Today we are very excited to share an interview with author George R. Wolfe!
Read on to learn more about the author, the book, and a giveaway!
Meet the Author: George R. Wolfe
George R. Wolfe, an author and activist, is the founder of LA River Expeditions, a group that advocates for endangered rivers and helped to open the Los Angeles River to the public. One of the first to journey down the river in its modern configuration, Wolfe is uniquely qualified to give life to the young adult coming-of-age adventure: Into the River of Angels.
Wolfe was born in Binghamton, NY, grew up in Vienna, VA, and currently resides in Los Angeles. He attended Oakton High School, Oberlin College and the University of Washington (Seattle, WA) before working as an award-winning journalist and satirist, screenwriter and copywriter. His first piece of non-fiction was Uncommon Sense: Vision for a New America. His first novel was Blake’s Bible.
About the Book: Into the River of Angels
George R. Wolfe’s young adult adventure novel, Into the River of Angels, tells how a high school kid’s ill-conceived plan to canoe the Los Angeles River spirals out of control—an urban journey on a dangerous, forbidden waterway, woven together by a series of epic fails.
It starts when 17-year-old Sam Hawkins—an alienated, disillusioned, and sardonic renegade from the San Fernando Valley—decides he can flee his troubles with an impulsive escape on the infamous L.A. River, a 51-mile, concrete-lined patchwork of water systems that flows from the foothills of the western Valley, through the gritty concrete jungle of Downton L.A., to Long Beach and the Pacific.
But Sam’s teenage rebellion soon turns into a surreal odyssey, featuring a series of threatening obstacles, as he and his fellow travelers encounter wildlife, police, smugglers, gangs, psychopaths, and more. Will the cost of their journey be more than they bargained for?
Wolfe, an author and activist, is the founder of LA River Expeditions, a group that advocates for endangered rivers and helped to open the L.A. River to the public. One of the first to journey down the river in its modern configuration, Wolfe is uniquely qualified to give life to this fascinating and highly detailed coming-of-age journey.
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
A river—the Los Angeles River. I got involved with opening up public access to the river in 2008, by leading a group of ragtag paddlers down the 51 miles of the river in order to prove it was navigable. Once we did that, it opened up the river for recreation, protected the waters from polluters, and set a legal precedent that would protect other waterways nationwide. As a writer, it was just a matter of time before I realized all this was great material for an adventure novel, too.
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
Although I like my protagonist, Sam, and his sardonic teenage attitude and quirky perspectives on life, I think my favorite character is actually his buddy and fellow traveler, Ignazio, who’s more enigmatic and also has a lightness of spirit and sense of humor, combined with a steadfast faith and optimism that I always enjoyed and respected.
YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?
The novel. I went through various titles before I arrived at the final one, which I think is nicely poetic and a tad mysterious—plus, it’s apt for what transpires.
YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
There’s a flood scene when the river really rages. It is very dramatic, and it throws together a bunch of characters that we’ve met up to that point. I fancy that scene—I believe it came off well. We’ll see.
YABC: Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer from then to now?
To keep myself hungry for the next day’s writing. I recommend teasing yourself with a carrot and a stick at the end of each writing day. Give yourself a tidbit the night before to be excited about when you sit down to write the next day—that kind of regularity builds the writing muscle with steady, bite-sized chunks… keeping you from that haunting drudgery: What can I possibly come up with again today?
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
That it conveys the sense of adventure and a bit of the mystery I’d hoped to see. You, as the reader, see the paddler from the river’s POV. It wasn’t easy to get to a version I was happy with, but I’m glad I stuck with it and fought for it.
YABC: What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2023?
Anything by the likes of Neil Gaiman, Dave Eggers, David Benioff or Bill Bryson.
YABC: What’s a book you’ve recently read and loved?
Shantaram, that epic Indian adventure novel that got turned into a TV series. Also, Killers of the Flower Moon, an astonishing non-fiction book that was made into a dramatic movie.
YABC: What’s up next for you?
I’ll keep focusing on kids-in-peril, coming-of-age stories where everything always goes sideways for the characters. I really like that age of life. Next up, however, is a teenage girl as a lead character—a real outsider. I plan to give the story a magical-realism edge this time around.
YABC: Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?
The ending. There are so many things that have to come together to be just right, and to leave the reader with a satisfying culmination after all you’ve been through together. It’s exciting, but difficult to get all the nuances just the way you want them.
YABC: Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?
Ignazio. He’s a young dad from Guatemala who’s come to the States to escape a situation but to ultimately provide for his family back home. There were language issues with him, plus I needed to fill in his backstory from a place that I wasn’t immediately familiar with.
YABC: What is the main message or lesson you would like your reader to remember from this book?
That the gray areas, contradictions and hypocrisies of your characters are much more interesting than having them be squeaky clean with everything wrapped up neatly. Let them struggle; enjoy and relish their human imperfections.
YABC: What would you say is your superpower?
Tenacity. This book took way too long to write. Actually, I’m not sure that’s a superpower or merely a weakness. Anyway, I somehow made it through a bazillion drafts to an end point. That’s a success in and of itself—I’m proud of the fact that I stuck with it and didn’t just move on to the next fun, creative project, which has typically been my reflexive, go-to behavior.
YABC: Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
Yes—being an advocate for rivers.
YABC: What advice do you have for new writers?
Don’t try to be popular. Write up a storm until you find your particular style and your niche… that is, subject matter-wise (if you can find a throughline, that is).
YABC: Is there anything that you would like to add?
Yeah. Don’t miss the chance to get caught up in a cause that’s much bigger than yourself. It’s one of the most personally rewarding things you can do. For me it turned out to be about boating and working on behalf of a struggling, forgotten, much-abused river. What might that passionate cause be for you?
Title: Into the River of Angels
Author: George R. Wolfe
Illustrator: GRAFIT studio
Release Date: March 17, 2023
Publisher: The Sager Group LLC
Genre: Young Adult – Fiction
Age Range: 14 & up
Three (3) winners will receive a paperback copy of Into the River of Angels: A Novel (George R. Wolfe) ~ US/CAN Only!
*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway!*