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JJ Barnes The Table Read

Written by JJ Barnes

I interviewed author Carly Heath about her career, what inspires her, and the creative process behind her latest novel, The Reckless Kind.

When did you first WANT to write a book?

I do remember making little picture books when I was in kindergarten/first grade, so I think writing has always been a part of my creative self-expression. 2014 was when I began writing what would become The Reckless Kind in earnest, though I have sketches and ideas jotted down from way back in 2008.

Carly Heath, author of The Reckless Kind, interview on The Table Read
Carly Heath, author of The Reckless Kind

When did you take a step to start writing?

Writing has been a part of my life for a long time, but I think that period in 2014 where I decided to put my other creative pursuits (filmmaking and illustration) aside and focus fully on writing my novel was the step that began my process of learning more about the publishing industry and what I could do to get my manuscript in shape for publication.

How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?

The first draft was finished around Thanksgiving 2014, and I spent 2015 revising it. I sent out like 5 queries in late 2015 and immediately got a full request. I still didn’t know much about querying at that point, so I waited the full three months for that agent to get back to me before deciding to move forward. That agent passed, but provided really helpful feedback and I revised the manuscript based on their suggestions. That’s when I learned about Pitch Wars.

I connected with other Pitch Wars hopefuls and we swapped manuscripts and provided feedback to each other. I didn’t get accepted to Pitch Wars 2016, but received an offer of representation from an agent in early 2017. That agent ultimately decided to leave the industry, so I signed with Steven Chudney in 2018 and my book received an offer from Soho Teen in 2019. So from that first draft in 2014 to release day in 2021, it’s been 7 years.

Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write this book?

The idea of the Fuglestads (the central family in The Reckless Kind) came to me first—a family of outcasts that save animals, are atheists, vegetarians, and have very strong principles, but who are always getting injured because they take in the horses that no one else wants. I thought it’d be interesting to write not from the POV of the Fuglestads but from the POV of two very different people who sort of idolize them even though the rest of the town thinks that family is nothing but heathens and deviants.

The book gave me a chance to explore the intersections of gender, queerness, disability, and the joy that can be found in refusing to conform. I especially wanted to write something that might inspire teens to defy any situations where their authenticity is being repressed. 

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What were your biggest challenges with writing The Reckless Kind?

The biggest challenge in creating any type of art is the oppressive capitalist system all of us are living under. Especially as a millennial, I have to work at least three different jobs in order to make ends meet, so until we defeat this backwards economic structure that serves to benefit corporations instead of people, many artists will continue to have their artistic expression stifled as they spend their days serving their employers instead of improving their art and contributing to the greater social good.

Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?

Asta has a lot in common with me (but she’s a lot more touchy-feely than I am, lol). Like me, she’s ace, hard of hearing, and loves animals. She’s also struggling to deprogram herself from the patriarchal expectations that have been placed on her and is going through a process of learning to trust her instincts without feeling guilt over her choices.

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Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?

The Reckless Kind by Carly Heath, author interview on The Table Read
The Reckless Kind by Carly Heath

Nils is the classic “nice guy” who thinks he should be entitled to a woman if he’s “nice” to her. Many of us who are not cis men know that ick feeling that guys like Nils inspire.

What is the inciting incident of The Reckless Kind?

After Gunnar inspires Asta to be a “badly-behaved betrothed,” she begins to relish her little acts of defiance, so when Nils comes to the theater to walk her home, she realizes that she simply can’t endure him anymore and runs away. This leads to the confrontation with Nils and Gunnar that changes everything.

What is the main conflict of The Reckless Kind?

Guilt and self-doubt. Asta blames herself for Nils attacking Gunnar. Gunnar feels guilty about stealing Erlend away from what he viewed as Erlend’s loving family. While the kids struggle through their feelings of self-doubt, the forces of patriarchal tradition press on without any doubt or introspection at all—the town alderman pushing everyone to participate in the annual horse race even though its proving to be more dangerous than ever.

It’s sort of like that Bukowski quote: “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.”

Did you plot The Reckless Kind in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?

I’m pretty chaotic. I know where the story is going and I have notes on specific scenes that are going to happen, but I let the plot change on the fly if it feels like it wants to go in a different direction than I originally intended.

Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did The Reckless Kind need?

Prior to querying, I got a lot of help from folks who were also entering Pitch Wars in 2016, so we did a lot of manuscript swapping. My editor Alexa Wejko at Soho Teen was amazing and gave exceptional feedback. It’s hard to quantify how much editing a book needed/needs. But there was a lot of revising between the first draft in 2014 and the published version in 2021. The 2021 version is completely different than the 2014 version.

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What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?

Don’t pressure yourself. Do it when you enjoy doing it—when you’re feeling it. If you’re forcing yourself to write just to get it done, that negative energy is going to show up in the work. Get in a nice, happy place while you’re creating.

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

I’m revising a queer YA Fantasy right now that I love with my whole heart. It deals with sorcery and other things I’m passionate about like ancient Hellenistic astrology and Hermetic philosophy.

And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

Yes, definitely. I hope The Reckless Kind finds readers who love it as much as I do.

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