines eating the potatoes and the butterfly migration. I also loved writing about Praveen and Ruby’s growing friendship. Oh and I loved writing the character of Grandma too! The moments I liked writing the least were the parts that featured snakes, as I was scared of them after being bitten by a king brown snake in Australia! But by the end of writing the book I was less afraid of them.
It is our pleasure! And particularly a pleasure with a subject so lovingly animal-focussed: your personal memories of scorpions, porcupines, butterflies and snakes are fascinating. How coincidental and intriguing that there will be armadillos in your next book! Can you tell us one reason why you love them? We will return to look at the characters and relationships of Grandma, Ruby, and Praveen a bit later; for now, When the Mountains Roared strongly explores and highlights issues of conservation, specifically regarding the poaching of leopards (not too much of a spoiler, readers, as Jess's book is beautifully emblazoned with a gorgeous spotted feline friend on the front cover!). Why was this subject so important for you to address in your second book? And, in so moving on to approach another different and difficult issue, how did it feel to move away from looking so closely at the troubles facing the people of Tibet (either in their homeland currently occupied by the Chinese government or in refuge in north India) as in your first book Running on the Roof of the World? You deal with some pressing and important matters, Jess, raising awareness in young people wonderfully.
My next book, Swimming Against the Storm, is set in the vanishing parts of coastal Louisiana and during a research trip I camped in a state park in the Atchafalaya Basin, which is the largest wetland, or swamp, in the States. There I saw my first armadillo and spent several hours watching it forage in the undergrowth. With their little pink ears and noses they’re very cute! And I love their armoured shells.
I’ve learnt through practice that my best work comes when I write about themes, places or communities that I care about deeply and I’ve always wanted to write contemporary adventures grounded in real events and settings. Someday I would love to return to Tashi and her journey following Running on the Roof for the World but I wanted to step away from it for a while because Ruby’s voice was in my heard demanding to heard.
When I was India as a child, I was often outside, trekking in the Himalayas and surrounded by animals. I grew up hearing stories from my Grandma about the animals she encountered on her travels, including the leopard cub my uncle rescued and re-wilded. My family watched many David Attenborough wildlife documentaries which helped fuel my love of nature. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists more than 23 000 plant and animal species threatened with extinction on its red list which is an issue I feel passionately about. I wanted to write a book that examined our relationships with nature, including the reasons why people poach threatened species.
Thank you, Jess. Your motivations are truly fascinating, and inspiring to hear. You deal with these issues in a way that brings hope and the beautiful remains, in spite of the difficulties. The imagery you paint of the Himalayan landscape, in spite of the presence of poachers and their grim impact within it, is magical. Orange orchids, amongst other flowers, for example, come up a few times across your chapters. What do flowers mean to you and why to you draw on them in your writing?
Thanks, Amy! That's lovely to hear! I always start the writing process with a sense of place and setting. I love immersing my characters in the flora that surrounds them. That way the reader can be transported there too. Orange reminds Ruby of her mum because it was her favourite colour and the orange lilies symbolise that her mum is still with her in spirit in India. Orange is also a sacred colour in India and is seen in the nature there, such as marigolds, and found in food like saffron and turmeric.
Fascinating. Thank you. And it seems, also, that there is a strong emphasis on visual attention through Ruby's photographic interests in When the Mountains Roared. Can you tell us anything about the featuring of photography in this story? Is it, for example, an interest you yourself share with Ruby?
I adore taking photographs but I'm very much an amateur. My little sister is a wildlife and marine photographer which is partly where I drew the inspiration from for Ruby's photography passion. I also thought it would be interesting to have the photographic shooting of animals running alongside the story thread of shooting and killing the animals. Another interesting link is that through my research I discovered several case studies where people who had previously poached snow leopards and leopards for money, now track and capture photographs of them instead.
So many links - thank you for sharing the richness of the thinking process behind this. Hopefully no camera of your sister has ever had the same experience as Ruby's in your book... Speaking of which, the 'bad guys' in When the Mountains Roared are truly 'bad guys' - were there any specific inspirations you can tell us for their characterisation and, in contrast, how about for your endearing and gentle Praveen (readers, Ruby's new very good friend in India)? Both are so vividly written.
Looking back, I realise that I drew inspiration from Dickon in The Secret Garden, for Praveen. They're both stewards for the wildernesses and animals that surround them. I wanted Ruby's friend to be gentle and kind and to stand up for what he believes in. I explore relationships with money and wealth in this story and the bad guys are very much driven by the desire or need for money or trophies. Without giving too much away, there's a moment where one of them makes an unexpected decision which I wanted to include to demonstrate the possibility of self-actualisation, even with the baddies.
A torch flaming the light for young people of today and tomorrow; thank you so much, Jess, for your time.
Jess Butterworth's new book When the Mountains Roared, published by Orion Childrens Books, can be found in good bookshops or online, alongside her debut novel Running on the Roof of the World. We'll keep our eyes peeled for her third, in anticipation, Swimming Against the Storm.
Running on the Roof of the World - Golden Books Girl
Golden Books Girl
I was delighted when one of my favourite book bloggers decided to interview me. Her name is Golden Books Girl and you can find her blog here.
Now I’m going to hand over to her…
Today, I’m incredibly excited to welcome another author for a Q&A; the incredible Jess Butterworth, whose stunning debut Running on the Roof of the World I absolutely adored (you can read my review in this post). On to the questions!
Hi Jess. Welcome to Golden Books Girl, and thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview with me!
My pleasure! I’m delighted to be here.
1. To start off, can you sum up Running on the Roof the World for anyone who hasn't read it yet in 5 words?
Contemporary Himalayan adventure, featuring yaks!
2. I absolutely loved the setting of Tibet in the book. What inspired you to set the book there? Is anything in the book based on your own experience of living in the Himalayas?
Absolutely. My father was a trek leader and we lived on a remote foothill above Dharamshala, where the Dalai Lama and a Tibetan community in exile is settled. My mother’s family lived in London, where I was born. Growing up, I would always write about the Himalayas when I was in the UK and missing the mountains or my dad and grandparents who still lived there.
I wanted to introduce readers to events I care about deeply, but really it wasn’t as planned out as that. Tash’s voice appeared in my head one day and wouldn’t leave.
The vulture tree is based on a tree I saw about ten years ago, with many vultures perched on its branches. It’s something I’ve never seen again on my visits since, and an image that has stayed with me.
Another real life moment I drew from was when my sister and I once walked down the mountain at dusk and saw a bear up a tree. Needless to say, we backed away slowly and luckily left the bear undisturbed. My sister is a singer and from that moment onwards she would always sing at the top of her lungs as we walked over the foothills. We were taught never to sneak up on the leopards and bears; you’re safer if they can hear you coming and will choose to get out of the way.
The glacier scene came from a time I was trekking with my Dad and we camped by a glacier. Later, we used our sleeping mats to slide down the glacier. It was fun, but bumpy!
During my research trip, when I was close to the India/Tibet border, after acclimatising, I went up to 18380 feet, and very much felt the effects of being at such a high altitude. So that made it into the book too!
3. The difficult political issues in Tibet are very prominent throughout Running on the Roof of the World, as Tash's parents are arrested by the Chinese soldiers for being rebels. Was it a challenge to explore such a brutal situation and still aim the book at middlegrade readers?
I definitely spent time making sure that the book was truthful to its setting whilst still appealing to middle-grade readers. I wanted to write a story that was relevant to today and it was important to me to include those moments as they’re grounded in real events. Writing in first person helped and allowed the reader to see the events through Tash’s eyes, while still giving a sense of the bigger political picture. I included moments of lightness and laughter, and an overall theme of hope, and I focused on the universal aspects to make it relatable to younger readers.
4. What was your favourite scene to write in the book?
So many! I loved everything about writing about the mountains! Sliding down glaciers was one of my favourite, hiding with Eve, and the ending.
5. Speaking of writing, do you have any unusual writing habits? What are your writing routines like?
In the past few years, I’ve had many different jobs at the same time as being a writer, from working as a bid-coordinator, assisting in a vintage furniture shop, to nannying. In between them I was often travelling to and from India which means that my writing habits changed regularly. They mainly consisted of writing wherever and whenever I could! I do know that I work best in the mornings, when I can wake up and write straight away. I like to start a new idea in a notebook before transferring it to my computer.
Right now, for the first time ever, I have an office and office assistants, Luna and Bo Bo, the Maine Coon mix kittens, which is exciting.
6. Do you have any tips or advice for writers reading this interview?
Read as much as you can. If you’re stuck for inspiration, think back to the things you loved doing at the age at your protagonist or the things you feel passionately about. So much of writing is re-writing; Running on the Roof of the World went through at least ten full drafts. Practice patience; everything takes a long time! Most importantly, don’t give up! Everyone has rejections.
7. What other activities do you enjoy apart from writing?
Trekking, dancing, reading, camping and being outside, being with friends, yoga, watching live music, travelling.
8. What has been your most exciting moment of being an author so far?
The book launch for sure! I got to see it in a Waterstones window display and gave my first public reading.
9. If you could have written any book by another author, what would it be and why?
Matilda by Roald Dahl because it has remained one of my favourite books.
10. Finally, before we go on to the quick fire questions, are you able to say anything about your next book? I can't wait to read it after your amazing debut!
Aw, thank you! It’s called When the Mountains Roared and is inspired by my Grandma who travelled from Australia to India by boat and overland with a border collie dog and a kangaroo joey. It’s an adventure set in the mountains of India, about a girl who is determined to protect the wild leopards of the mountain from poachers.
Can you give us three random facts about you?
In the Australian outback, I got bitten by a brown snake and airlifted to hospital.
I have three younger sisters.
I edited Running on the Roof of the World while I was in India, during monsoon. I was often enclosed in a cloud. If I opened a window, the cloud would drift inside. My pillow went mouldy.
Yaks and leopards (couldn’t choose!)
Favourite chocolate bar?
Yesterday someone gave me pomegranate dark chocolate and it is my new favourite thing!
What's your Hogwarts house?
Best book you've read this year?
The Huntress: Sea by Sarah Driver
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this interview as much as I enjoyed writing the questions and organising the post with Jess, who has been an utter delight (and was kind enough to send me the gorgeous photos throughout the post to use)
See you soon with a new post
This interview was originally published on https://goldenbooksgirl.wordpress.com
Running on the Roof of the World - From the mixed up files
June 6, 2018
By S. A. Larsen
Meet Jess Butterworth, Author of Running on the Roof of the World. Our next middle grade spotlight is directed on a book brimming with adventure, intrigue, and culture. And it’s written by an incredibly sweet author! Let’s meet her now.
Jess Butterworth – As a child Jess wanted to be many things, including a vet and even David Attenborough, but throughout all of those ideas, she always wanted to write. She studied creative writing as a BA(hons) at Bath Spa University, where she won the Writing for Young People Prize in 2011. She then completed a Master’s in Writing for Young People, also at Bath Spa University, and graduated in 2015. Her first two novels, RUNNING ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD and WHEN THE MOUNTAINS ROARED are set in the Himalayas. Find her on Twitter & her Website.
Welcome to our Mixed-Up site, Jess! So glad you stopped by.
Thanks for having me here.
Let’s begin with when you were a child. Did you have a special someone read to you? And was reading a big part of your life as a middle grader?
As a young child, my grandmothers and parents would read to me often, which I adored. Apparently I refused to go to bed without having several stories read to me beforehand. My absolute favorite books were The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Dear Zoo and Where the Wild Things Are.
When I was a middle grader, it was Matilda by Roald Dahl that accelerated my love of reading. Just like in Matilda, books transported me to different worlds and countries from the comfort of my own home and you’d often find me in the library in search of adventure stories.
You chose great reads as a child!
What motivated you to write this story? Where did you find your inspiration?
As a child, I grew up between India where my dad’s family lived, and the UK, where my mum’s family lived. In India, our home was in Dharamsala in the Himalayas, where the Dalai Lama and a Tibetan community in exile live. Growing up I had lots of friends who were Tibetan and whose family had made the journey over the mountains from Tibet into the safety of India. Writing has always been my way of making sense of the world around me and when I was visiting my dad in the Himalayas in 2013, I learnt about the current abuse of human rights within Tibet. Tashi’s voice soon appeared in my head and I started writing.
Wow, what an intriguing childhood environment to grow up in. It’s very touching how Tashi’s voice came to be.
Speaking of Tashi, there’s a violent act that plunges her into a new story and completely changes her world. How did you decide to use this act and the oppression of her people, and did the violence of it give you concerns for your readers?
I try not to avoid the difficult situations within the world in my writing, but rather make sure that there’s a sense of hope in the story. I aim to show that it’s possible to go on, even after a terrible thing has occurred, by focusing on universal aspects such as friendship, kindness and love. Running on the Roof of the World is grounded in real events and settings which made me feel it’s important to keep that moment in. I also included moments of lightness and laughter and even though there are political undercurrents throughout, it’s very much a middle grade adventure story too.
I really love this answer.
This story gives vivid insight into the Tibetan daily life and culture. How much research did you do and how much of that research made it into the book?
When I realized I wanted to write this book, I returned to Dharamsala and did six months of research. During that time, I studied Tibetan Buddhism, attended Dalai Lama teachings, trekked into the Himalayas and went in search of yaks. I also interviewed many Tibetan people. There was definitely a lot of research that got cut along the way, but I think it still helped to have that knowledge in the back of my mind, especially with writing in a first person viewpoint. My favorite research moment was spending time with the yaks!
Very cool! And your efforts in research definitely show throughout this book. What do you hope readers take away from this story?
A small insight into a part of the world they not have been aware of before, and a sense of hope and wonder.
Are you working on anything new? What can your readers expect from you next?
My second book is another middle grade adventure called When the Mountains Roared and is inspired by my Grandma, who in the 1960s rescued a baby kangaroo joey as she was leaving Australia, and took it with her by boat to India. The story is set in the present and follows Ruby, who’s devastated when her dad uproots her from Australia to set up a hotel in the mountains of India. Not only are they living in a run-down building in the middle of the wilderness surrounded by scorpions, bears and leopards, but Ruby is sure that India will never truly feel like home—not without her mum there. Ever since her mum died, Ruby has been afraid. Of cars. Of the dark. Of going to sleep and never waking up. But then the last remaining leopards of the mountain are threatened and everything changes.
Your family has lived such interesting lives! I love that you’re touching upon that to share them with the world through your books. It’s been such a pleasure having you visit. Thank you!