Tuesday, August 18, 2020

"The Monsters We Make"

Kali White VanBaale is the author of the novels The Monsters We Make, The Good Divide, and The Space Between.

She's the recipient of an American Book Award, an Independent Publisher’s silver medal for general fiction, the Fred Bonnie Memorial First Novel Award, the Eric Hoffer Book Award for General Fiction, an Iowa Arts Council major artist grant, and the Great River Writer’s Retreat. She's also writes and publishes short stories, essays, and articles, and serves as the managing editor of the micro-essay journal The Past Ten.

Kali holds an MFA in creative writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She's a core faculty member in the Lindenwood University MFA in Writing Program and regularly teaches writing workshops at various conferences and festivals. In addition to writing and teaching, Kali is an advocate and state lobbyist for mental healthcare reform.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Monsters We Make and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Monsters We Make finds us, of all places, at the Iowa State Fair in August of 1984, just days after a local paperboy has mysteriously vanished one morning on his route. The story is told through three different points of view—Sammy Cox, a twelve-year-old boy who also delivers morning newspapers and is hiding a terrible secret, his eighteen-year-old sister, Crystal, and Dale Goodkind, a local cop assigned to the missing paperboy case. Page 69 falls in one of Sammy’s early point of view chapters and a scene where he’s spending the day at the fair with his mother and sister, and they’ve bumped into the cop who previously interviewed him about his paper route. Near the end of the page, while Sammy’s mother is deep in conversation with Goodkind, Sammy goes into a nearby bathroom where he’s accosted by a mysterious male—another boy or man, it’s unknown at this point—who has clearly been following him.
The bathroom door squealed open, followed by slow, heavy footsteps. The hairs on the back of Sammy’s neck prickled. His legs turned watery and his stomach cramped. He quickly zipped his shorts, dribbling pee on the front of the dark fabric.

He didn’t want to turn and look, he told himself not to look, but he did it anyway.

How had he known Sammy would be here?

Are you having fun?

The voice echoed in his ears, far away like in a dream.
I was highly curious to try this test on my own work, and was pleased to find that page 69 is, indeed, a strong representation of the story itself. The engine of The Monsters We Make explores the idea of one crime inadvertently exposing another, and Sammy’s character is central to the hidden crime that eventually becomes exposed with a devastating outcome. The scene on page 69 touches on both the mystery of the missing paperboy, but also continues to build the mystery of Sammy’s secret.
Visit Kali White's website.

Q&A with Kali White.

--Marshal Zeringue