How did you get the idea for Good Blood?
Well, I was just trying to get into a formal writing schedule and see what works for me. I didn’t really have anything to write at the time, so I started transcribing some of my family’s stories from a little sister’s perspective. After a few weeks, I started to realize that there was something deeper going on, some other story beneath the stories.
You said that your process started with family stories, so does that means that some of the episodes in your book are true? What does your family think about that?
Yes! Well, true is a loose term. There is always some kind of expansion or deletion of details in oral storytelling. I can only speak for a couple of family members, but they seem to be receiving it really well—getting a real kick out of it, trying to find themselves and episodes they were a part of. When they first heard what I was writing a lot of them started opening up, telling me stories that I never heard before. It seemed to kind of unlock a whole other set of experiences they either forgot or, perhaps, didn’t feel comfortable sharing.
I understand that you produced the cover art as well, how did that come about?
Alongside the novel, I also produced a visual art series called “the symbol series” in which I meditated on some of the key visual themes in the book. Wipf and Stock selected one of the images “courage” to use as the cover. Which I’ll be ever grateful for! I feel it prepares the reader for the story in an honest way.
Your main character is a girl caught in a culture of patriarchy and violence. How do you think she would respond to the political and religious misogyny of today?
Rosie goes from a place of ignorance to that of restraint and fear to that of activism. She’s definitely an activist, but not like in the writing-blog-articles or speaking-winsomely-in-front-of-crowd kind of way. She is very localized. She sees unjust actions done in front of her and names them as evil. But she doesn’t just condemn those individuals. Her main goal is redemption—redeeming the perpetrators from evil and leading them back to goodness—but sometimes that means arranging judgment and very harsh consequences. I suppose today she would do just as she did then—love her enemies.
Good Blood takes place in a very specific location, your hometown, yet you didn’t live there when you wrote it. How does “place” affect your storytelling?
You’re right. I lived in Dallas and then in LA while I wrote the book. At first, I think being far from New Castle helped me to nostalgize it, which was really important, especially for the first part of the book. But, more so, I believe specific place, like the house that you live in, your roommates, the pace at which people walk on the street, all of that creates a particular imaginative environment in which you begin to ask very specific kinds of questions and also give specific kinds of answers.
Who are some writers that have greatly influenced you?
Well, the top two, that I’m aware of, have got to be David Foster Wallace and Oscar Wilde. DFW’s Infinite Jest changed my life, so to speak. He led me into an absurd, grotesque reality, and therein taught me what kindness looks like—as a person and as an artist. Plus, I like his candidness and his disregard for the social restrictions necessary to maintain a disingenuous “ego.” Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray is my favorite book. It’s like every sentence you could embroider on a pillow—excessive, dramatic and packed full of adjectives.
Who are you reading right now?
I’m working through a couple of things right now. Marilynne Robinson’s The Givenness of Things, Kandinsky’s Concerning the Spiritual in Art, an anthology of writings from Christian mystics of the Middle Ages, and the Gospel of Luke. I also have a biography of Frank Sinatra sitting to the side. I’ll get back to it eventually. His life is a lot to handle in big chunks.
How does your Christian faith impact your writing?
I often use the analogy of climbing. Writing academic papers is like rock climbing—strategic, often slow, very particular in motion. But writing fiction is more like repelling. It’s an informed and aware leap done blindly. I trust that the way that I pray, embrace the saturation of God’s grace, love, study and serve will affect my writing. But I don’t really know what I truly think and feel about my faith until I see it come out through the actions or words of my characters.
Are you working on any new projects?
I try to keep somewhere between two and four projects going at the same time, so yes. I have a visual piece in the works, a short story, my next novel, and a screenplay. I’m not a “productive” style of person, I just like the way that working on different kinds of project lend insight into the others. Like they are in a conversation and I’m just trying to keep up. The screenplay, though, is on the front burner, you know, the one on the front left with the greatest diameter that heats the pots the quickest.
Cover image by Evan Kirby