I love talking with authors, so I was thrilled when Ruth Emmie Lang so generously agreed to do a Q & A for my blog. I loved her debut, Beasts of Extraordinary Experience, (Nov, 2017 by St. Martin’s Press) which featured a character (Weylyn) who I won’t soon forget. Read on to find out her inspiration for Weylyn as well as how she wrote such an imaginative, unputdownable book…
How did you develop Weylyn’s character? Inspiration, motivations for him?
I knew I wanted my main character to be someone who lived with wolves. Weylyn’s personality came about naturally as I considered what a person living in the woods and cut off from society would act like. To me, that meant someone who was warm and open and not-yet-cynical. I could have gone the opposite route and made Weylyn someone who is scared of other people simply because of his lack of exposure, but I decided to go with the former because the latter was more expected.
I read that you wanted readers to empathize with him, what was the most important facet of his character that helped ensure we would love him because of course we did and I immediately felt a connection with him so you nailed the empathy part
I think his openness is what draws the other characters in the book to him. This borders on naïve sometimes, but it gives him a childlike sense of wonder that adults are too often in short supply of. I wanted my readers to be able image themselves as any one of these narrators, sharing in an adventure with someone who knows how to find beauty in places they maybe hadn’t thought to look.
What is it about nature that inspires you? Animals?
Everything about nature inspires me: forests, mountains, oceans, you name it! If I could spend all day outside, I would (except that I’m a redhead, so that would probably be ill-advised). I’m also an animal-lover (particularly dogs), so that heavily influences my writing.
Can you tell us a little about how you write, do you outline ahead of time or did you write Beast’s free flow as you went along?
No outlines. I’m a figure-it-out-as-I-go-along kind of writer, but I do have a general idea of where the story is going (most of the time). There was a period of a couple of months where I had to completely shelf Beasts because I had no idea where the story was going next.
For me, Beast’s had so many interesting facets, it’s coming of age, magical, a love story, a friendship story, a story about fate…What facet did you most want readers to take away from your book?
I’d like to think that my book would inspire someone to have an adventure of their own, or to simply go outside and appreciate the world around them. Also, Weylyn demonstrates that you can live simply and still be happy, and that meaningful relationships are more important that material possessions.
What was your biggest fear in writing this story?
That is was too weird to get published! I knew I was taking a risk, but I’m glad I did. It was the story I wanted to tell, and I think if I had played it safe, I wouldn’t have put the same time and care into it.
What did this story teach you about yourself and the writing process?
It taught me that I am still able to write even under difficult circumstances. I was having a very rough year when parts of this story were written, but it doesn’t show on the page. Writing Beasts was like therapy for me during that time.
For would be writers, what was the best and worst part about the whole writing and publishing process? Was Beast’s bought immediately or did you receive initial rejection letters?
The best part is when you finally land a book deal. Beasts did receive rejections, so I was trying not to get my hopes up, but when my agent called me with the offer, I was over the moon. The worst part of the publishing process is querying agents, because that’s the first real hurdle you have to clear to get your book published. It can be hard to hear that someone doesn’t want to rep you, but ultimately, it’s about finding the right fit.
Your writing is just gorgeous, can you tell us about your background? Have you always been a writer, do you have a writing degree or a background in literature?
Thank you! I was an English major in college and took several creative writing classes during my time there, but I started writing when I was 9 or 10. I don’t think you need a degree to become a writer, but I do think you need to read a lot of books to learn what works and what doesn’t.
Which authors inspire you and why?
The Lord of the Rings made me want to become a writer. I loved them so much that I knew I wanted to tell stories in some form or another. As far as writing style, I love Karen Russell. Her prose is concise and whimsical, and her stories have just the right amount of weirdness.
Do you have any favorite books you’d like to share?
Other than the work I discussed above, it’s constantly changing. Recently, I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction. American Fire and Wild are two of my recent favorite reads.
Do you have any current reads sitting on your nightstand?
I just started The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah.
I for one will be waiting somewhat impatiently for your next book, can you share any info about it?
Not yet 😉 But I am currently working on something I think has potential.
Do you have a favorite quote about writing and/or books?
“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.” – Neil Gaiman
Many, many thanks to Ruth Emmie Lang for taking the time to answer these questions! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading a little bit more about her writing process and her wonderful debut book, Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance.