All the Birds in Accidentals

More from author Susan M. Gaines in advance of her appearance at Cardiff BookTalk on 17 February – here she shares a few thoughts on one of the unintended consequences of writing a novel where the real protagonists are non-human.

‘We don’t have to read very far in Accidentals before we realize that what we learn about birds, microbes, and wetlands ecosystems—and Gabriel and Alejandra’s relationship to this knowledge—will be as central to the novel’s themes and plot as the political and family history. Readers themselves will engage with this knowledge on different levels, depending on their own backgrounds, reading habits, and moods.

‘Some readers skip through the species names like so much linguistic embellishment, admiring the aesthetics and then pushing them aside like the icing swirls on a wedding cake. Others try to visualize and identify each bird, as if they too, are birdwatching from their sofas. But I was surprised when readers started telling me they were looking up all the birds named in the novel. One book club wrote to ask if I had a list of the birds, which would make it easier to look them up.

‘I didn’t, but I decided to make a list and add the ebird links, so that the nerdiest readers could find out everything they might want to know about the novel’s avian characters (except, of course, the star, who has yet to be identified): All the birds in Accidentals.’

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