As part of my blog tour stop for The Grey Sisters with Penguin Random House Canada, I also did a Q&A with Jo Treggiari about her wonderful book. She was kind enough to answer these questions over email, and provide some more insight into the story and its characters.
While my full review is spoiler-free, this conversation does go into more detail about the book, so you’ve been warned! If you don’t mind finding out about some details, feel free to keep reading. If you’ve already read The Grey Sisters and want to learn more, I hope you enjoy this inside look!
Where did the inspiration for The Grey Sisters come from?
I like to think of myself as a sponge (!), absorbing bits of information from here and there, letting it all marinate inside my brain until something amorphous forms and I have to get it out. In this case, I’d been reading a lot of non-fiction about isolated communities, cults, lost towns, and preppers, and I had also recently gone on a road trip through the middle of nowhere with two female friends. I think it was in the car that I said, ‘What if we are being watched right now?’
Why did you decide to set the book in British Columbia?
Soooooo – long story short, I didn’t know there was a mountain range called the Grey Sisters until after I’d written the book. The name came out of the story and just seemed to fit. I spent about 20 years in Northern California which shares a lot of topographical features with B.C. and I needed big mountains which we just don’t have in Nova Scotia. I made up the local history and the towns, everything.
I’m always fascinated with cults, and was recently talking to a friend about how I wanted to read more fictional books including them! Why did you include one in this story?
This also developed as the story unfolded. I was fascinated by communities that, mostly for geographical reasons – like being halfway up a mountain in a harsh climate – are cut off from the outside world. People can’t get down to the towns and people from the towns, like doctors, social workers, police, teachers, can’t get up. It doesn’t take long for a rift to develop, and isolation to set in. I thought that some kind of unifying belief would arise naturally, something for a group of people who were facing hardship to believe in. And when you have a leader with strong ideas and answers for questions, then a controlling factor can creep in.
Which character was your favourite to write and why?
All of them, but the one who felt like a gift is Ariel. I’ve never had a character appear who was so strong in my mind that I could see her standing in front of me. It sounds like a little bit of magical thinking, but she is so real to me.
I feel like you could write either a prequel (focusing on the mountain community) or a sequel (how the characters cope with all the events) to the story. Do you ever think you’ll expand on this story, or leave it as-is for readers to fill in the blanks?
I do like to write books where the story continues after the last page has been read. But that being said, I would love to write either a prequel or a sequel to The Grey Sisters. I think Ariel could fill a whole book with her story.
What made you want to write this story for a YA audience instead of gearing it more towards adults?
I do consider myself a YA writer and I love writing teen characters but I don’t think too much about the age of my readers except in terms of darkness or mature themes. The fact is most YA readers are in their twenties and older. I want to write books that can be read at different times of a reader’s life. Books that ask important questions.
My final question is one I love asking authors: what’s a recent book you read and loved?
I loved Laura Ruby’s Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All, and it’s a graphic novel but I loved Mariko Tamaki’s Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me.