Chatting with Ruth Emmie Lang, author of the excellent debut Beasts Of Extraordinary Circumstance

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.

 

REVIEW: BEASTS OF EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCE By Ruth Emmie Lang

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Published Nov. 2017 By St. Martin’s Press

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance tells the story of Weylyn Grey’s life from the perspectives of the people who knew him, loved him, and even a few who thought he was just plain weird. Although he doesn’t stay in any of their lives for long, he leaves each of them with a story to tell. Stories about a boy who lives with wolves, great storms that evaporate into thin air, fireflies that make phosphorescent honey, and a house filled with spider webs and the strange man who inhabits it.

There is one story, however, that Weylyn wishes he could change: his own. In this warm debut novel, Ruth Emmie Lang teaches us about adventure and love in a beautifully written story full of nature and wonder.

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As many of you know, I’ve had a run of 2018 reads that haven’t worked for me lately and I’ve been dying for something to come along and sweep me away, compel me to stay up late and create that excited feeling of ‘I can’t wait to get home and read.’ I’m happy to say Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance has been that book! I don’t even know where I came across this book…Goodreads perhaps…but there was something about the synopsis that drew me in because really…this isn’t my typical type of read but it’s EXACTLY what I needed right now. Don’t you love it when just the right book comes along?

So what’s it about you might be asking and here’s the thing…I’m not going to tell you too much about the plot because this is a story best experienced by knowing as little as you possibly can before starting. Just trust that you’re going to experience a magical, original, charming story of love, friendship, and fate. This is ultimately the story of one man, Weylyn Grey, who we first encounter at his birth before quickly moving ahead several years to his childhood when he’s an orphan living in the woods with wolves. I was immediately captivated with Weylyn, so much so that I didn’t quite care where the story went, I just hoped he made it out of each situation with his essence still intact. I haven’t felt this invested in a character since Cyril Avery from The Heart’s Invisible Furies (my top pick of 2017)! In fact, this book reminded me of Heart’s in the way it was structured as well as how it made me feel. Similar to how Heart’s was set up, I loved that, through the years,  we got to meet many different characters who in some way were connected to Weylyn; some who resurfaced later in the story and others who became friends we never saw again.

I want to gush a little here about the fact that I thought the writing in this story was just beautiful! From the language, to the flow, to the dialogue…to me it was all brilliant. One of my favorite passages was made by Weylyn toward the end and made me literally smile while on the elliptical….

“I’ve been called magic, but I wouldn’t use that term exactly. I like to think of myself as always being in the right place at the right time, or the wrong place at the wrong time. Very rarely am I simply in an acceptable place at a generally convenient time.” 

By the middle of the book I had decided I was immediately seeking out Ruth Emmie Lang’s backlist and reading whatever she’s wrote only to discover this is a debut! Incredible is all I can say, and please write as fast as possible Ruth Emmie Lang because I’ll be first in line for your next book. Can you tell I loved this one? One final thought…yes, there’s a certain amount of suspension of disbelief required in this story and if you aren’t in the mood for magic, communication with animals, and strange weather phenomena then maybe this won’t be for you but if you’re willing to take a chance on a wonderful, charming story you just might be rewarded with your next favorite read. I’m calling this one now for myself…this will have a place in my top 10 reads of 2018!