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Wild About Will

Adventures continue in Arroyo’s second book for kids

Watching Raymond Arroyo’s weekly EWTN news show, you will see an amiable host with a controlled persona who focuses on facts and the many facets of the day’s stories. He may add some flashes of humor and an occasional bit of drama, yet never would you suspect that beneath that familiar mien lies an imagination filled with youthful characters involved with raging monsters and conflicts of biblical proportion. Welcome to the world of Will Wilder, Arroyo's hero of a planned series of novels that delivers a strong moral message for young readers.

Will Wilder: The Lost Staff of Wonders (Crown/Random House)is the second book featuring the 12-year-old hero of the title, who possesses unique spiritual insights and powers that were passed down from his family. Don’t worry, it all fits with Catholic teaching regarding relics, the reality of good and evil, and the gifts of God. The first book, Will Wilder: The Relic of Perilous Falls was released last year to adult critical acclaim and, more importantly, enthusiastic reception by young readers. The new book involves the staff of Moses and some ancient demons that appear in New Age garb.

Promoting literacy for youngsters is a major concern for Arroyo, who founded a nonprofit called Storyented (rhymes with “oriented”), which provides reading resources for parents and children.

Fathers for Good spoke to Arroyo about his new book, to be released March 7.

Fathers for Good: In this second book, what message are you giving to young readers and their parents?

Raymond Arroyo: My first message is always: Come, enjoy a great adventure and let me entertain you for a while. Kids, their parents, grandparents, and librarians have really taken to the first Will Wilder book. Everywhere I go kids ask when book two is coming. Well it’s finally here. I don’t ever start out with a “message” per se. I usually start out with a few saintly relics possessing interesting histories I’d like to explore. All the antiquities in this book are in museums or churches somewhere in the world. I spend a lot of time getting the history right. Then I follow the characters and when it’s over a theme inevitably emerges. This time it’s about the power and perils of anger. Will struggles with his own anger throughout the book, as do some of the other characters. It’s something all of us can relate to.   

FFG: Does this Will Wilder book follow chronologically from the first?

Arroyo: The Lost Staff of Wonders picks up a few months after the first book ended. Will is still 12, and still prone to trouble. This time out, the Staff of Moses (mentioned in book one) goes missing and Will must figure out who has it. There is also a hidden demon stalking him and the town of Perilous Falls. It’s a self-contained adventure with a bit of a mystery woven in. This is the kind of book I loved to read as a kid with daring do, supernatural thrills, some creepy villains and really fun characters. Those who’ve read the first book will pick up on a few things new readers might miss. But new readers to the series tell me this latest book caused them to go back and read book one. I’m all about literacy and making kids want to read—so that's music to my ears. 

FFG: Has Will learned anything from his first, hair-raising adventure?

Arroyo: Like all of us, Will continues to learn—and makes several mistakes along the way. I think we can learn a lot from the mistakes of others, particularly in literature. It’s one of the few places where ‎you can experience the effects of bad decisions without suffering the consequences in your own life. Will is not a perfect kid and I think readers would resent him if he were. In book one he learned about the burden of his gift. He can see supernatural things that most of us cannot. I believe we are each given special gifts and a responsibility comes with those gifts. Will also learned the importance of obedience in book one. The stakes rise for him in book two and obedience becomes a lot harder to maintain. You'll have to read to find out.   

FFG: Where did the idea for Will Wilder come from?

Arroyo: I have been carrying Will Wilder and his family in my imagination for about eight years now. He and all these characters come from deep within me. Once you know the people you are writing about and what they want, the story begins to flow out of you. I’m a slow writer, but once I get going, the characters tell me where to go next. And there are often surprises. Some dramatic moments in The Lost Staff of Wonders were completely unplanned and they turned out to be my favorite moments in the book. Families will love this story. How could they resist a 12-year-old adventurer and his family dodging the plagues of the Old Testament while they struggle to discover who or what is responsible before it's too late? Then Will’s great-aunt Lucille goes missing and... I won’t reveal any more. But as Aunt Lucille says at some point in the book: “Whether you acknowledge it or not, grave evil and wondrous miracles surround us.” They do. And not only in Perilous Falls! Enjoy the return trip. 

Will Wilder: The Lost Staff of Wonders will be released March 7. The first book in the series, Will Wilder: The Relic of Perilous Falls is available in paperback and hardcover.