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Jennifer Pashley and The Watcher

by Gabriele Ottaviani

Jennifer Pashley and The Watcher: here the interview.

Who is Kateri Fisher? What are her strengths, her flaws, her fears, her hopes? How does she conduct her investigation?

Kateri Fisher is a woman right out of the earth of Upstate New York. She is very much a product of her environment, a small, post-industrial city, the rolling landscape, the forest, and the mountains up north. Upstate New York is a naturally heady place, abundant with wildlife, water, and trees. Her strength lies in her ability to pay attention to things other people miss. Her flaw is that she doesn’t quite trust that about herself. She thinks she should be more analytical, less feeling, but in truth, it’s working for her. She conducts her investigation this way: feeling her way through it instead of thinking her way through. I think it’s easy for men to dismiss this as weak or feminine, but it’s her strength. I think for herself, she hopes for the things we all hope for: love, real connection, a peaceful life. In her work, Kateri hopes for the right thing, justice, even when it’s the more difficult thing.

Who were you inspired by for Kateri?

The name Kateri comes from the first Native American saint, Saint Kateri Tekakwitha. She was scarred from smallpox, denied herself any physical comfort, and had difficulty seeing from the disease. Her name means “one who walks by groping along” – I thought this was a fascinating way to conduct a criminal investigation.

What is unique about Spring Falls? And how is it the same as all other cities in the world? In your opinion, are there characteristics that all places inhabited by human beings have in common?

The thing that is unique about Spring Falls is its physical beauty – the forest, the river, the surrounding mountains, which are full of pines and thick with rocks. When you travel into the north of New York State, into the Adirondack mountains, you find places where poverty and wealth co-reside. Towns where there are luxury homes, and run down trailers. Mills or factories that have been abandoned, but the physical landscape never deteriorates. It’s the constant beauty.

Is it more difficult to live, observe life or tell it?

I think by far the most difficult thing is to live through it. And after that, maybe the telling is the hardest.

When will Kateri return?

I can’t give a specific date, but I can say that I have imagined Kateri’s story as three parts, with a particularly low middle and a somewhat redemptive third act. People are very drawn to her as a character, and many readers have asked for more of her story.

What do The Caravan and The Watcher have in common? And what don’t they have?

Both books explore the difficulties of poverty and addiction. Both books are rural. Il Caravan is really driven by the women’s voices, though, not just of the narrators, Khaki and Rayelle, but also by the experiences of the other women. I am always looking for a space to articulate queer desire, so both books explore that in very different ways. And both books involve a desire that is ultimately dangerous, or even deadly. I’m drawn to difficult characters, people who occupy liminal spaces, between worlds. I think the most interesting stories occur at the intersection of places – queerness and poverty, or sex and danger, or truth and lies. That liminality is the bedrock of both books and the place I’m the most comfortable.

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