The Acid Method
(Silver Trilogy, #1)
Halo of the Sun
Author Interview with Ginny Rorby
It was to my delight to be able to interview Ginny Rorby, author of Lost in the River Grass. She’s a very inspiring lady–I feel honored that she gave me the time to interview her after reading the above mentioned title. Trust me when I say you’ll want to read this interview!
Summarize Lost in the River Grass in one sentence—convince me to buy this novel. (Bossy, who me?)
Based on a true story, LOST IN THE RIVER OF GRASS, is about a simple oversight by two kids out for a morning airboat ride, which results in a challenge few survive—a walk out of the Everglades.
What was the reason for writing Lost in the River Grass? I saw the acknowledgments about your husband, but I’d like a deeper story. Color me intrigued.
It’s his story—from stem to stern, if you will excuse the pun, and was published in its true form several years ago in Gulf Coast magazine, a Fort Lauderdale slick. Even though the true story is my husband’s, and an ex-girlfriend’s, I’ve always thought it would make a terrific adventure story for the YA reader. I made no chronological changes to the real events as they took place, though I did add a few from my own experiences in the ‘glades, and elsewhere—like the palmetto bugs, and one of my father’s: the poisonous snake around Andy’s ankle was actually a coral snake wrapped around my father’s ankle.
Though I never heard my husband’s ex-girlfriend’s side of the story, I wanted to make Sarah the one who comes out of the experience having discovered how truly brave, resourceful and powerful she is. Andy, the other main character, knows a lot about the Everglades and is able to draw on his knowledge and experience to keep them at least headed in the right direction. However, she’s the one who must rise above her fears. She’s the one who has the great adventure.
If you were to ever get lost in the river grass would you survive?
I doubt it. Certainly not now. I have hiked in the Everglades, and for considerable distances, but not in the last 30 years. I’ve run out of gas, and had to spend the night, but slept in the airboat. Two things have changed—beyond the obvious increase in my age, there are an unfathomable number of pythons now inhabiting the Everglades, and there has been a massive increase in the number of alligators.
The Everglades are unique to this planet, but there are now more creatures than ever out there that can kill you.
Which scene was your favorite to write and why?
The python eating the alligator. With the exception of two or three scenes, once the airboat sinks, everything that happens to them is based entirely on my husband’s experiences. Back in the 1960s, when he and his girlfriend walked out, there weren’t any pythons in the Everglades. Now, because of a poorly regulated pet trade and irresponsible pet owners, the place is crawling with them. If one Googles ‘python eating alligator’, s/he will get pictures of a python whose eyes were definitely bigger than its stomach. It ate a gator too big to handle and split wide open. I didn’t want to duplicate that, but those massive snakes are the only things out there that really scare me, and I wanted that to be Sarah’s turning point. She’s scared out of her wits by little snakes and big alligators from the time they get in the water. All of a sudden there are snakes that can consume an alligator. At that point, she has to completely lose it, or come to grips with their situation. She has to overcome her terror and start taking some responsibility for their survival.
Besides the two main characters, which character has the most interesting story and what is it?
My favorite, of course, is Mr. Vickers. The real Jim Vickers was my 7th grade science teacher. I have an amblyopic eye—a “lazy eye.” In middle school, and high school, when my eyes got tired, I had to turn the right one in to read. You can imagine my eagerness to do that in the minefield of middle school, so I would do anything to keep from being called on in class. Because of my vision, I did poorly in school, and because I did poorly, no one ever paid any attention to me. I began to believe I wasn’t really all that bright, except there for those two As—in relatively hard subjects—7th grade science and 8th grade algebra. I decided, as my other failures mounted, that I just liked math and science best. It took me decades to realize that I liked those subjects because the two best teachers I ever had taught math and science. Sarah’s teacher is Mr. Vickers, and my tribute to him is to give him the opportunity to do for her what he did for me—give her a glimpse at what she is capable of accomplishing.
Andy’s father is the antithesis of who I am now, but not how I was raised.
The Everglades is also a main character in the book, and is about the power of the natural world to heal and strengthen us. I have never understood the requirement of a roof over one’s head to praise one’s god.
Do you like snakes? How about alligators? Which would you rather come across?
Love snakes. Like alligators, but my choice of which I’d prefer to bump into is based on realistic fear, not loathing. Non-poisonous snakes are my first choice. I love finding and holding snakes. Small alligators are next in the hierarchy, followed by poisonous snakes, then very large alligators, and my last choice—a really big python.
I’m sure you did some research on survival techniques for this novel. If you could write another novel on survival, what would the scenario be?
Remember the stern plug!
No, really, I grew up in Florida and spent every waking hour outside looking for critters to capture and make pets out of. The lake in front of our house had a number of large alligators and teemed with snakes, lizards, frogs, turtles, and birds. I’ve known how to avoid what I needed to avoid all my life. I also have an undergraduate degree in Biology, so I actually didn’t have to do a great deal of research. When I was working on that degree at University of Miami, I was in the Everglades constantly. I guess you could say the research for this has been a lifelong pursuit. Digging a scratch well was the only thing I added that wasn’t something my husband knew about when he walked out. I did a little research on pythons, and I did make a last ditch trip to the Everglades a couple of years ago and personally ran into that nest of red ants.
I noticed how there was an undercurrent of stereotypes being played out in your writing. Was there a purpose for that? I personally felt as if you were using it to show that when it comes to survival the stereotypes no longer matter. It’s not what’s important.
That’s part of it. I grew up in an age of strict racial and gender stereotypes, and I didn’t realize how ingrained some of them still were until I heard this from John Dufresne, one of my professors at Florida International University, where I received an MFA in creative writing. He writes books set in the South. A friend of mine asked him why none of his characters were black? He answered, “How do you know they aren’t?” That was an epiphany for me. It’s clear we carry categories around in our heads, a filing system, under which to evaluate and store new information, new people, and new experiences. This is a valuable system, but it comes with drawbacks. To use this short cut means any new information throws our filing system for a loop. I wanted to try to do to my readers what John Dufresne did to my filing system. I want John’s lesson to resonate with readers, and give teachers a teaching moment.
Check out Ginny’s newest title, Lost in the River Grass.