This week on Words with Wodcke we met with Jacquie Castle, author of the award-winning book The Seclusion. The novel is Castle’s debut novel and won several awards, including the Foreword Indies Book of the Year Award in Science Fiction, and the North Carolina Author Project Award. She was also selected as 2020 Indie Author of the Year through the Indie Author Project – a collaboration between Library Journal and Biblioboard.
Wodcke had previously interviewed Castle and was interested in reading her novel for our book club. We were fortunate to have Castle join us in our discussion.
The Seclusion is a dystopian story that takes place in 2090 after environmental damage in the US has gone too far and become a danger to humans. Totalitarianism, mass surveillance, and an oppressive government have gained control of the US. Using the political situation at the time of writing for inspiration, the novel begins in an area of Arizona, where in 2030 a wall was built by The Board, to keep citizens ‘safe’ from the dangerous outside world.
Wodcke's screenshot from our bookclub chat.
The main characters, Patches and Rexx, discover something from the world before 2030 that set them on a path of discovery and changes their world perspective. Taking them from what they always knew within the wall to the broken down and destroyed world on the other side of the wall.
Quotes early in the novel that hints at a totalitarian government.
The book is definitely a dystopian novel in the vein of Orwell, Atwood, or Huxley. However, it is a modern take on the theme with ideas derived from the political and environmental situation when the book was written. Castle includes topics such as fracking, soil contamination, and rising water levels including states and countries that currently are forecast to be below water level, just to name a few of the environmental matters she discusses. It is clear Castle knew what was happening in the world at the time of writing. She was so up to date on the political scene that in the podcast she stated that she had to change certain things in the book during the publication process because in the book they were to happen in the future, but they were actually happening in real time in the US.
I love the childish naivety in this quote.
Castle’s background includes work as a journalist and free lance writer. She has a degree in psychiatry and is working on her MFA (Master of Fine Arts). This served to make me wonder how she had her scientific facts so accurate. Her response wasn’t that she did a lot of research, it was that she did a lot of fact-checking. She would write the scene, not wanting to get bogged down by research, and afterward she would ask scientist friends to read it and ensure her ideas weren’t ‘too far fetched.’
It was fascinating talking to Castle about the details of her book and where some of her ideas came from such as:
The chosen timeline for the book, 2090: Castle explained she wanted to set the book in the future, imagining what the world could be like for a possible loved one, such as a future grandchild.
How the names for some of the characters were chosen: The novel was crowdfunded and there was a contest put out the name of Patricia ‘Patches’ and Robbie are based on two of people who donated.
Her favourite character: Oliver was the character she felt the most for and just chose the name because she liked it. She sees in him her own quirks. Wodcke explained that he is the ‘hope’ in the novel.
The symbols used in the book: One was clearly a Starbucks cup from the past but she explained that the cap with a snake in the form of a D was from the Arizona Diamondbacks because the book is set in Arizona.
Why she chose Les Miserables as the book Patches finds: Castle loved the story and needed a book that was in the public domain and at the same time would allow Patches to realize there was more to the world; as Castle put it ‘a book that brokers Patches paradigm.’
The cover design: Usually she doesn’t have any say in the cover but in the case of The Seclusion her husband did design the board logo.
We also discussed Castle’s writing patterns. Her response surprised me. First of all, she stated that she is easily distracted and does a little bit of everything. She could write on a computer at home or be in a coffee shop with a notebook. She doesn’t nail down a time of day to write, or a specific number of words. She writes sporadically, even participating in writing sprints with her friends (writing for 20 minutes and then taking a break and doing it again). Even how she organized the book was unexpected. She will write a scene and then another. The two don’t necessarily follow each other. She puts the scenes together in a timeline afterward. As an example, the first two scenes she wrote for The Seclusion were the first and last scene.
These references to a collapse of civilization resulting in a loss of cultural identity and knowledge are so impactful.
During the interview, I mentioned that foreshadowing always seems the most difficult for me to understand how an author creates it. Castle stated that she often goes back after the book is finished and adds ‘little easter eggs to find.’ She also said that sometimes she and other authors can have difficulty with an ending and going back and rereading her story she will find these ‘hidden easter eggs’ that she didn’t realize she was writing, and these bring her to a natural ending.
In March 2022 a sequel to The Seclusion will be coming out, The Chasm. Castle provided us with a few tidbits of information on the novel. It is written in first person from Patches with third-person perspectives from other people, including Rexx. We also find out how Amara dies. I can’t wait to read it and discuss it with Wodcke and Castle.
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