Twogalsandabook recently read All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood. The book is getting excellent reviews and you can find this book on Goodreads by clicking the title above. We were so lucky to get an interview with the author! You can see our reviews and interview with Bryn Greenwood below!
Blurb: New York Times Bestseller
Goodreads Best Fiction of 2016 Runner-Up
As the daughter of a meth dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. Struggling to raise her little brother, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible “adult” around. She finds peace in the starry Midwestern night sky above the fields behind her house. One night everything changes when she witnesses one of her father’s thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold, wreck his motorcycle. What follows is a powerful and shocking love story between two unlikely people that asks tough questions, reminding us of all the ugly and wonderful things that life has to offer.
Stacy’s Review: 5*****
Sad and moving. I understand all the controversy regarding this, but I don’t agree. I think this was a hard look at mistakes made by a family, court system, and community. I have seen some people think the book is glorifying pedophilia, and again I disagree. I think Kellen in the book was mildly mentally handicapped, like around 14 mentally, in a man’s body. I do think it should be required reading for anyone getting a degree in social work because it helps the reader to see things from the mindset of a child growing up in severe dyfunction.
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood is a book that was very challenging for me to read due to the content. The title is nothing short of absolute perfection in describing the book. I went into the book completely blind and didn’t read much about it besides liking a few reviews. I had no idea what was in store.
There were a few times in the book I wanted to stop reading. What supported me finishing the book was reminding myself about the fact that this story, no matter how hard it is to accept, is very real. This is a book of fiction, but there are dysfunctional lives comparable to this and they’re very true. Just because they’re out of sight, out of mind, doesn’t mean they aren’t happening. The author could have written it differently, but then it wouldn’t be what it is. I don’t think by reading and finishing the book, you’re necessarily celebrating the events that take place.
The controversy with people is the relationship. I get that the relationship Wavy chooses is wrong, but just look at her life. Her parents, exposure, and experiences are not what most would consider “normal” and she’s not able to enjoy her childhood as it is. Instead, she’s having to live like an adult and she experiences adult situations at a very young age. Because she has nobody, a nonexistent family and no support from anyone, Kellen becomes her family and they fall in love.
After all, it’s just a story. To me, it was captivating. The book is written very well and I loved it. I’m delighted to have discovered this author and I’m looking forward to reading more. I’ll leave it at that. 🙂 5*****
Twogalsandabook: What inspired you to write this book?
Bryn Greenwood: It started the way most of my books start. I saw something that set off a series of thoughts that turned into a story. I saw a man riding a motorcycle on a dirt road through a hay field. I immediately began to wonder who he was and where he was going. When I got home I started writing. Kellen wrecked his bike, Wavy saved his life, and everything followed on from there.
Twogalsandabook: Is there anything you’re working on now?
Bryn Greenwood: Yes, but I don’t want to jinx myself by talking about it.
Twogalsandabook: Do you think your writing will stay in any specific genre(s)?
Bryn Greenwood: I actually write in several different genres, including literary, fantasy, science fiction, and historical. So far, only my literary books have found an audience and a publisher.
Twogalsandabook: Do you read a lot? What are some of your favorite books, genres, and authors?
Bryn Greenwood: Not as much as I’d like to. That’s the trade off for writing. It takes up some of my reading time. I will read very nearly anything without shame, but close to my heart are Anthony Trollope, Ursula K. LeGuin, Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, and Emma Donoghue.
Twogalsandabook: What was the most difficult part of writing the book? Was there anything that you deleted or altered?
Bryn Greenwood: All books are hard in their own way, and this one was no different. There were moments where I didn’t like how the story was going, and I tried to write my way out of it. I hated seeing Wavy suffer. I hated some of the decisions that Kellen made. The heart wants what it wants, though, and every time I tried to write around it, I kept getting tripped up. As a result, a lot of things got deleted. That’s what happens when your first draft is over two hundred thousand words, and you write a hundred thousand words of an entirely different version of the story.
Twogalsandabook: Did you have to do much research for the book?
Bryn Greenwood: I mostly found myself having to do memory checks. Because I grew up in the rural Midwest in the 70s and 80s, I personally knew most of the things I wanted to write about, but I had to check certain things like exact dates on music, movies, slang terms, and various other pop culture references. For example, I had to check that Poltergeist really would have been in theaters on the night of Kellen’s twenty-sixth birthday, and that “gag me with a spoon” would have been in common usage in Tulsa later that same summer.
Twogalsandabook: Have you ever experienced writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it?
Bryn Greenwood: I don’t really believe in writer’s block. Writer’s procrastination, yes. If I find myself struggling with a project, it’s usually because I’m avoiding it. Either because it’s difficult or because I’m not that interested in it. The way around it then is simple: work harder or move on to something else.
Twogalsandabook: Where is your favorite place to write? Do you have a favorite “writing” atmosphere?
Bryn Greenwood: I typically write while sitting on my couch with my dogs. It’s not my favorite place to write, but the dogs seem to like it. I will write almost anywhere, and in fact, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things was written while I was camped out in a friend’s spare bedroom.
Twogalsandabook: Do you have any advice for other novice or aspiring writers?
Bryn Greenwood: Read as many books as you can. Reread the ones you love most until you understand why you love them. Then write the things you feel most passionately about.
Twogalsandabook: I read online that your father was a drug dealer at one point. Does this in any way connect to All the Ugly and Wonderful Things?
Bryn Greenwood: Because I knew quite a bit about that life, it was easy for me to place the events within the meth culture of the 70s and 80s. Some of the events and people in the book are the product of my personal experiences, but there are no direct correlations. Liam is nothing like my father, and Val is not my mother. Did I know some people who were a bit like Butch and Dee and Sandy? Yes, but I don’t think any of the actual people I know would recognize themselves in the borrowed traits of my characters.
Twogalsandabook: Did you have many supporters that helped you to get this book published, and at any point did you feel like it was a risk due to the content?
Bryn Greenwood: Obviously, my agent and my editor at St. Martin’s Press were my strongest supporters for this book. My agent loved the story enough that she took it to auction. My editor loved it enough that she bought and published it. Neither of them ever suggested to me that I should change it. As for me, the riskier something is the more likely I am to try it. I wrote the book with my whole heart and it never occurred to me to be afraid to send it out into the world. I would rather write books that are problematic but passionate than something I feel lukewarm about.
Twogalsandabook: How have you dealt with the controversy of your book?
Bryn Greenwood: I’ve tried to focus on talking about the issues that I think are at the heart of the book, most especially consent. People frequently look only at Wavy and Kellen’s relationship, but there are so many other places in the book where the question of Wavy’s ability and right to consent or to refuse consent comes into play. So many adults want to “do what’s right” by forcing her to do or be something other than what she is. As much as we may not approve of the choices Kellen makes, he’s one of the only adults in the book who doesn’t violate Wavy’s consent. It’s important to me to get people talking about that.
Twogalsandabook: Did you plan the controversial age gap between Kellen and Wavy, or is it just something you had to write?
Bryn Greenwood: I don’t plan much of anything when it comes to my writing. Characters tend to walk into my stories as they are, fully formed. I met Wavy and Kellen at the same time they met each other: by the side of the road next to a wrecked motorcycle. They were who they were–an eight-year-old girl and a twenty-year-old man–and I didn’t try to change them. I didn’t know they were going to develop such a strong emotional bond, but when they did, I just kept writing.
Twogalsandabook: In the book, Kellen was depicted as being mildly mentally handicapped. Was this intentional on your part? Were you trying to make a point about how appearance and chronological age can skew people’s judgement of an individual?
Bryn Greenwood: Although some characters in the book view Kellen that way, I don’t, and I don’t feel I depicted him that way. He’s a fully functional adult. He holds down a job, owns a house, pays his bills. He’s of average intelligence in some ways, but extremely smart in other ways. After all, how many of us can solve a Rubik’s cube in a few minutes or completely rebuild a motorcycle? In terms of his emotional state, however, he has many common traits of adult children of abuse. He has poor decision making skills and anger management issues. He’s impulsive and he has a fear of rejection.
Twogalsandabook: Have you ever been in an abusive relationship, or dealt with the victims of such, since the mindset of the victims were captured so accurately?
Bryn Greenwood: I worked for many years at a domestic violence shelter, so I’ve met and talked with many victims of DV, both adults and children. It’s a situation that so often appears in fiction and film for sensationalist purposes, so it was very important for me to try to show what abusive relationships look like when they’re not dramatized. In fact, it was only after I’d worked at the shelter for some time that I realized one of my previous relationships was verbally and emotionally abusive. Abuse that doesn’t include physical violence can be so invisible in our society.
Twogalsandabook: Will there be any other books that will include the characters from All the Ugly and Wonderful Things?
Bryn Greenwood: Probably not. If people are interested in deleted scenes, including bonus scenes that are outside the timeline of the book, they can sign up for my newsletter via my website.
Twogalsandabook: When can we expect another book and will it contain the same level of controversy?
Bryn Greenwood: Certainly there will be more books. I have no idea whether they’ll turn out to be controversial.
Twogalsandabook: How do you deal with negative book reviews?
Bryn Greenwood: I mostly avoid them. After all, it’s too late to revise the book to please anyone else. Plus, I remind myself that not every book is for everybody. People who don’t like my book, it’s not for them.
Twogalsandabook: Are there any social media platforms or websites that readers could connect with you?
Bryn Greenwood: My website is www.bryngreenwood.com.
I’m on Twitter and Instagram as @bryngreenwood. My Twitter feed is mostly politics, and my Instagram feed is mostly pictures of my boxers. Readers can also find me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/bryngreenwoodwriter/
Twogalsandabook (Stacy & Mischenko) would like to thank author Bryn Greenwood for taking the time to answer our questions for this interview. We’d also like to thank all of our Goodread’s friends who participated.
About the Author:
Bryn Greenwood is a fourth-generation Kansan and the daughter of a mostly reformed drug dealer. She earned an MA in Creative Writing and continues to work in academia as an administrator. She is the author of the novels ALL THE UGLY AND WONDERFUL THINGS, LAST WILL, and LIE LAY LAIN. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas, and is married to an extensive home remodeling project.
You can find links to her blog and more of her stories at:
Other books by Bryn Greenwood:
Bernie Raleigh is a failure at nearly everything he touches. Nobody notices a loser, and after being kidnapped for ransom as a child, Bernie has spent his adult life trying to avoid being noticed. That’s impossible now that he’s inherited his grandfather’s enormous fortune. The inheritance comes complete with a mansion, a lot of obligations, and a very problematic housekeeper named Meda Amos. Beauty queen, alien abductee, crypto-Jew, single mother–Meda is all those things, and she may be the only person who can help Bernie survive his new and very public life.
Jennifer has a great job and a go-getter fiancé. She’s on track for success, until she witnesses a fatal hit-and-run. Mistaking Jennifer for someone else, the dying victim extracts an impossible promise. Jennifer’s fiancé wants her to forget the whole incident, but when she closes her eyes, she can still see the bloody face of the woman who asked for her help.
Olivia is in a rut. Burdened with caring for her brain-damaged brother and already feeling like a spinster at 27, she’s desperate to escape. In a moment of weakness, she tells a lie that draws an unsuspecting paramedic into her life. As she struggles to expiate the lie, a horrible act of violence will test her resolve to be honest.
Where Jennifer’s promise and Olivia’s lie intersect, their lives begin to unravel.
The January 2009 Issue of Arts and Literary Journal The Battered Suitcase; intelligent and imaginative prose, poetry and art that explores the human Lexperience. Edited by Fawn Neun, Maggie Ward, and Apythia Morges.