Saturday, October 14, 2023

Q&A with Barbara Jenkins



Barbara Jenkins is the author of the new memoir So Long As It's Wild. Her other books include The Walk West, which focused on her walk across the United States with her ex-husband and co-author. She lives in Tennessee.


Q: What inspired you to write So Long As It’s Wild?


A: For decades people asked me to write my story, but I didn’t want to. I didn’t think anyone would be interested and besides, I was not important.


One day in 2016, I was with a group of friends in Telluride, Colorado, and they urged me to write my memoir.  “It would make a great movie,” they said. In this group were famous actors (Aaron Paul and Sophia Bush) but I figured they were just making conversation. 


Another five years passed when my granddaughter asked, “YoYo (my grandchildren call me that), did you really walk across America?” Her question shocked me into writing my memoir. 


Q: How was the book’s title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: It comes from a John Muir quote, “All that the sun shines on is beautiful, so long as it is wild.” To me, the title signifies freedom, nature, purity, and being unencumbered by the trappings of people and the world.


John Muir was an influential Scottish-American naturalist, explorer, writer, and advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the US in the late 1800s. 


Q: How would you describe the relationship between So Long As It’s Wild and The Walk West?


A: The Walk West sold millions and became one of the most influential best sellers on American culture in 100 years. It is also part of the White House Library. 


I think that happened because we focused on the people we met while walking across America and telling their heartfelt stories. 


So Long as It’s Wild is a memoir that tells how I grew up as a poor hillbilly, how I experienced walking across America and the adventures, drama, twists, turns, conflicts, victories, and defeats. 


This memoir takes the reader far beyond the Walk West and into the aftermath of fame and fortune, how I reinvented myself and how I am standing strong after such an epic journey and life. 


Q: What impact did it have on you to write this new book?


A: As mentioned, I did not want to write this book. After 40 years of silence, it took three years to complete.


Writing it was like climbing a steep mountain covered in patches of dense fog until one breakthrough came, and then another and another. I experienced moments of clarity, broad vistas, and the ability to see and understand things that had been buried for years.


Writing this book was therapeutic, empowering, and satisfying. Once I started, I loved writing it. 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Right now, I just got back from a major book tour starting in Oxford, Mississippi, all the way to Eugene, Oregon.


People have asked what I plan to write next, and I might write a novel, children’s or inspirational books, or nothing. I am an author who needs the inner voice saying, “This is the way,” because I can’t write without a sense of purpose and mission. 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

No comments:

Post a Comment