Thursday, August 26, 2021

Kira Jane Buxton

Kira Jane Buxton's writing has appeared in The New York Times,, McSweeney’s, The Rumpus, Huffington Post, and more. Her debut novel Hollow Kingdom was an Indie Next pick, a finalist for the Thurber Prize for American Humor, the Audie Awards, and the Washington State Book Awards, and was named a best book of 2019 by Good Housekeeping, NPR, and Book Riot. She calls the tropical utopia of Seattle home and spends her time with three cats, a dog, two crows, a charm of hummingbirds, five Steller's jays, two dark-eyed juncos, two squirrels, and a husband.

Buxton's new novel is Feral Creatures.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Feral Creatures
is a nod to a few elements of the book, which I’m thrilled about since I love how it sounds phonetically and that it has an aura of intrigue. Since the novel is narrated by a crow and is set in a world where humans have succumbed to a deadly virus (a little topical, alas), most of the characters are animals and are indeed, feral creatures. At the beginning of the novel, S.T. the domesticated crow—a fervid fan of all things human and in many ways the last bastion of humanity—finds the impossible: the last child on earth. He vows to protect her against the many dangers of the Alaskan village in which they live, as well as the horror that humanity has morphed into and that continues to plague the planet. S.T. attempts to raise Dee as he knew humans to be, imagining her to grow up well-adjusted and with cultural understanding and education. But as Dee grows, S.T. realizes that Dee is perhaps not the quintessential human being, but rather, a creature with animal instincts. S.T. fear materializes as he realizes that Dee is wild and untamable, and that—much to his chagrin—he is raising a feral creature.

What's in a name?

My main character and crow narrator’s name is S.T., which is short for Shit Turd. This rather vulgar name was bestowed upon him by the man who raised S.T. from a fledging—a crass and vociferous man who called humans “MoFos” and taught S.T. a lot of colorful language. Since S.T.’s world view is filtered through the eyes of the boorish human who raised him, it fits perfectly. S.T.’s beloved charge and the last human child is named Dee. This is the name that S.T. gave her in homage to his bloodhound and best friend Dennis. “D” for Dennis.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your novel?

I think teenage Kira would be delighted that I got away with writing from the perspective of animals and peppering a novel with salty language! Looking back on my life and my upbringing, this book seems in some ways inevitable. It combines my love of animals with my love of language, my horror at climate change and my ardent belief that laughter is the best medicine. Teenage me was a little dark and brooding, so might be a bit disappointed by all the hope and levity in Feral Creatures!

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

I’m not sure I find either “harder”, but I’d say the beginning takes a lot more contemplation and energy. The beginning of a novel is where I am laying out a premise and a promise to a reader, introducing the tone and a character who we must trust to sail us through the narrative seas. I have written most of a novel without being 100% committed to or sure about an ending, and am willing to be flexible if what I had imagined as a finale must change. But as I write, the beginning is my bible, and I will use it to steer, bolster and center me as I take literary risks and journey through a plot.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

I think there is a little of me in all my characters, but I also hope that there is a little of every reader in certain characters! S.T. uses humor as a coping mechanism, which I certainly relate to—comedy has been a life raft for me at times in my life. Dee is a character who is deeply connected to nature. I also feel a kinship with the creatures and plants I encounter, but I aspire to her level of instinctive acuity. The sweet musk ox character, Oomingmak has terrible gas, and I’d like to state—on the record and with great relief—that his gastric woes were not inspired by my own.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

One of the first movies that utterly destroyed me was Gorillas In The Mist. I sobbed for days after watching it as a child, and I’m quite sure that, in conjunction with growing up with a family who rescued all sorts of animals and practiced kindness to all organisms, it informed my desire to be an advocate for the creatures we share our planet with. My first job was as a volunteer at a zoo in Indonesia, and I know that every close animal encounter I experienced imprinted a sense of wonder and reverence in me. I spend every day with wild birds I have befriended and actually spend more time with animals than people—it probably shouldn’t be a surprise to me that I have yet to write a novel solely about humans!
Visit Kira Jane Buxton's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Kira Jane Buxton & Ewok.

My Book, The Movie: Hollow Kingdom.

The Page 69 Test: Hollow Kingdom.

My Book, The Movie: Feral Creatures.

--Marshal Zeringue