Author Interview: Carly Heath of The Reckless Kind

I recently had the pleasure of reading and reviewing author Carly Heath’s debut novel The Reckless Kind. You can read the full review here.

I couldn’t have been more excited when I was offered the opportunity to interview the author!

Photo by Brandy Yi, graciously provided by Carly Heath

I loved finding out more about her inspiration for the book, favorite characters, writing process, and learning about what they are working on next. Here’s our exchange:

Paw Prints in the Sink: What was your original inspiration for The Reckless Kind? What was your first thought that set you off on this path?

Carly Heath: The original concept for the book stemmed from the idea of the Fuglestads—an outcast family, living on a mountain above town and believed to be cursed with perpetual bad luck. Though imperfect, they’re nice people who rescue animals and the reason for their misfortune is because they take in the horses no one else wants. From there, I thought the most interesting perspective on this family would be the POVs of two people who aren’t related to them but actually find this strange family to be rather appealing and who delight in their unconventional way of life.

Paw Prints: Norway, 1904 is a very specific and enchanting setting. What drew you to this time and place to set your story?

Heath: Though the book is set in a fictional island nation near Norway, the culture is heavily Norway-inspired. Ever since I was a horse-loving kid, I’ve always loved Norwegian fjord horses and they’ve always been my favorite breed. So, the horses were definitely the first start. I also read Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset and definitely connected with the setting and the characters but hated the anti-feminist message. So, THE RECKLESS KIND is very much inspired by the things I loved in Kristin Lavransdatter but with a more empowering message. Added to that is my interest in fashion history and when I was in college I designed costumes for a version of Much Ado About Nothing set in the early 1900s. I really liked the vibe of that period. It’s also a period right before motorcars start coming into common use, so there was an opportunity for some nice tension between Fred, who loves horses, and Gunnar, who loves motorcars.

Paw Prints: Sorry I mislabeled the setting! I love the juxtaposition of cars versus horses between the brothers. Fred is such a standout character to me; I loved his scenes! I’m also particularly fond of Much Ado, and its inclusion in the story was such a fun bonus for me.

Paw Prints: Your bio mentions you have your own menagerie of rescued animals. Would you share a little bit about this, and how it influenced a similar situation in the book?

Heath: I’m vegan and I grew up in a rural area outside of the San Francisco. Horses, goats, chickens, and rabbits have always been a part of my life. I tend to have a fondness for the animals that no one else wants—particularly my horse who was a rescue and very feral when she came to me. Like the Fuglestads in THE RECKLESS KIND, I experienced some injuries while involved in horse training and those inspired the injuries the characters experience in the book. There’s this idea held by some in the equestrian community that some horses are “no good” and that it’s pointless to put yourself at risk rehabilitating a traumatized one. I disagree. Sure, I had some rough patches with my mare back when she was highly fearful, but after several years of patience and love she has a great life now and I’m so happy she didn’t end up in a slaughterhouse.

Paw Prints: Thank you for sharing that! I absolutely adored how the Fuglestads were a safe refuge for animals and outcasts alike. Knowing the inspiration for the mare in the book makes it even more of a poignant plot line.

Paw Prints: Which character was the easiest to write? The hardest?

Heath: Erlend was probably the easiest to write because I could hear his voice so clearly and he’s so anxious and sensitive (like me, lol). The hardest characters to write for me are always the villains because I have a hard time getting in the mindset of narcissists and those who only care about themselves. 

Paw Prints: Each character is incredibly well developed. Do you have a personal favorite?

Heath: Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about Gunnar because I’m starting to get an idea for a sequel that would be dual POV between Gunnar and Fred and I can really hear Gunnar’s voice. I definitely relate to his depressive thoughts and anxieties. He’s got so many layers, and it would be fun to delve into all that.

Paw Prints: The theater and acting play a big part in this book. Do you have theater experience? If so, how did your theater experience shape your writing?

Heath: Yes, I got my minor in Drama (mostly focused on Costume Design). Professionally, I’ve done Costume Design for theater. Because of all the research I’d done for college theater stuff, it really helped me get the time period. There’s also some aspects of acting in the book, and I also feel like writing is sort of acting on the page—you’re getting into the emotion of a character and revealing a character through words. 

Paw Prints: I love that!

Paw Prints: What are your comfort reads?

Heath: Anything by Becky Albertalli

Whatever Madeline Miller writes 

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

The Queer Principles of Kit Webb by Cat Sebastian

The Will Darling trilogy by KJ Charles

Paw Prints: Would you mind sharing a little bit about your writing process?

Heath: Chaos. All chaos. I remember early on there were some notecards I wrote scenes on, but pretty much abandoned them. I know where I’m going when I write but I’m also totally okay with scrapping everything after the first draft and trying something completely different. The first draft of what would become THE RECKLESS KIND is pretty much unrecognizable from the published version. I had to figure out the characters and the types of things that would happen before I could figure out the plot.

Paw Prints: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors, having debuted during a pandemic and navigated the publishing world recently?

Heath: Just write what makes you happy and make it the best it can be. Seek out any and all feedback and be open to making revisions—it’s the best way to improve. But also trust your gut: if the revision suggestions make you excited then that lets you know it’s the right way to go, if the revision suggestion makes you feel uncomfortable, then maybe something else needs to be looked at but that particular direction might not be the best for the work.

Paw Prints: I just have to say, thank you for the author’s note at the beginning of the book that gives both trigger warnings and, with advanced warning, a spoiler that sets the tone for the reader’s experience. As a deep-feeling reader, I appreciated the warnings and it really added to my experience reading the book. What was your inspiration for this, and is it something you intend to do with your subsequent books?

Heath: I’m very sensitive and that’s why I wrote it. There are some books I’ve been afraid to read because I was scared of being traumatized—Song of Achilles comes to mind, but that ended up being my favorite book. So I’m a big fan of the author just letting us know ahead of time what to expect, so we can emotionally prepare for it.

Paw Prints: Are you working on your next book, and if so, what can you tell us about it?

Heath: I’m revising a queer YA fantasy set on a magical Scandinavian island. It’s about a family cursed to transform into animals at some, unknown, point in their lives. It has a whole bunch of things in it I love—astrology, sorcery, Hermetic philosophy, and a great love story at the center of it. I can’t wait to share it with the world.

Graphic by Paw Prints in the Sink; Cover design of THE RECKLESS KIND by Lisa Perrin

I can’t thank author Carly Heath enough for taking the time to answer all of my questions and share some hints of what’s coming next. For me, Heath’s excellent world-building and character development are at the core of what makes The Reckless Kind such a good read.

Carly Heath’s The Reckless Kind will be available November 2, 2021 from Soho Teen.

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