Author J.C. Geiger shares his thoughts on the cover of Wildman, his debut novel of wonder and and wandering.
The cover art for Wildman was designed by Maria Elias and illustrated by Jeff Östberg. Bold and evocative, the art hints at the strange and wonderful journey Lance Hendricks takes to becoming himself.
“How can a complete stranger know you better than the people you’ve known your entire life?”
Lance Hendricks is homeward bound, four hundred highway miles from the best night of his life. There’s an epic graduation party brewing, his girlfriend will be there, and they’ve got a private bedroom with their names on it. When his ’93 Buick breaks down in the middle of nowhere, Lance is sure he’ll be back on the road in no time. After all, he’s the high school valedictorian. First chair trumpet player. Scholarship winner. Nothing can stop Lance Hendricks.
But afternoon turns to night, and Lance ends up stranded at the Trainsong Motel. The place feels ominous, even before there’s a terrible car wreck outside his room. When Lance rushes out to help, the townies take notice. They call him Wildman, and an intriguing local girl asks him to join in their nighttime adventures. He begins to live up to his new name. As one day blurs into the next, Lance finds himself in a bar fight, jumping a train, avoiding the police. Drifting farther from home and closer to a girl who makes him feel a way he’s never felt before — like himself.
Interview with J.C. Geiger
Tell us five random facts about yourself!
1) I worked as a line cook in the Caribbean and can still dice the hell out of an onion.
2) I have been wearing a staff wristband from The Oregon Country Fair for over a year. It’s kind of a problem.
3) I was born on Halloween and spend every year doing elaborate trick-or-treat theatre to terrify children. You’re welcome, neighborhood.
4) I own a 15,000 pound, 1968 Bookmobile and will be taking it cross-country on madcap, book-related adventures. Just as soon as I learn how to drive stick.
5) I can make a strange animal sound by sucking air at the side of my mouth, and the noise was used in an award-winning horror movie.
What is your favorite element of the cover for Wildman?
First of all: I love this cover. When I learned Disney-Hyperion was going with boots and powerlines, I was out with my family and we all leapt up and hugged and jumped around like maniacs. It’s got the right feel for the book. So much of Wildman is about expectations and how people can look at the same thing or person and see them differently. The image of thrown boots is similar. It means different things to different people. What you see depends on where you grew up, what stories you’ve been told, how you see the world.
It also does what all great covers do: It makes you want to read the first sentence and delivers at that beautiful moment after you’ve read the last line. When you finish Wildman you’ll close the book, look down at the cover, and say YES. THIS.
What was your initial inspiration for Wildman?
Wildman is about what happens when a valedictorian’s ‘93 Buick breaks down and strands him at a roadhouse during a major turning point in his life. I wrote this book after my own ‘93 Buick Century broke down and stranded me at a roadhouse. As you may guess: I was also at a major turning point in my life. I didn’t even change the make or model of the car or the description of the motel because I had been writing failed fantasy and horror novels for so long I felt like the universe was knocking on my skull and screaming: WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW, YOU FOOL!
So I did. Wildman is my truest story, and the one I’m most proud of.
Which is harder to write: The first line, or the last line?
Oh my god. The last line. The haunting, elusive, catch-me-if-you-can last line of Wildman fled across mountain passes, six major revisions, dozens of hand-wringing walks, and eventually gave itself over in the town where I grew up, just a few hours before my flight back home to Eugene. My cousin found me in the basement of my parents’ house sobbing over my computer and said “Are you okay, dude?” I told him: “Yes, I’m great. I’m so great.” Which in no way convinced him that was true, or that I’m any less weird.
Aside from getting Wildman published, what is the coolest part of being a debut author?
Knowing this can actually happen. Being an unpublished writer can be like struggling down the road of a post-apocalyptic hellscape where everyone speaks of The Published Land. The glimmering, crystalline city just over the next horizon you start to think is probably either: 1) not real or 2) filled with radioactive zombies who only want to eat you. So on you go, pushing your wobbly shopping cart full of failed manuscripts and expecting to die before you arrive.
Now I have a brilliant editor and an entire team of people who care about this book, and love it, and who are genuinely kind and smart and caring individuals. Yes, in LA! Yes, all the way in New York City! It’s real! They’re real!
I have been writing alone in a room for a very, very long time. Having Wildman resonate with such incredible, smart people has defied all expectations. It’s like learning your favorite bedtime story is actually true. I am grateful for it daily.
For more information…
Wildman by J.C. Geiger comes to bookstores on June 6, 2017.