Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Conversation with Natalie Parker, Author of BEWARE THE WILD

Natalie Parker, Author of Beware The Wild

Hi Natalie! Thanks so much for stopping by the blog! Your upcoming novel, BEWARE THE WILD, is set in the swamps of Louisiana. As a huge fan of Southern fiction, I want to know your take on it. Do you think it has a distinct flavor? What sets it apart from stories set in other regions? Do you have favorite Southern authors?

Hey Jaye! Thanks for having me. I'm always happy to chat with fellow fans of Southern fiction, not to mention fellow 2014 debuts, not to mention fellow bloggers, not to mention....okay, I just really like to talk, so thanks for giving me another place to do that. ;)

Favorite Southern authors? I'm probably supposed to lean back in my recliner and tell you about the very deep appreciation I have for William Faulkner (and believe me, I do), but if we're talking favorites, I'm going to have to push Eudora Welty and Barbara Kingsolver to the front of the line and cite reasons: mythology and prose. 

As for the what sets this novel apart, one of my favorite things about the South is that you can't go anywhere without encountering stories. Every place you go will come with its own, incredibly unique, incredibly strange mythology. Strangeness has an incredibly long shelf life, so its the really weird things that end up defining a place. This is one of the things I've tried to do with BEWARE THE WILD -- sink readers into a world where strangeness is just a really vivid piece of reality.

Of course, the short answer is: gatorgirls. 

I have friends who lived around the corner from Eudora Welty in Jackson. I always thought that was awesome. Barbara Kingsolver is amazing, of course. Another couple of Southern writers I love are Fannie Flagg and Mark Childress, both from Alabama. Oh, and Sue Monk Kidd! Great writers come from humidity.

And can I tell you how much I love this: "'s the really weird things that end up defining a place."

So can you fill us in? Give us a clue to a particular weirdness in your book that makes you smile with the oddity of it all. Is it a character? A place? A moment? Do tell!

One of the things I had the most fun with was the town's mythology. Sticks is a place rich with a gruesome, ethereal history centered around its swamp. Over the generations, all of those stories are captured, retold, illustrated, printed, bound, and sold in the General store. These are the stories kids tell at sleepovers, that adults whisper with caution, that grandparents delight in passing to the young. 

And the question at the very beginning of the novel is....are they all true, after all?

Hmmm, I see an opportunity for some cool graphic novel spin-offs of BEWARE THE WILD. 

You mention a question, which leads me to thinking about my next question. Do you have a typical way in which a story idea forms itself in your head? When I chatted with Joy Hensley she said she most often will imagine the climax first and build off of that. For me, it's often a single word or the voice of my character, or just an emotional feeling. For example, I have a middle grade built off the word justice, and a new WIP idea I'm simply calling Lonely Girl. How does a story idea implant itself firmly enough in your brain to merit the writing of it?

I almost always begin with an image. For BEWARE THE WILD it was the image of a girl emerging slowly from a dark swamp, climbing over a fence, and tugging free of magic that didn't want to let her go. The follow-up began with an image of something spoilery happening around the ever-blooming cherry tree in the center of the swamp. My future projects are similar in that they all revolve around some image that I then place inside a world. The characters develop after that. 

The plot always comes last. That's probably indicative of the kinds of stories I like to tell. Striking imagery! Compelling world! Dynamic characters! Oh, and they do things, too…

Oooh, love that opening image. Do you keep a Pinterest board for inspiration? Do you want to share it?

As a matter of fact, I do:

Okay, magic. What were the elements that guided you in creating the magic for your world? Did the magic relate to setting at all (since the swamp is key to the story)? And what of these gator girls I keep hearing whispers of!

I wanted the magic to feel as wild as the swamp. That meant it had to have elements of chaos and accessibility. In my mind, that translated into organic matter. (In all honesty, I was probably fighting crab grass in my backyard one summer and thought, WHAT FOUL MAGIC IS THIS?!) The magic of the swamp is very much a part of the ecosystem -- in many ways, it is a plant, growing and shrinking under the right conditions. And, as is so often the case with magic, it's those who use it who make it bad or good. The gator girls (and boys!) are not naturally occurring, but are created....*enter eerie music here*

I love how those real world moments can intersect with our fictional ones. I completely think it was the swamp talking through your crab grass!

And unbelievably, we've come to the end! I think I need to cling to you a bit longer so you can tell me swamp stories, but I suppose it will suffice for you to tell us about the next three books in your TBR pile, the best beverage ever in your glass, and the song you just can't shake.

Thanks, Natalie! I'm really looking forward to BEWARE THE WILD!

I'm doing my best to die by ARC this year and the next three in my TBR are: THE TRUTH ABOUT ALICE by Jennifer Mathieu, SURVIVAL COLONY 9 by Joshua David Bellin, and THE FIRE WISH by Amber Lough.

The best drink ever in my glass? Home brewed pomegranate mead!

And the song I can't's one from the playlist for swamp book 2, Monsoons by Pucifer:

Thanks for having me, Jaye! 

Absolutely! And next week, stop back by when I'll be chatting with Meredith McCardle, author of the Eighth Guardian!


  1. Wonderful interview! And I have to agree--Barbara Kingsolver is amazing :) Best of luck to Natalie!


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