Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Interview with Jamey Bradbury, author of The Wild Inside

Please welcome Jamey Bradbury to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Wild Inside is published on March 20th by William Morrow.

Please join The Qwillery in wishing Jamey a Happy Publication Day!

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first piece you remember writing?

Jamey:  I was writing before I actually put pen to paper. I used to make up plays and force my younger brother and cousins to act them out. But the first time I remember plotting out a story and putting it on paper was in the first grade, around age six or seven. I wrote and illustrated a story about a boy who moved to a new town and couldn’t make friends at school, but did manage to make friends with a monster, instead.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Jamey:  Total by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer. I find if I plot things out too far in advance, the idea becomes stale to me—I don’t wind up surprising myself, or letting the characters surprise me.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Jamey:  The first draft. I’m never happier than when I’m rewriting—which may account for my writing process, which consists of drafting until I run out of ideas or run up against a plot problem; then I circle back around and rewrite everything I’ve got, hoping the momentum will push me through whatever I was struggling with. I hate bumping around in the dark with no light, wondering where I am and what’s going to happen next—and that’s what a first draft feels like. But it’s worth it to get to the good stuff, i.e., the revision.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Jamey:  Alaska’s a big influence on my writing. Not just the landscape, which is pretty inspirational, but also its emptiness and distance. Alaska is such a large state, with so much space that’s only trees and wildlife and mountains. You feel the distance between people, between towns, between the state itself and the rest of the country. It’s like the physical manifestation of the psychic distance between people—the difficulty we have in truly knowing another person, which is what a lot of my writing ends up being about.

TQDescribe The Wild Inside in 140 characters or less.

Jamey:  Stubborn, feral Alaskan girl hunts animals, maybe stabs a guy, and hates being grounded. Finds people irritating, but likes dogs.

TQTell us something about The Wild Inside that is not found in the book description.

Jamey:  Since Tracy and her dad are mushers, they have about forty dogs they raise, train, and take care of. A lot of the dogs are named after dogs I know personally. For instance, Zip and Stella, in real life, are a Jack Russell terrier and a labradoodle I used to dog sit for. Homer and Canyon are actually two yellow labs that belong to some friends who took me sailing one time. The other dogs in the book have theme names, just like a lot of litters that belong to actual mushers—like the “words that convey movement” litter (Fly, Chug, Pogo).

TQWhat inspired you to write The Wild Inside? What appeals to you about writing a psychological thriller?

JameyThe Wild Inside started as an attempt to write a horror novel because that’s what I love to read—especially horror that’s mashed up with what critics might deem “literary” fiction. I like books that seem steeped in reality until the surreal or weird or terrifying creeps in. In a lot of ways, if The Wild Inside is a horror novel, Tracy ends up being the monster of her own story. I think that’s what ultimately turned the story into something that’s more akin to a psychological thriller—if you’re inside the “monster’s” head, privy to her struggle with being monstrous, you end up gaining a better understanding of the scary thing, which hopefully sparks a little empathy, in this case.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Wild Inside?

Jamey:  I’ve only been dog sledding once, and that was a short excursion with some mushers I visited when I first moved to Alaska as an AmeriCorps volunteer. So for the mushing aspects of the book, I read a good bit: books like Yukon Alone by John Balzar and Winterdance by Gary Paulson; the article “Out in the Great Alone” by Brian Phillips was helpful, too. Twitter has become a surprisingly helpful research tool, allowing me to follow mushers like Blair Braverman and Dallas Seavy. For animal and hunting and trapping information, I relied upon the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s very user-friendly website.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Wild Inside.

Jamey:  The cover of The Wild Inside was inspired by a poster for the 2017 movie It Comes at Night, which also depicts a dog, seen from behind as it gazes into the terrifying, endless night. I saw the poster and thought, “That’s my cover,” so I sent it to my editor, and the talented folks at William Morrow—including jacket designer Mumtaz Mustafa—took that bit of inspiration and made something I’m totally in love with. At the heart of this book lies the protagonist’s true love—dog sledding—so a dog made sense. But the way the dog seems poised, ears up, watchful, taking in the falling snow and whatever else might be out there—I feel like it captures the tension at the heart of the novel—the draw of wildness pushing against the need for home and family.

TQIn The Wild Inside who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Jamey:  Tracy was the easiest. After writing and rewriting so much, I felt I knew her inside and out—her stubbornness and secretiveness, her desire to do good by her family, her simultaneous need to be her own person and live by her own rules. I grew to understand her reasons behind every action, even the truly terrible ones, even as I disapproved of the things she thought she had to do.

Tracy’s mother, Hannah, was the toughest to write, mostly because we only see her in flashback and through Tracy’s admittedly often unreliable filter. Even though Tracy is the one interpreting her mother’s actions and personality for the reader, as the writer I had to know Hannah better than her daughter did—to understand her motivations and her love and fear of her own daughter.

TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in The Wild Inside?

Jamey:  I knew early on that Jesse needed a secret—something that would pique Tracy’s curiosity and, eventually, draw the two of them together, based on their shared need to hide in plain sight. When I realized what Jesse’s secret was, I also realized that—because of Tracy’s unique ability to know other people—it was an opportunity to skip over all the questions (and doubts and suspicion) some people may have when someone reveals something like sexual preference or gender identity. With her ability to “know” a person so completely, Tracy wouldn’t have doubts or suspicion; she would accept a person for who they are, which I found refreshing.

It’s important to me to write about folks we don’t always see represented in popular culture (although, happily, representation seems to be growing and changing). It’s true that when you can see yourself in the media you consume, you can also see possibility, and perhaps understand yourself and others better. As an asexual person, for a long time I thought I was some kind of crazy anomaly; who talks about being asexual, unless you happen to be a plant? It wasn’t until I started to see asexual people represented in film and television that I realized I wasn’t alone.

I also think it’s important to tell stories about all kinds of people that aren’t just the story about their “otherness.” Not every story about a gay person has to be about their coming out. Not every story about a person of color needs to be an object lesson. I want to see stories that are just stories, that happen to have gay or trans people or people of color as their protagonists and supporting characters.

TQWhich question about The Wild Inside do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Jamey:  Maybe, “Where can I find the Peter Kleinhaus book Tracy loves so much?” Which is a trick question, because you can’t: I made up How I Am Undone by Peter Kleinhaus—and frankly, writing the excerpts from that was a heck of a lot easier than writing The Wild Inside. Probably because I could just write the pretty parts and not worry about making the plot make sense. But who knows? Maybe one day, I’ll tell Peter Kleinhaus’s whole story, too.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Wild Inside.

Jamey:  “There are books out there that when you read them, you wonder how some stranger could know exactly what’s in your own mind.” I like that because it’s how I feel when I read a really great book. And because, like Tracy, sometimes I wish other people were as easy to get to know as a really great book.

One more: “There is satisfaction in running fast…My mind travels somewhere else, and I become only breath and bone and muscle. The feeling is serene and focused, powerful and energized, all at the same time.” Because that’s exactly how I feel on the rare occasion I manage to hit a meditative state when I’m out running

TQWhat's next?

Jamey:  I’m working through the first draft of my second novel, which is inspired by two things: the Winchester Mystery House and Homer, Alaska, which is a small coastal town in the southeast part of the state. There’s a spit down in Homer which features the longest road into ocean waters in the world. In my book, at the end of this road, a woman has built a massive house with doors in every surface—large doors, tiny doors, doors within doors, doors in ceilings, doors in floors. Every door she opens gives her access to a different point in her own life—and, possibly, to points in alternate versions of her life. It’s a book about memory, time travel, history, dementia, and family.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

The Wild Inside
William Morrow, March 20, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages

"The Wild Inside is an unusual love story and a creepy horror novel — think of the Brontë sisters and Stephen King." —John Irving

A promising talent makes her electrifying debut with this unforgettable novel, set in the Alaskan wilderness, that is a fusion of psychological thriller and coming-of-age tale in the vein of Jennifer McMahon, Chris Bohjalian, and Mary Kubica.

A natural born trapper and hunter raised in the Alaskan wilderness, Tracy Petrikoff spends her days tracking animals and running with her dogs in the remote forests surrounding her family’s home. Though she feels safe in this untamed land, Tracy still follows her late mother’s rules: Never Lose Sight of the House. Never Come Home with Dirty Hands. And, above all else, Never Make a Person Bleed.

But these precautions aren’t enough to protect Tracy when a stranger attacks her in the woods and knocks her unconscious. The next day, she glimpses an eerily familiar man emerge from the tree line, gravely injured from a vicious knife wound—a wound from a hunting knife similar to the one she carries in her pocket. Was this the man who attacked her and did she almost kill him? With her memories of the events jumbled, Tracy can’t be sure.

Helping her father cope with her mother’s death and prepare for the approaching Iditarod, she doesn’t have time to think about what she may have done. Then a mysterious wanderer appears, looking for a job. Tracy senses that Jesse Goodwin is hiding something, but she can’t warn her father without explaining about the attack—or why she’s kept it to herself.

It soon becomes clear that something dangerous is going on . . . the way Jesse has wormed his way into the family . . . the threatening face of the stranger in a crowd . . . the boot-prints she finds at the forest’s edge.

Her family is in trouble. Will uncovering the truth protect them—or is the threat closer than Tracy suspects?

About Jamey

Photo by Brooke Taylor
Born in Illinois, Jamey Bradbury has lived in Alaska for fifteen years, leaving only briefly to earn her MFA from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Winner of an Estelle Campbell Memorial Award from the National Society of Arts and Letters, she has published fiction in Black Warrior Review, Sou’wester, and Zone 3, and she has written for the Anchorage Daily News, TheBillfold.com, and storySouth. Jamey lives in Anchorage, Alaska.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @JameyBradbury


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