Today, Cyna chatted with author Samantha Mabry about her recently-released magical realism novel ALL THE WIND IN THE WORLD!
Sarah Jacqueline Crow and James Holt work in the vast maguey fields that span the bone-dry Southwest, a thirsty, infinite land that is both seductive and fearsome. In this rough, transient landscape, Sarah Jac and James have fallen in love. They’re tough and brave, and they have big dreams. Soon they will save up enough money to go east. But until then, they keep their heads down, their muscles tensed, and above all, their love secret.
When a horrible accident forces Sarah Jac and James to start over on a new, possibly cursed ranch called the Real Marvelous, the delicate balance they’ve found begins to give way. And James and Sarah Jac will have to pay a frighteningly high price for their love.
Cyna with Papercuts Podcast: Samantha, welcome to Papercuts Podcast! We’re here today talking about ALL THE WIND IN THE WORLD.
Cyna: Let’s talk about Sarah Jac. How did you two first meet?
Samantha Mabry: Heh. This isn’t the question you asked, but it reminds me of the question authors get often, which is something along the lines of “How much of you is in your character, or how much of your character is in you?” Sarah Jac was one of the easiest characters I’ve ever written maybe because I could, in a lot of ways, relate to her. It’s not that we’ve had similar life experiences in any sense, but I understood her desperation, her issues with trust, and even the way she chooses to place blame. I’ve felt all those things very crisply and clearly at certain points in my life. So, to circle back to your question, we’ve probably known one another for a long, long time. We’re nestled into each other.
Cyna: In your opinion, what is the most unique aspect of Sarah Jac and James’ story?
Samantha: I don’t see too many stories in YA that start out with the couple being together and then delves into how that relationship strains and bends. Much of the time we as readers root for the couple to stay together, and I was interested in exploring a different kind of relationship –one where we’re not sure if these people are truly benefitting from each other’s presence by the end of the story. I’m trying not to give too much away here. Let’s just say that Sarah Jac and James’ love story is a tricky one.
Cyna: What are some books that you would say are similar to ALL THE WIND IN THE WORLD, for readers who are on the fence about adding it to their TBR?
Samantha: I’d say Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi and also Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Also How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff. Those were three big influences.
Cyna: What non-book influences (films, television shows, music, plays, etc) helped spark this story?
Samantha: So, the biggest influence for All the Wind in the World is a film from 1978 called Days of Heaven. I mean, I love, love this movie, and for anyone who’s familiar with it, its influence should be apparent. It’s also a tricky love story set on a ranch. In addition to that, there’s a more recent film called Fish Tank. It’s about a teenager –or she may be nineteen or twenty –named Mia who is stuck in a bad home situation and is desperate to get out. Her story is very different from Sarah Jac’s, but they share the same sense of frustration mixed with grim hope.
Cyna: What, to you, is “magical realism” all about in a novel? What are some of your favorites?
Samantha: Magical realism is hard to describe –it’s almost like you know it when you see it. A simple definition is when magical elements are woven into real life, but in a way that seems natural. So like, to the characters in the story the “magic” is not magic. They wouldn’t call it magic. It’s more just the way of the world and is tied less to some spontaneous spell and more to the effects of history and culture.
Some of my favorite examples of magical realism are Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, and Shame by Salman Rushdie. On the YA side, I really liked The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore and The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton.
Cyna: When you were a teen, what was your favorite book (YA or otherwise)? Now that you’re an author for teens, what are some of your favorite recent YA releases?
Samantha: You know, I didn’t really read a lot of YA when I was a teen. I never wanted to read stories about people my age because I hated being my age and was desperate to be a “grown up.” I remember really liking an author named Kurt Vonnegut. I collected all his paperbacks (there are a lot of them), and at one point in high school, my dad surprised me with a signed hardcover copy of Vonnegut’s most well-known novel Slaughterhouse-Five. It still holds a special place on my bookshelf.
Of the YA books I’ve read recently, the ones that have stuck with me most are The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater and When I Am Through With You by Stephanie Kuehn.
Cyna: We’re fascinated with how authors decide on a book’s title. Sometimes a title sticks from rough draft to published novel; sometimes the author works with their agent or editor to find the perfect title. What is the story behind ALL THE WIND IN THE WORLD?
Samantha: Not the original title! The original title was The Real Marvelous, which is the name of the ranch where Sarah Jac and James work. My publisher suggested we think of other possible titles, which is hard, especially when you have your heart set on one, and a friend who read an early draft suggested All the Wind in the World, which a variation of a line toward the end of the book.
Cyna: Here at Papercuts Podcast, we’re always looking for positive representations in YA. What does ALL THE WIND IN THE WORLD offer for readers looking for teens of color, LGBT youth, or positive friendships between female characters (meaning: no girlhate!)?
Samantha: Both of my novels feature main characters who have mixed heritage. In A Fierce and Subtle Poison, Lucas has an Anglo father and Dominican mother, and Isabel has an Anglo father and Puerto Rican mother. For both those characters, coming to terms with their culture(s) is a huge part of that story. In All the Wind in the World, Sarah Jac is described as having “mixed blood,” and you get the sense that several other characters do, too. It’s really important to me to represent people who claim diverse cultural heritage because I myself am Mexican-American, Puerto Rican, and white. I hope that young people who come from diverse backgrounds like myself, can see themselves reflected or perhaps be inspired to dive into and learn about their rich and complex identities.
Cyna: This seems to be a standalone novel like your first novel, A FIERCE AND SUBTLE POISON. So, what is next for you in YA land? Any pet projects you can tease us about?
Samantha: I’m working on a couple of things: a ghost story set in San Antonio and a big epic about bandits. Both are in very, very early, nebulous stages, though.
Cyna: Last one! If you could spend one day with Sarah Jac and James, what would you do together? What would advice would you give to each of them?
Samantha: Hmm. Well, I’d rather not spend the day with them because they’d be working in the fields in the hot sun, but it might be nice to spend a night with them and their friends around the campfire. I imagine if I gave Sarah Jac advice, she wouldn’t take it because she’s stubborn and thinks she knows better than everyone else. I might tell James not to trust certain people on the ranch, but then again, I don’t know if he’d listen to me, either. Both of them are much more savvy and world-weary than I am, so, like I said, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t need or take my advise.
Cyna: Thank you very much, Samantha! And again, from Papercuts Podcast, congratulations on ALL THE WIND IN THE WORLD! We look forward to hearing from you again!
ALL THE WIND IN THE WORLD, published by Algonquin Young Readers, is in stores TODAY and available at your favorite retailers and local independent bookstores!
Samantha Mabry grew up in Texas playing bass guitar along to vinyl records, writing fan letters to rock stars, and reading big, big books, and credits her tendency toward magical thinking to her Grandmother Garcia, who would wash money in the kitchen sink to rinse off any bad spirits. She teaches writing and Latino literature at El Centro College in Dallas, Texas, where she lives with her husband, a historian, and her pets, including a cat named Mouse. She is the author of the novels A Fierce and Subtle Poison and All the Wind in the World. Visit her online at samanthamabry.com or on Twitter: @samanthamabry.
Enjoy this article? Leave a comment below! You can follow us on Twitter @YAPapercuts! And be sure to check out the latest podcasts from Papercuts Podcast! Because YA Needs to Hear It!