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As a travel writer and young adult author, KIRSTEN HUBBARD has hiked ancient ruins in Cambodia, dived with wild dolphins in Belize, and navigated the Wyoming Badlands in search of transcendent backdrops. She lives with her husband and their dog.
I first met Kirsten Hubbard at the launch party for her first novel, Like Mandarin. I loved that book and its thoughtful exploration of the intensity of teen friendship. When I heard that we were publishing another young adult novel by Hubbard, I couldn’t wait to read it, and Wanderlove didn’t disappoint. I can’t say that I loved it more than Like Mandarin, but only because they were both so beautifully written and captivating, and it would be impossible to choose a favorite! Hubbard has a true gift for both character and setting. Wanderlove dropped me into Central America, in the midst of backpackers and wanderers, like Rowan and Starling, two siblings with whom the book’s main character, Bria, becomes entangled. Here, Hubbard reveals her own backpacking experience that inspired this novel, the joy of living in the moment, and her personal “beautiful mania.”
PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE:What inspired you to write about backpacking in Central America?Kirsten Hubbard: I first backpacked through Central America at age twenty. My now-husband and I spent six weeks there, traveling all over the isthmus. Since then, I’ve returned many times, occasionally on press trips for my Central America Travel site, but mostly as a backpacker. There’s a big difference between travel and a vacation, I’ve found. I’m not sure I’ve ever taken the latter, abroad, at least. Once I’m elsewhere, I’m just so struck by all the things to see and do, I want to go, go, go. It’s like a beautiful mania. Plus, I love having everything I need strapped to my back, like a bohemian tortoise. I knew I needed to share both the travel serendipity I’ve experienced and the backpacker lifestyle in a young adult novel.
PRH:What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?KH: Oh, totally, the kissing scene. Honestly, this book’s just packed with joy in so many parts. It’s all about Bria learning to jump in and participate, to embrace the moment, and every time she does — riding a boat through a thunderstorm, playing soccer in the mud with a bunch of local kids, even just climbing into a hammock with Rowan and talking travel philosophy — the scenes were thrilling to write.
PRH:Which character speaks the loudest, to you? Do any of them clamor to be heard over the others?KH: Besides Bria, the protagonist of Wanderlove, it’s Rowan’s sister Starling who really speaks to me. She’s eccentric, a total in-your-face spitfire, but with a great heart. I’d love to write her story someday.
PRH:Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
KH: Travel! Experience the world yourself. It can be so much cheaper and easier than you think, and it opens your eyes like nothing else. If Wanderlove inspires a few teens off the beaten path, I’ve done my job.
This post originally ran on Random Acts of Reading.
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