Cover Artist: Tamara Linse
Deep Down Things, Tamara Linse’s debut novel, is the emotionally riveting story of three siblings torn apart by a charismatic bullrider-turned-writer and the love that triumphs despite tragedy.
From the death of her parents at sixteen, Maggie Jordan yearns for lost family, while sister CJ drowns in alcohol and brother Tibs withdraws. When Maggie and an idealistic young writer named Jackdaw fall in love, she is certain that she’s found what she’s looking for. As she helps him write a novel, she gets pregnant, and they marry. But after Maggie gives birth to a darling boy, Jes, she struggles to cope with Jes’s severe birth defect, while Jackdaw struggles to overcome writer’s block brought on by memories of his abusive father.
Ambitious, but never seeming so, Deep Down Things may remind you of Kent Haruf’s Plainsong and Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper.
My Complicated Relationship with John Wayne
I like to get inside the heads of my villains. I don’t want to write the stereotyped Snidely Whiplash—I want to try to figure out why they do the things they do. Because even those people who do the most horrible things—serial killers, child molesters, sadists—all have reasons they do things.
When we call them crazy, we’re liberating ourselves from thinking about why they do these things. We’re distancing ourselves. We label them and we’re off, absolved of any responsibility and washing our hands of any similar feelings we might have lurking in our own depths.
But we all grow up surrounded by this ambiguity, these dark creatures. They may not be serial killers, but they are vortexes in the family, crazymakers, holes of evil. There was one particular person in my growing up years, a man in my family of one generation up, who wreaked havoc. His evil was insidious. He wanted to be John Wayne. He loved to listen to Johnny Cash. He love guns. He loved to tease kids and he loved to keep people guessing so he could control them. He would pit one of his kids against another, with cruel results. His morals were relative ~ what’s good for me is good for me, and who cares what’s good for you. Laws didn’t apply to him. But he was smart enough to keep out of real legal trouble.
I keep coming back to the fact that he wanted to be John Wayne. John Wayne is a lot of people’s hero ~ or at least the characters he played ~ but you got to think the it would have been awful being in any of those characters’ families. If you were his wife or his lover or his child, you would be sacrificed on the altar of masculinity. Your self would not only not matter ~ you would have to actively give yourself onto the altar of John Wayne.
My bad guy in Deep Down Things, Jackdaw, is a manifestation of this spirit. He is a modern John Wayne in a lot of ways, masculinity that hasn’t evolved to suit a modern world. He was raised by a hyper-masculine father ~ a military man, hard as steel and just as sharp, mean, unforgiving, violent. Jackdaw was lost before he even got started.
And Jackdaw’s poor mother. She had to bale to save herself. And it tore her apart because she loved her son so much. We never know what happened to her, but I like to imagine she ran far away and found a safe place and a good man who treated her like gold. She had another family and lived happily ever after. My realistic streak knows better, but since I didn’t write it, I can still imagine it.
Gender expectations are something I keep returning to, even when I don’t mean to. Masculinity, femininity, the masculine in women and the feminine in men. How they can go horribly wrong.
There is a dark side to John Wayne. Violence. Might makes right. The ends justify the means. Suppressing the feminine. These are all things that at one time may have saved the day, but now they are so rigidly encoded that they ruin both men and women.
That is why a modern John Wayne ~ in the form of Jackdaw ~ is my villain in Deep Down Things.
About the author:
Like the characters in Deep Down Things, the author Tamara Linse and her husband have lost babies. They had five miscarriages before their twins were born through the help of a wonderful woman who acted as a gestational carrier. Tamara is also the author of the short story collection How to Be a Man and earned her master’s in English from the University of Wyoming, where she taught writing. Her work appears in the Georgetown Review, South Dakota Review, and Talking River, among others, and she was a finalist for Arts & Letters and Glimmer Train contests, as well as the Black Lawrence Press Hudson Prize for a book of short stories. She works as an editor for a foundation and a freelancer. Find her online at: