All Things Left Wild, part 1
All Things Left Wild is a debut novel by my guest Blogger, James Wade. All Things Left Wild is how a botched robbery sets two men on conflicting journeys across the untamed landscape of the American West.
Give a bit of background/Bio about yourself.
I was born and raised in East Texas, where the oral tradition of storytelling is extremely strong-- tales passed down around campfires or wood-burning stoves. I worked as a journalist for several years, then served as a legislative director at the Texas Capitol. In 2017-18 my wife and I traveled the country in a small trailer. It was during this trip that I wrote my first full manuscript. I’d had several short stories published before but was never too serious about writing fiction until that trip.
Describe your debut book.
After a botched robbery, sixteen-year-old Caleb Bentley is on the run with his mean-spirited older brother across the American Southwest at the turn of the 20th century. Caleb’s moral compass and inner courage will be tested as they travel the harsh terrain and encounter those who have carved out a life there, for good or for ill.
Wealthy and bookish Randall Dawson, out of place in this rugged and violent country, is begrudgingly chasing after the Bentley brothers. With little sense of how to survive, much less how to take his revenge, Randall meets Charlotte, a woman experienced in the deadly ways of life in the West. Together they navigate the murky values of vigilante justice.
Powerful and atmospheric, ALL THINGS LEFT WILD is a coming-of-age for one man, a mid-life odyssey for the other, and an illustration of the violence and corruption prevalent in our fast-expanding country. It artfully sketches the magnificence of the American West as mirrored in the human soul.
Who/what inspired your novel. Was the idea a gradual awakening or did it come as a sudden inspiration?
It was definitely a sudden inspiration, which is something I usually advise against when I’m talking to young or new writers. I’m a believer in discipline over inspiration, forcing yourself to sit down and work even if you aren’t inspired at that moment.
However, my novel admittedly grew from a single moment. On March 1, 2018, we were camped in the desert outside of Carlsbad, NM. I sat on the ground outside of our trailer and watched the wind blow, and watched the sand move and the dried pieces of cholla plants being swept away. It was so remote and so wild, I began to feel a little guilty for even being there, for compromising this magical place with my humanness. When I stood to go inside, I noticed that my footprints had been blown away. Then I thought, this place looks so untouched, but obviously it isn’t. How many other footprints have been here, then disappeared? What struggles did those folks endure? I ended up with an image of two men riding through a dust storm, and that was the first thing I wrote.
What’s your writing style? Are you a “plantser” or a “plotter”? Something in between?
I’m a “plantser,” in that I create rough outlines, sometimes on paper, sometimes in my head, then change those outlines, then change them again, and then throw them away (and maybe dig through the trash and find them the next day). The end product usually ends up somewhere close to what I envisioned, but I have to leave myself plenty of leeway to change things. Sometimes you get into a flow and things start happening naturally on the page-- things that are outside of the original game plan-- and you just have to go with it. In my mind, if the quality of the writing is strong enough, then the story will be able to adapt to whatever plot-tinkering I do along the way.
In the next installment James gives advice for the unpublished author as well as insight into his big break moment. Stay tuned!