Behind The Book With Catherine Ryan Hyde

New Information about Upcoming Book Related News

Behind The Book With Catherine Ryan Hyde 

A few months ago, I did a Q&A with New York Times Bestselling Author Catherine Ryan Hyde. Today I am doing this Behind The Book Q&A with her once again discussing her upcoming novel Life Loss & Puffins coming out on May 14th! I read an early copy of the book last month and I enjoyed it!

Q: Catherine, when we did the Q&A a few months ago, you mentioned that Life Loss & Puffins did tend to have a slight autobiographical inspiration since you are an astrophotographer & you traveled to Finnish Lapland to see the Aurora Borealis. Would you say your experience traveling to that spot inspired Life, Loss & Puffins? 

A: Actually, no. I tend to create a character and story line straight out of “the ether” and then set them in a place or experience I know. I’ve been to a lot of places and seen a lot of things that have impressed me deeply. That’s one reason I do it. The other reason is because, though I’m not against researching locations and experiences, I think the details you learn in person are better than the details you look up.

Unfortunately, I did not begin my astrophotography until several years after seeing the aurora. People are stunned that I didn’t come back with pictures, as night photography is “my thing.” But I knew nothing about it at the time.

That said, despite nothing in my books being autobiographical, Ru’s “college list” of a truly dark night sky, the Aurora Borealis, and puffins is drawn from my own interests.

Q: Rue’s astrophysics professor gives Ru some important advice, If you want a piece of advice, always choose to live your life in a way that promotes awe. What made you have her professor give Ru that advice rather than say her mother?

A: When I was in high school, I had an English creative writing teacher who was a real game-changer for me, and it’s caused me to observe that kids often don’t get what they need at home. Some do, but not all. And I didn’t manage to write 50 books by focusing on kids who had very successful upbringings. No conflict, no story, as they say. Ru and her mother never quite meshed in terms of life values or observations of what’s important. But it only takes one caring person to fill in the blanks, and it doesn’t have to be a blood relation. 


Q: Without spoiling too much, which scenes were your favorites to write in the novel?

A: I like the first real scene with Gabriel. Sitting on the window seat with a watering can.

I liked the scenes in that geodesic dome in the Northwest Territories. I liked the eyes looking in at her through the window, and the half-asleep dream/vision of her late mom, and the way she and Gabriel learned to travel together as a herd. 

But this novel is a personal favorite among mine, and there wasn’t much here that I didn’t enjoy. It was a fun book to write. 

Q: What significant lessons do you hope readers take away from after reading Life, Loss & Puffins? 

A: Probably the theme most important to me is not limiting the life of a young person (or any person) by putting them in a box. Yes, Ru is a remarkably smart person, but in many ways her life begins when she takes a break from academia, frees herself, and lives in the moment as just a person. There is more to her than just her intelligence, and I think we sell a lot of people short that way—highlighting one outstanding aspect of them and ignoring everything else.

Q: What was your experience like seeing the Aurora Borealis? I know there is no sequel but if you were to write a sequel to Life Loss & Puffins, what would you have Ru & Gabriel doing now? 

A: I was in a resort north of the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland, as you mentioned. I was staying in a lovely cabin with an attached bedroom that had a domed glass igloo for a roof. It was the last night, I hadn’t seen them, and I expected to leave in the morning without the experience I’d come for. And then, there they were. I did have a camera, and could have tried a long exposure, but there were spots of snow on the glass roof and I really would have had to be outside. Which would involve getting dressed and bundled up. Meanwhile it was happening, and I was watching, and I had no idea how long it would last. Much as I love photography, I think it’s important not to miss the experience in the attempt to document it. So I just stayed in bed and watched until the lights faded. And left happy.

If I did write a sequel, I’d have Ru and Gabriel being happy. Living a good life. Which is why I don’t write sequels. A happy life is a lovely thing to live, but not very interesting to read about. And I really like to think of sending my characters on to be happy.