Terrible Secrets Come Out Along the Wolf Road
An exclusive Authorlink interview
By Diane Slocum
The Wolf Road, Beth Lewis, Crown – In the post-apocalyptic north country, Elka is tossed into the woods during a storm, taken in, and raised by a man she calls Trapper. Years later, as a young woman, she sees a wanted poster with his face on it – Kreagar is wanted for multiple murders and the magistrate Lyon is determined to get him – and his companion. Elka takes off armed only with the knowledge of the wild that Kreagar taught her and her special knife – not knowing if it will be enough to elude both of them.
|“Whenever I get a new story idea, it tends to arrive in the form of a vivid picture in my head . . .”
AUTHORLINK: What came to you first about this story?
LEWIS: Whenever I get a new story idea, it tends to arrive in the form of a vivid picture in my head and usually happens about three-quarters of the way through my current project. It can be distracting, to say the least. For The Wolf Road, it was Elka sitting in the snowy trees, watching the man below her. That whole first scene is practically unchanged from my original draft. For my next book, it was a sweeping view down an empty road, cutting through golden cornfields. I then usually get the first line.
AUTHORLINK: How did it develop from there?
LEWIS: Elka’s story developed quickly and organically. I knew I wanted to write about this girl’s journey from childhood all the way up to how she came to be sitting in the tree and who that man was to her. I wanted to write a kind of odyssey and it was so much fun to keep throwing up obstacles and danger and see how Elka overcame it all. The voice in particular developed easily, it was just Elka telling her own story in her own words. It was kind of a frenzied writing experience and almost none of it was planned out in advance.
AUTHORLINK: Why did you start the book with a scene from far into the story?
LEWIS: When I read or watch a movie, I love being hooked by a mystery rather than being told the story of how that came about. It puts more focus on the journey and the detail rather than the outcome or twist. Of course I still love to be surprised, but I like knowing, for example, that my favourite character isn’t dead (at least not by that point). I wanted readers to be concentrating on Elka’s journey which is what the book is about, rather than rushing through to see if she catches the bad guy and missing all the juicy bits.
AUTHORLINK: How did you feel as you were writing about some of the most gruesome aspects of the story?
LEWIS: Those were the most fun. Making something so grim or violent or gory seem authentic without having that experience is a great challenge for any writer, and I love a challenge. I am quite a visual person, I love movies and TV and anything highly stylized, so I think that way when I write. I did feel uncomfortable writing a particularly nasty scene which takes place on a boat, but it wasn’t the gore I was squeamish about, but rather a character’s misogynistic language.
|“Elka does some awful things and it would be easy for a reader to hate her and hold no sympathy for her, but I believe it’s our ability to empathize and to understand others that makes Elka relatable . . .”
AUTHORLINK: The book deals with memory and delusions and manipulation. What does this say about us as humans?
LEWIS: I think it says humans are capable of terrible things but we have an amazing capacity for healing and forgiveness. Elka does some awful things and it would be easy for a reader to hate her and hold no sympathy for her, but I believe it’s our ability to empathize and to understand others that makes Elka relatable and I hope, a compelling heroine. It was my goal in writing this book to have a character with a life totally alien to most people, who had done unforgivable things, but yet the reader, perhaps despite themselves, still rooted for them, still liked them. I hope it shows how open we are to others and how forgiving we can be.
AUTHORLINK: This is your first published novel. Have you published other pieces? Did you write other novels before this? How did your previous work help you with this book?
|“I learned not to write for a market or what I thought might sell. I learned how far I can push myself creatively, where my strengths and weaknesses lie . . .”
LEWIS: Prior to The Wolf Road I’d written four novels, all of which now languish in a dusty corner of my laptop. They taught me so much, mainly how to finish writing a novel which is hard enough, but also how to break the rules. I learned not to write for a market or what I thought might sell. I learned how far I can push myself creatively, where my strengths and weaknesses lie, and actually what and how I enjoy writing. For example, all four novels were written in third person, except for one section in one story which is written in first person. I loved writing that one section, I still think about it. I adored the voice and the rhythm and how close I felt to the character, so I knew I had to write The Wolf Road that way. I had to get as close as possible to Elka.
|“I feel a kinship with the country much more, I’m a bit of a hermit, I’d happily live in a cabin in the woods as long as it had wi-fi.”
LEWIS: I do. I grew up in the countryside on the North Cornwall coast. My world was beaches, cliffs, fields, rivers, forests, all of which I crave since I’ve lived in London. It’s easy to lose sight of how important nature and the wilderness are to humans when you live in a massive city, and I never want to do that. Strangely, I think the human connection is much less in a city than in the country. Where I grew up, we knew everyone around us, all our neighbours, their kids, their dogs, where they worked. Walking into the local shop meant seeing a friend or three and having a chat. Now I’m in a city, I don’t even know my neighbours’ names! I feel a kinship with the country much more, I’m a bit of a hermit, I’d happily live in a cabin in the woods as long as it had wi-fi.
LEWIS: My next book is set in small, struggling Midwest town in the early 1970s. It’s the story of four kids who find a body and set about solving a murder but they dig too deep, ask too many questions, with devastating consequences. It has a “Stand by Me” meets “True Detective” vibe about it so is pretty dark but has been such fun to write.
|About the Author:
Beth Lewis developed an interest in traveling in the wild where she has met bears, killer whales and sharks. She has had careers ranging from juggling to bank cashier and is now a managing editor for a London publisher.
About Regular Contributor:
Diane Slocum has been a newspaper reporter and editor and authored an historical book. As a freelance writer, she contributes regularly to magazines and newspapers. She writes features on authors and a column for writers and readers in Lifestyle magazine. She is assigned to write interviews of first-time novelists and bestselling authors for Authorlink.