Interview – 1 book in 5 questions : Candyland – Jax Miller

An interview with Jax Miller about her book : 

Candyland

It’s a twilight/declining vision about the roots of Americas’s heartland you are writing about here, going through lives of different communities…

Yes, I really love writing about the other side of America, the American Anti-dream, the underbelly, the parts that aren’t written about as often. I’ve always contended that my strongest character is always the setting, and so I pick places that are dark, but rich, and one of these places is where ‘Candyland’ is set, where it’s a mixture of several fascinating settings that are fairly close, geographically: Cane was based off the real-life North Braddock, PA, which is dark and gritty. And Hershey, PA, where you can literally smell chocolate in the air. Then Vinegar was based on Lancaster, where the Amish communities are, as well as northern Appalachia. I actually loved each one of these settings so much, that I didn’t know which one to choose, and so I chose all of them! I wondered what would happen if you mixed them all together and tried to make a crime book about it, and Candyland was the result.

Concerning the American dream, once again, you’ll see the difference between the 1982 plotline and the current plotline in Candyland. The past represented something beautiful and charming, while today represented sadness and grit. I think many people feel this way, longing for times past. In this story, at least, the past was longed after, but with that comes bitterness of today.

This novel is very dark, sometimes very brutal but you are also talking about love…

Yes, but isn’t this so often reality? Love can be brutal for some people. The pain of love lost can be agonizing. I don’t think I wrote a love story in where I needed to include darkness, rather, I wrote a dark story where I needed to include love. I think that you have to fervently search for the beauty in life, lest the darkness take you alive. Without the love, and without the constant pursuit of love, many of these characters would have nothing to live for.

In this second novel, we are finding again topics you’ve already wrote about in « Freedom’s Child », as giving birth and communities…

It’s funny, because these themes are accidental, and usually don’t occur until I’m several drafts deep. For example, the theme of birth didn’t arrive into Candyland until much later. And as far as community, as I was saying in question one, I think it’s less to do with the people and more to do with setting. So when I wrote about a religious cult in ‘Freedom’s Child,’ or when I write about the Amish in ‘Candyland,’ it’s because with these characters come great setting. For research with ‘Candyland,’ I travelled to an Amish Pennsylvania town called Bird-in-Hand. Seriously, it’s a real place, and it was gorgeous. I took a ride in an Amish buggy and rode around the cornfields while little Amish girls made us root beer and cookies and pretzels, and it was such a charming and wonderful experience. How could I not write about it?

As far as birth, again, it wasn’t a thought with Candyland until later on down the line, but I think the bond between mother and child is as strong of a bond that two people can be. I try to go for the strongest love (the mother and child bond) and shatter it with the strongest grief (losing a child). But what’s also important to mention in all this is extremes. Sadie, the main character, had her child in an extreme way and then lost him in an extreme way. And, going back to violence for just a minute, I wanted the same reaction: what happens when you take someone from the least-violent culture of the Amish (who won’t even fight back and have no part in our military) and put them in the most unimaginable violent situation? Again, I love painting these extremes.

I’ll share a small story with you, a true one. Back in 2006, there was the West Nickel Mines school shooting, where an “English” man (he was America, but all Amish refer to non-Amish people as English) went into the Amish community and took a bunch of schoolgirls hostage and killed several. It was horrible, I remember still living in New York when this happened. It’s important to remember, these Amish people have no TV, no news, they’re as simple as can be, and then you have this maniac come in and start killing kids with a gun. The most powerful part of this story was the Amish reaction: not only did they forgive the murderer (who’d killed himself that same day), but they paid for his funeral and went to go comfort the murderer’s family. I think that’s a prime example of the Amish attitude of the world; of their kindness and simplicity. I was very moved by that story.

Surprises are really stunning in this book. Did you have in mind the whole ramifications of the story or did you allow yourself to be led by the writing?

One of the greatest things about writing for me is the ability to continue to surprise myself. That’s most of the reason I write! When someone is at the edge of a cliff that I never saw coming, and I’m in this position now to save him or push him, that’s an incredible experience. I like having that control. So no, I don’t plan these things. If there’s a part where you get sad about a character dying, I can assure you, I probably sobbed while writing it. If there’s a part where you’re smiling for a character, I can assure you, I danced at the idea. I’m very emotionally attached to my characters.

Do you think that being an American woman living in Ireland is affecting your way to write about deepest American roots?

If anything, it helps me tap into my roots more. I think because after 6 or 7 years here, I can see America from a different point of view, while living outside it. So when I write now, it’s for a non-American audience, and I know what they see more of. I don’t think Ireland has any bearing on what I write about at all, I’d write the same in America, I think. But, it changes the way I write. I like the comfort and privacy I get living in the Irish countryside and I’m always inspired by its breathtaking views, or the sheep at my window, things I’d never see in America. But, my roots are my roots and they’re not going anywhere.

 



Catégories :Interviews littéraires

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3 réponses

  1. Oh! Now you publish as well in English and in French! 😉 Very good work!

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