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Interview with Ronald Geigle, author of The Woods
“Is that Hemingway? I don’t know.”
Ronald Lee Geigle’s new novel, The Woods, is set in the turbulent world of labor unrest and big-timber logging in America’s Pacific Northwest during the waning days of the Great Depression. It portrays the lives and dreams of those who struggled to overcome the hard times—and how they were transformed as a result. Its fast-paced plot is driven by sabotage, betrayal, union violence, corporate greed, and economic survival. Yet the book paints the inner complexities and nuances of its characters as beautifully as it portrays the splendor of the Northwest’s ice-topped peaks and natural power of the woods.
A popular book blog recently said, “The Woods is an amazing book—a sweeping examination of an era, an industry, and the political forces that swirled around both. But more than that, it is story of emotions and relationships that are timeless.” Kirkus Reviews recommended the book, calling it “a high-drama story…” of interest both to fans of historical fiction and political thrillers.
The book was recently published in association with WordVirgin, an indie publishing platform based in Washington, DC, Seattle, and Edinburgh.
The following is an interview with the author, who was born and raised in the region of the US where the novel is set.
Q: The Woods takes place during a very rich period in American history. Why do you find this era fascinating?
RG: The Great Depression burned an indelible mark into America’s psyche. It gave us Social Security, bank regulation, the WPA. It made government dominant over the economy—something we are still arguing about as we try to fix today’s economic troubles. It also shook the confidence of the nation and people—families, workers, everyday people. The foundation was broken. I find it fascinating how people fight back after something so devastating. The Woods is about those people and their struggles—and echoes the same struggles people are going through today.
Q: Although your novel takes place in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State, there are a lot of parallels with the intrigue that goes on in Washington, DC. What’s the connection?
RG: I grew up in the Pacific Northwest. But I’ve spent the past 38 years in the world of public relations and politics in Washington, DC. So it was only natural, I think, that a story involving one of the biggest political and economic disasters in the US—the Great Depression—brings out the political gamesmanship and power political maneuvers that I’ve often witnessed in the nation’s capital.
Q: Albert Weissler, the novel’s 18-year-old main character, really becomes a man in this book. Tell us a little about the hero’s journey. What forces is he confronting?
RG: Albert is starting his journey in life. Pulling away from his mother; seeking to become his own man. That’s about as traditional as journeys get, in life as well as literature. But he is also trying to “find” his father who was killed in the woods only a few years before. And he is trying to sort through where he fits amid rabble-rousing hotheads and barrel-chested loggers. Add to this his growing understanding, and confusion, about his own feelings—toward girls, toward politics, toward his own family—and the reader gets an up-close picture of Albert’s struggle in becoming his own man.
Q: One of the main characters is Bud Cole, the owner of Skybillings Logging Company. He refuses to be beaten down by World War I or the Great Depression. Do you see him as kind of the archetypal Hemingway hero?
RG: Failure and frustration are friends of Bud Cole. But somehow, he fights back—and it’s no easy task, as the book shows. But as he does so, it hits him that he is making some big trade-offs. When he fights, when he takes chances, it affects others—sometime in dreadful ways. Is that Hemingway? I don’t know.
Q: You write about nature and the natural elements in The Woods. Would you say that the Three Sisters Mountains almost become characters?
RG: Three Sisters was the name my family used to describe three peaks, all close together, that we could see from our house when I was growing up. I guess they were in the vicinity of Stevens Pass in the Cascades. And yes, I do think these granite monoliths—unmoving, ice-capped, powerful—become symbolic of the role that the natural world and the unfettered, god-like power of the natural environment play. This is a book about religion, to some extent. Three Sisters are some of the texts from that natural bible.
Q: You’re self-publishing The Woods. How are you finding the experience?
RG: Challenging, difficult, entertaining. Do you know how hard it is to proofread a book that runs 170,000 words? We probably proofed it a dozen times, and I suspect there is still a typo or two in there. Beyond that, though, there is such a suspicion of self-publishing in established literary circles. They view self-published fiction as failed fiction—because it is not being published by an established house. My view is that self-publishing is the future. It is allowing thousands of new voices to be heard. WordVirgin is a perfect example of a company that is helping make this possible. And I think The Woods is proof that self-published fiction can also be serious, thought-provoking fiction. I am convinced that Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Virginia Woolf, and a lot of others would be self-publishing today.
The Woods is available for iPads, Kindles, and all other tablets. It is also available in print via Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H59NIHQ
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