“Imagine my voice brother: I am here with you, Harald. We are not alone.” ~ from Froelich’s Ladder by Jamie Duclos-Yourdon (@JamieYourdon)
Take two brothers, one very tall ladder, and a quest for fortune. Or fame. Or maybe just love. Mix in a bit of betrayal and a few carnivorous clouds and you have Froelich’s Ladder (Forest Avenue Press, August 9, 2016), a well-told tale by debut novelist, Jamie Duclos-Yourdon.
Set in the 19th century, Duclos-Yourdon’s novel introduces readers to brothers Froelich and Harald, who set off from Germany to Oregon Country in search of land and prosperity. While Froelich is the mastermind for the journey, it’s the older brother, Harald, who finds fortune–in love and in living–and Froelich, who settles into resentment (with the land and later with Harald). But even in bitter need for retreat Froelich doesn’t slip off to a cave or disappear into the woods, he instead rises up to the sky on his very tall ladder for escape, holding on to the rungs in tight retribution while Harald bears the weight of it, ladder and all, for the next seventeen years.
Froelich’s Ladder catches the eye with its cover and holds attention with its curious tale about the ladder as a touchstone, marking determination loyalty and acting as reminder that we are never alone. I’m thrilled to host Jamie Duclos-Yourdon today for an interview and am offering a book giveaway as well. Leave your name in the comments for a chance to win a copy of Froelich’s Ladder (deadline to enter is Tuesday, August 9th). Now, welcome, Jamie!
CC: From the first pages of your novel, readers embark on a journey where clouds run like cattle and may very well devour man, where a beautiful girl escapes her isolated prison only to discover the world twice as dangerous and lonely, and where a crazed, old man appears long enough to blur the lines of reality and make everything clear all at once. What sparked such a fantastic story?
The (unpublished) novel I completed before Froelich’s Ladder involved a lot of totems: scarecrows, bicycles, etc. I had a few leftovers when I was finished—among them, a ladder.
To me, a ladder begs the questions Who’s on top? Who’s on bottom? What’s the nature of their relationship? That’s how I conceived of the brothers Harald and Froelich. One thing led to another, and suddenly I had man-eating clouds.
CC: Mid-way through the book, Lord John insists that ‘Without Froelich, there can be no ladder [and] without a ladder, there can be no meaning!’ In his mad cry, he cinches the idea of Froelich’s ladder as more than an object of escape; it is a crucial connection between one person and another, past and present. Who do you think faces the bigger challenge: the man who climbs the rungs, records “odd scripts and patterns over the years,” and clings to the history, or the man at the base of the ladder who balances the weight of wrongdoing while desperately trying to live in today?
JDY: Hmm … that’s a metaphor, right? My guess is that each reader will approach this question from his or her own unique perspective. Me, I’ve got more sympathy for the person at the bottom of the ladder than the person on top. I think we all carry the burden of responsibility; everyone can feel that weight against his or her back. And certainly there’s a lot to recommend personal responsibility! But when I think of anyone who’s trapped under-rung, I feel a tremendous sadness. First Harald and then Binx sacrifice their happiness for Froelich’s sake. That’s no way to live.
JDY: People—always people. I’m primarily interested in the relationships we share, not in the sense of boyfriend/girlfriend but how two or more people relate to each other in a specific context (like on a ladder, say). In fact, my editorial conversations tend to go, “There are these two guys driving in a car, and—” “Where are they?” “I don’t know—Long Island? Anyway, the first guy is blind! And the second guy—” “Long Island, when? Like, contemporary Long Island?” “Holy crap, I don’t know! Who cares? Long Island a thousand years ago!” “Then how are they in a car?” “Forget the car. There are these two guys, in a cave, in Long Island, a thousand years ago, and one of them is blind …”
CC: What are you reading these days?
JDY: I impatiently await the arrival of Tracy Manaster’s new novel, The Done Thing. While I do, I’m reading The Golem and The Jinni, by Helene Wecker. I wish I’d picked it up a year ago—I would’ve pleaded for a blurb!
CC: As editor, author, and parent, I imagine your plate is full. What’s your favorite technique or bit of advice for managing multiple projects?
JDY: In all honesty—and I don’t recommend it for everyone else—it’s waking up insanely early. When my kids were little, I could only depend on the hours before 6:30 AM to write, so I set an alarm for 5:00. Now that my kids are older, it’s still a time when no one’s going to interrupt me. No one’s going to text me or expect a response to their email—and I stick to this schedule seven days a week, Christmas and my birthday included. By 7:00 I can face the day knowing that I’ve written 300 words; whatever else I accomplish is gravy.
Jamie Duclos-Yourdon, a freelance editor and technical expert, received his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona. His short fiction has appeared in the Alaska Quarterly Review, Underneath the Juniper Tree, and Chicago Literati, and he has contributed essays and interviews to Booktrib. Froelich’s Ladder (Forest Avenue, August 2016) is his debut novel. He lives in Portland, Oregon. Contact him at email@example.com.
Don’t forget to enter the book giveaway by Tuesday, August 9th! Just drop your name in the comments below.