Amazon Editors' YA Book Club discussion

The Serpent King
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July 2016 > Questions for Jeff Zentner

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Seira Wilson | 92 comments Mod
Add your questions about The Serpent King here by July 24th


Alicia | 40 comments For Jeff Zentner: In the discussion of the afterlife following Travis' incident (avoiding spoiler!), do you at all reflect your own personal/religious views of that concept?


Kathleen Question: Were you interested in snake handling before the death of Jamie Coots and the events in La Follette, TN? I find the topic fascinating and am enjoying your book.


message 4: by Seira (last edited Aug 02, 2016 04:15PM) (new)

Seira Wilson | 92 comments Mod
Here are Jeff Zentner's answers to our questions about The Serpent King:

From Alicia: In the discussion of the afterlife following Travis' incident (avoiding spoiler!), do you at all reflect your own personal/religious views of that concept?

Jeff Zentner: In general I have a great deal of hope in an afterlife—a beautiful paradise where we see loved ones again and there's no more pain or death. I certainly live my life according to that hope, while not relying on another life to do what I didn't do in this one.

But the discussion of the afterlife in The Serpent King reflects mostly my greatest fears. Even more than eternal punishment, I'm afraid of eternal consciousness in emptiness.

What makes the afterlife frightening to me is that no one knows anything about it. Those "I died and saw the afterlife and came back" accounts are funny because they require you to believe in a deity that demands faith while also allowing people to leak afterlife spoilers to get book deals. If those stories are true, they did a better job of preventing leaked Harry Potter spoilers than the Almighty has of preventing leaked afterlife spoilers.

From Kathleen: Were you interested in snake handling before the death of Jamie Coots and the events in La Follette, TN? I find the topic fascinating and am enjoying your book.

JZ: Thank you! I’ve been interested in snakehandling religion for more than a decade. I played in a band in the mid-2000s in which one of the members was from East Tennessee and he had relatives who were snakehandlers. He told us about their practices. I also read an amazing book called Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake-Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia, which is about snakehandlers in North Alabama.

But the death of Jamie Coots added to the mystique of snakehandling in my mind.

From Seira: "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Joy Division – this song comes up a couple of times in the novel, what do you think of when you listen to it?

JZ: It’s both dark and buoyant, the way I hope my books read. It’s romantic and fatalistic. It says “love may destroy us, but it’s worth it.” I love that tension and it’s something I strive for in my writing.

From Seira: Dill says at one point that sometimes music works on the loneliness – what music does that for you?

JZ: I love lush, beautiful, heavy music that just envelopes you and embraces you. The bands Beach House, Chelsea Wolfe, and Churches do this particularly well.

From Seira: What the bravest thing you’ve ever done that someone else convinced you that you could do?

JZ: Honestly? Probably writing a book. I've done things in the past that required more courage, but I didn't need convincing from others like I needed convincing to write a book.

From Seira: Why did you choose to give Dill’s father such a provocative crime but not make it a bigger part of the story?

JZ: Ultimately, I didn't make anything Dill’s father did a bigger part of the story because it’s Dill’s story, not his father’s, no matter how heinous his father’s crime was. Even still, the effects of Dill’s father’s crime reverberated throughout his life, mostly in bad ways, by making him an outcast, but it also led indirectly to his becoming friends with Lydia.

I wanted Dill’s father to have committed one of the most morally reprehensible crimes because I wanted to show how faith can become distorted and can trump morality in the hands of one gifted at manipulating it.

From Seira: What’s the most forgotten, unglamorous place in which you’ve ever found beauty?

JZ: I live in an unglamorous neighborhood. It's a blue collar, unpretentious, unhip place. I live near a palm reader and an Autozone and Staples. And I absolutely love it because it's my place. It's where I'm living my life. It's where I'm creating memories. I love places that make you work to see their beauty.


Alicia | 40 comments The Q and A, Seira, was a great idea....loved the questions. Thanks Jeff Z for the additional insight by your answers. Love this forum!


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