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3 Qs for Benjamin Percy, author of "The Wilding"

As promised, Benjamin Percy, author of The Wilding stops by for a quick 3Qs.

First, Benjamin, how are you? The debut novel head trip has its ups and downs, but the book is getting fantastic reviews, and that's got to help. Does it feel pretty fierce to be Benjamin Percy right now?
I'm kind of twitchy right now. I've been pacing around, chewing on my hand, hitting the gym and throwing around weights, my body all tangled up with hope and dread and excitement and nervousness. I'm of course deeply grateful for the positive reviews. This is a book I spent years building -- hidden away in my office -- and now it's out the door , out there in the world, and to discover that it's been positively received means the world. I can't wait to get out to the bookstores and festivals, shoot the bull with people about the novel.

Antonya Nelson so perfectly describes this novel as a "tour de force meditation and treatise on the nature of violence, the violence of nature, man in the wild, and the wild in man-cleverly disguised as a page-turning adventure." Which unfolded first as the novel took shape in your head, the powerful theme or the ass-kicking storyline?
I never begin with a theme in mind. Instead it's images, characters, voices -- that's what draws me into the mist. With short fiction, sometimes I don't know what the story is ABOUT for days. With a novel, it takes much longer. Months. Which is a good thing. Because if a writer begins a story thinking, "This is going to be about how awful/good gun control is," then the narrative will feel hollow and manipulative, the characters like puppets with an after school special agenda. That might be the way an editorial is written -- but not fiction. It's much more organic, a process that begins with instinct and ends with thoughtfulness. The short answer: ass-kicking storyline.

Justin Caves is one of those characters we alternately want to go to war with, buy a beer for, and smack upside the head. Tell me the one thing you really hope readers will get about this character.
I wanted him to be complicated, emotionally knotty. I wanted the reader to feel uncertain about him. And by the end, the guy you thought was the hero turns out to be something of a villain.

Bonus Q, if I may: What are you reading?
The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall, my friend and former teacher.

Comments

jenny milchman said…
How cool to be a debut-er, and with a quote like that, you must be in fine shape! Going to look up your book now--congrats!

And Colleen, huge congrats to you, too, on reaching #1! I am friendly with the author whose book is #6 on the Kindle list now--so proud to know you both :)
Congratulations, Benjamin. You book and its protag sound really interesting. Thanks for stopping by BtO!

Hi, Jenny, and thanks to you for the congrats. I nearly fainted when it happened. But it was a happy faint, so all's well. :)

Glad to hear from you again!

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