Books·How I Wrote It

Why Kim Fu wrote a novel about young girls getting lost in the wilderness at summer camp

Kim Fu discusses how she wrote The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore.
Kim Fu is a Canadian-born writer and editor living in Seattle. (L D’Alessandro/HarperCollins)

Seattle-based Canadian novelist Kim Fu's first novel For Today I Am a Boy was the winner of the Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction and was longlisted for Canada Reads 2015. Her latest novel, The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore, is about five young women who become stranded while on a camping trip and have to rely on each other for survival. 

In her own words, Kim Fu explains how she wrote The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore.

Finding the lost girls 

"The characters came to me first. I saw them as girls and women simultaneously. I wasn't sure how they all connected to each other, but then I went to do a residency at the Burton House in Dawson City, Yukon, and that's where the trip came to me, which is the core of the book. I had time to hike and be out by myself in this ice and cold I'd never seen. I was thinking a lot about survival and vulnerability.

"My process is messy in the first stage. Functionally, I'm writing garbage but it's a phase it has to go through to get out the ideas. I wrote a lot of scenes with the characters interacting with each other to show who these people were. All of the scenes didn't end up in the book, but they were a way of revealing the characters to me." 

Challenge of commitment

"The novel had to reveal itself to me moment to moment and I had no control over it. Every time I sat down to write, I would have no idea what was going to come out, but that was the only way I could work. I couldn't write toward an ending; it just had to grow organically. When the writing is really good, I don't think about anything at all. It just is and it keeps spawning itself."

The secret lives of kids

"Children are a lot tougher and more resilient and capable of problem solving and learning than we give them credit for these days. On the other hand, I think kids are lot more cruel than we think, especially little girls. I think their social dynamics are a lot darker than it seems, especially because they are so good at hiding it from adults. Kids can be meaner than we think, but they can also be more physically capable and smarter than we think especially when push comes to shove."