An Interview with Author Cynthia Willis – Buck Fever

08 Apr

Cynthia Willis is the author of Buck Fever. She writes children’s books and instructional materials for elementary classrooms. Please visit her website at

1. Cynthia, please tell us a little about the plot of Buck Fever.

I’d love to! In Buck Fever, twelve-year-old Joey MacTagert’s dad wants his only son to carry on the family tradition of hunting. However, Joey can’t bring himself to shoot a deer. Joey is more interested in drawing and ice hockey, two activities that his dad barely acknowledges. So, when Joey’s dad calls upon Joey to use his special skill in tracking animals to hunt down the big buck that roams the woods near their home, Joey finds himself in a difficult situation. He knows how to track Old Buck and has actually gained the trust of this deer, but Joey has kept this a secret. When trouble between Joey’s parents escalates, and Joey and his older sister, Philly, find themselves in the middle of tensions that they don’t fully understand, Joey tries to keep the peace by making his dad proud. Joey attempts to conquer his buck fever, which leads to consequences he doesn’t anticipate.

2. The story involves a boy and his dad, and hunting. Do you have hunters in your family? What inspired you to write this novel?

Most people are surprised to learn that I do not have any hunters in my family. The inspiration for Buck Fever came from my experiences with friends and neighbors. I grew up in a city suburb until I was thirteen. I, therefore, knew very little about hunting. When my family moved to a rural area where hunting was a big part of life, I was, at first, appalled by the idea of shooting at animals. Soon enough, though, I realized that some of our neighbors hunted to put food on their dining room tables. I learned that hunting serves many purposes, including keeping the deer population in check so that the animals do not over-populate and die of starvation and disease. I still live in a rural area with a huge deer population and I know many people who hunt. The different points of view and opinions about deer hunting are what inspired me to write Buck Fever.

3. The main character, Joey, doesn’t want to kill the buck. Is the story anti-hunting?

I didn’t write Buck Fever to be anti-hunting on any level. I based Joey on many boys that I have known and that I know–boys raised in families that value hunting, appreciate it as a sport, and enjoy all aspects of it. In many families, hunting is a tradition that has endured over many generations. Sometimes, though, a son or grandson may not feel the love for hunting. This can be a real problem for him. It can create great tension and conflict, which can make for a compelling story.

4. Joey’s father has a drinking problem. Is that an important aspect of the story?

The issues of Joey’s father and, in fact, both of his parents are very important to the story, I think. These issues contribute to Joey’s conflicts and affect his decisions, for better or for worse.

In my opinion, the drinking problem of Sam Hector, the father of Joey’s friend, is a particularly important aspect to the novel because he hunts after he has been drinking. As most people can imagine, this is really irresponsible. When interviewing hunters for Buck Fever, I was always impressed by their responsibility and respect for others, including the animals. However, there are, sometimes, irresponsible hunters. For example, I was once riding my horse through private property where hunters were not allowed. Nonetheless, a very drunk and bleary-eyed fellow shot at me and my horse. He heard movement, saw a four-legged animal and pulled his trigger. Happily, his shot missed us, but I was, of course, infuriated and terrified (as was my horse). I revisited this when writing about Joey’s experiences with Sam Hector.

5. What do you think boys will like about this story?

I hope they will like everything about it, but then I imagine this will depend upon the individual reader. I have received emails and letters from boys who don’t want to hunt and appreciated Joey’s point of view. I have also heard from boys who love hunting and appreciated the hunting scenes even though Joey struggles in ways that these readers never have. And, I have spoken to many readers who have no opinion on hunting, but enjoyed the story of a boy’s relationship and struggle with his dad, his family, and his friends.

6. Did you give any thought to the prospective audience for this novel when you were writing or editing it? Did you intend to write a book for boys or did you just want to tell a story that turned out to be geared towards boys?

I always think about the prospective audience of a novel when I am writing, but I did not set out to write a novel for boys. I started with the desire to write about the conflicting opinions regarding deer hunting and a family dealing with transitions. As I mapped out the plot and story events, and then revised Buck Fever, it evolved into Joey’s story.

7. Is there any more story left to tell about Joey? Do you have any plans or interest in writing a sequel?

I’ve been asked this question a lot, which is really lovely and sort of surprises me. At this point, I feel like Joey’s story has been resolved. By the end of the novel, he has reached a place of peace with himself, with his dad, with his family, and even with Michael Buckner. However, I could wake up one morning with Joey on my mind and a new plot suited just for him. Never say never, right?

8. I enjoyed the trailer for Buck Fever. Was the trailer your idea or the publisher’s? Tell us a little about how it came about and how it fits in with any plans you have to market this book to boys.

I’m so glad that you liked the trailer for Buck Fever. As most writers know, marketing a book is very important. With this in mind, I was visiting an online message board one night after a day of working on the final revisions for Buck Fever. I came upon a discussion on book trailers. After a few questions and answers, I contacted the person who created an amazing trailer for another author and the process began.

The trailer has been a great way to advertise Buck Fever. I posted it on,, (on the fan page for Buck Fever), and on my website, just to name a few places. It also appears on the Macmillan/Feiwel and Friends website. In addition, I blogged about the trailer and posted tweets about it. Blog reviewers have also posted the Buck Fever trailer to their sites.

9. Do you have any other books for boys in the works?

I have just started work on a new novel that is not specifically targeted for boys, but will certainly appeal to boys as well as girls. How is that for a teaser?

10. Which novels by other authors would you recommend to boys?

Some novels that I would recommend for boys include The Outsiders by S.E Hinton, The Percy Jackson and the Olympian series of books by Rick Riordian, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, and Holes by Louis Sachar. For older readers: The Book Thief and I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak, and In the Path of Falling Objects by Andrew Smith. I loved all of these reads.

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Written by Carl

  1. Max Elliot Anderson

    April 8, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    It’s so important to draw attention to reading, and attract reluctant readers to it, especially boys. In fact, I’ve recently completed a feature magazine article on this subject that came out in October, “Help for Struggling, Reluctant Readers.”

    I grew up as a reluctant reader, in spite of the fact that my father published over 70 books. Now I write action-adventures & mysteries, especially for tween boys, that avid boy readers and girls enjoy just as much.

    My blog, Books for Boys is dedicated to drawing attention to the importance of reading. And my new book, Lost Island Smugglers – first in the Sam Cooper Adventure Series – is coming out in July-August. Contracts are also signed for Captain Jack’s Treasure and River Rampage.

    Keep up your good work.

    Max Elliot Anderson
    PS. My first 7 books are going to be republished by Comfort Publishing later in 2010

  2. Lydia Kang

    April 8, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    Wonderful interview! Interesting since there is hunting in my novel as well, thought it’s historical.

  3. Tweets that mention An Interview with Author Cynthia Willis – Buck Fever « Blog --

    April 9, 2010 at 8:14 am

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Cynthia C. Willis, Hunting and Fishing . Hunting and Fishing said: An Interview with Author Cynthia Willis – Buck Fever « Blog: I'd love to! In Buck Fever, twelve-year-ol… […]

  4. Kirsten Lesko

    April 9, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    My nephew will love this book. He lives in a very hunting oriented town & despises it.

    Thanks for the interview – looks like a great read.

  5. Shannon Hitchcock

    April 9, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    I enjoyed the interview and think you have a winning focus to your blog.

    • Carl

      April 10, 2010 at 6:52 am

      Thank you, Shannon.

      We’ve got some great interviews coming up and we’ll be continuing to add book trailers as we find them. We will also have some book giveaways in the near future..

      I hope you’ll visit again.

  6. Christina Farley

    April 11, 2010 at 5:31 am

    What a great site you have here. I love how clean and easy it is to find information. Great interview too. I haven’t read this book. I have just finished a boy book, historical taekwondo. Now I just need to convince people that historical is something that could interest today’s boy reader!

    • Carl

      April 12, 2010 at 8:52 am

      Thanks, Christine!