The book opens with the protagonist Will travelling to New York City and the scenes there are so evocative of that mad, glamorous city and hints at your love of the place – is that the case?
EB: It sure is the case! I've spent a bit of time in New York City and it has never failed to live up to the hype. I can't say I've had quite as wild a time there as Will has, but it's definitely the city that never sleeps.
Can you tell us a bit about Will and his motivation for this adventure?
EB: Will is a young Australian man who has just experienced his first real, devastating heartbreak, and his response to that is to drop out of uni, sublease his share-house room, scrape together his measly savings and get the hell out of Australia. It’s a fantasy I’ve harboured myself, I must admit, during difficult times. On a deeper level, though, what Will is seeking on his headlong quest is what young protagonists (particularly, perhaps, young male protagonists) have been seeking since the journey narrative began: experience; maturity; initiation into ‘manhood;’ the chance to experiment with different ways of being and different ‘selves;’ adventure; the possibility of returning home changed.
Exotic animal collector Wayne Gage is a firecracker – where did the inspiration for his character come from?
EB: The initial inspiration came from a news story I read in 2011 about a man who lived in rural Ohio, who owned a shockingly large and, perhaps even more shocking, completely legal menagerie of wild animals, including lions, tigers, grizzly bears, wolves, primates, leopards etc. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but something in that story really spoke to my imagination and got me thinking about the kind of person who would be motivated to “collect” such animals and why. The man in this case was a Vietnam veteran, and I decided to make my character a veteran too, but beyond that I had to dream up the character of Wayne Gage out of my own imagination. It was challenging, but a very enjoyable process.
When researching the topic of exotic animal ownership in America, what surprised you the most?
EB: The fact that, until 2012, it was entirely legal to own as many ‘exotic’ animals as you wanted to, without need for any permits or permissions, as long as you didn’t exhibit, breed or transport them across state lines. Apparently, the Humane Society of the United States estimates that there could be more tigers living in homes and back yards in America than there are in the wild across the rest of the globe.
Your writing is electric and a joy to read, so we have to ask: any tips for the writers out there?
EB: Pay attention to your verbs. In every instance, try to find the most precise and evocative verb you can. There’s obviously a lot more I could say, but that’s a useful place to start, in my experience.
Wild Abandon is available in store and online now.