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Author Interview

LibraryThing is very pleased to sit down this month with wildlife scientist and bestselling author Delia Owens, whose novel, Where the Crawdads Sing, has recently been made into a film that will be released this coming July 15th by SONY Pictures. Although Ms. Owens has previously co-authored a number of memoirs about her years working with wildlife in Africa, Where the Crawdads Sing is her fictional debut. Set in the coastal marsh of North Carolina, the book, which spent 32 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, is an exploration of poverty and familial abandonment, a tribute to the beauty and power of the natural world, and a murder mystery complete with courtroom drama. Now, with the movie due out next month, we asked her a few questions about her book, the movie, and her own reading.

Where the Crawdads Sing evokes a powerful sense of place, and contains many vivid depictions of the natural world. Do you feel that visual imagery is an important part of your storytelling process, and did you have any specific images in mind, before starting to set it down?

I did visualize this story set in this particular environment in the marsh. I did play it out in my mind how it would unfold, and I think it was a good environment. It was lush and yet it was a challenge to survive there, but it was possible. It was very real that you could survive there and so it was the perfect environment for that. I just could see it vividly in my mind because I knew it and I wanted the reader to see it. I wanted the reader to be able to smell the sea, and to see the still waters versus the rough waters in the sea. And I wanted the reader to experience the marsh.

Your story is set in North Carolina marshland. How well do you feel the film captures the landscape of the tale?

In Where the Crawdads Sing the marsh, the environment in which it was shot and where I wrote it, is a character itself. The marsh is a character itself. A very important character in the book and the marsh represents mother nature. Mother nature is very nurturing but she’s also very tough. I was thrilled that when they produced the movie, the marsh feels like a character in the movie as well as in the book. It is always there, the marsh is there, the beautiful scenery is there. And what surprised me when I saw the movie was that all this beauty is there and yet the mystery and the drama is thundering through the background. I don’t know of a better word than pounding or thundering. The storyline is pounding behind this beauty.

This is the first of your books to be adapted as a movie. What has been your favorite part of the process?

First of all, it’s a dream come true for most authors. Not everyone wishes for this, but it is a great honor, and it has been so much fun. I was able to go to the movie set. First of all, they flew me to LA and we sat around talking about the book with these wonderful people and all these women, the director, Reese Witherspoon, the people from Sony. I mean it was just so much fun to do this and work with these women and these women work hard. It’s not the three-martini lunch sort of situation. We stayed for like eight hours around this big board table and worked on the script. They invited me to make comments on the script several times. They sent me drafts of the script and it has been the connection with all the players that has meant a lot to me. It really has. To see these people so dedicated to this project, to be so in love with the story and true to the story. The movie has stayed very true to the story, which means a lot to me.

Tell us about your library—bibliographic and filmographic. What books and movies are in your own personal collection?

All my college textbooks, which I’m sure everyone would find very boring, but I have all of them because they still mean a lot to me. I still refer to them. I love novels, like Toni Morrison’s Beloved, that build up a certain character. I love character driven stories. I love stories that play out in very memorable environments like A Sudden Country by Karen Fisher. As far as movies, I love Babette’s Feast, the story told by Karen Blixen. I don’t like action films; I like films that show characters and places and how they relate.