Tuesday, August 8, 2017

"Fierce Kingdom"

Gin Phillips is the author of five novels. Her debut novel, The Well and the Mine, was the winner of the 2009 Barnes & Noble Discover Award. Since then her work has been sold in 29 countries.

Born in Montgomery, AL, Phillips graduated from Birmingham-Southern College with a degree in political journalism. She worked as a magazine writer for more than a decade, living in Ireland, New York, and Washington D.C., before eventually moving back to Alabama.

She currently lives in Birmingham with her family.

Phillips applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Fierce Kingdom, and reported the following:
I’m going to cut through any ambiguity and say that, yes, page 69 of Fierce Kingdom is utterly representative of the novel. But it might not be exactly what a reader would expect to be representative.

Fierce Kingdom centers around Joan and her four-year-old son, Lincoln, who are leaving the zoo one afternoon when they hear gunshots. Joan sees a gunman, and she runs. The novel plays out in nearly real time over the course of three hours, following Joan, Lincoln, and a handful of other characters, ending when the police enter the zoo. More than a traditional thriller, though, it is an exploration of motherhood. The book asks what we owe our children…and what we owe someone else’s child.

Page 69 gives a glimpse of Joan as she’s found a safe place for herself and Lincoln, although she’s very conscious of the gunmen who might be lurking nearby. She’s exchanging texts with her husband, and she’s frustrated with him for needing reassurance when she’s trying hard to stay focused on immediate threats. This is a still moment in the story, and it lets us know Joan and her life a little more deeply. It's one of many of these moments in the novel, moments that linger over a character and the landscape of their thoughts, and I think these inner glimpses are more important to the intensity of the book than the action—it’s these moments that, hopefully, make the reader care.

So we get a flash of Joan’s irritation with her husband’s nervous texts, but we also realize that “she longs for his handwriting. He leaves her a note on the kitchen counter every morning…You are my #1 draft pick. He makes her coffee so that it is hot when she wakes up, even though he does not drink it.”

We see, too, her struggle to pull herself together so that she can keep her son calm and content.

“She is trying to work herself back into the right mood to talk to him—quiet, as quiet as possible—to make everything normal and all right. A considerable part of parenting is pretending moods that you do not entirely feel. She has thought this before when she’s listening to little plastic people act out a battle scene for hours at a time, but now it seems like maybe all those eternal battles were a good thing—maybe they were practice."
Visit Gin Phillips's website.

Writers Read: Gin Phillips.

--Marshal Zeringue