An Interview With Jen Russon

Madalen Erez, Literary Arts Editor

What do you hope readers get out of Humans in the Wild?

I hope they see writers from other countries besides the United States are watching and empathizing with our gun violence epidemic. I also hope readers see this is not an indictment on the 2nd Amendment. Some people love their guns and that’s OK.

Humans in the Wild was released October 2020. Why did you create this collection? Why publish it now? 

Exactly one year before Press date, I published my novel, Persephone Underground, which was a way for me to vent after covering a lot of Parkland shooting victim related stories. The story is, at its heart, about survivor guilt. While trying to market that book, I met a literary magazine owner (Mythic Picnic) who came up with the idea to publish a gun violence anthology together. It took a long time to wade through submissions from all over the world. We received over 500 of them!

Humans in the Wild: Reactions to a Gun Loving Country confronts the controversial nature of the issue of gun violence. As the editor of this book, were you worried about tackling such a divisive topic?

Not at all! Since the book shows perspectives of gun violence from hunters, military, thieves, the mentally ill or the just plain scared, I think it’s a chance to look at the epidemic of gun violence with a more open mind. If we can better understand why people love or fear guns, maybe it will be easier to regulate their use some day.

Gun violence is a heavy and draining topic. Were there any challenges you faced, whether from a technical or emotional standpoint, when putting together this book?

You know, at first I didn’t think I would get any submissions, so I appealed to some of the people I knew who were affected by the Parkland shooting in 2018, to see if they’d like to give me something. A lot of these folks are famous, involved in politics — just very, very busy. Needless to say, they did not get back to me. I was down in the dumps over that, but then surprised by an avalanche of incredibly good submissions. It was very humbling.

Humans in the Wild has a diverse selection of media from a variety of perspectives. Why was Humans in the Wild created as an anthology/collection? I noticed it has quite a broad spectrum of art and literature. Can you tell me about how you selected which contributions to include?

The scope of the anthology changed pretty much right off the bat. At first, I thought it would be limited to the way students and teachers were feeling about gun violence in schools. But I soon realized gun violence is so much bigger than that, and affects people of all ages and circumstance. We only got a few pieces of art, and I chose the work with the best story attached for the cover. I made a few close friends who submitted works for this collection, and that is what I’m most grateful for.