The Wicker King by K. Ancrum | Character Inspiration: Creating Jack and August (Author Post)

Hello everyone,
Happy Friday! After a week of heavy rain, power outages, and being sick with the flu but still having to go to work because it's book fair week (I'm a librarian), happy Friday indeed!

I am so excited to be part of The Wicker King blog tour! If you're into intensely dark thrillers that will mess with you, you need to pick up The Wicker King. If you're into novels with themes of mental health and LGBTQIA+, pick up The Wicker King. If you just want a different kind of read, pick up The Wicker King on Halloween (that's when it comes out).

The Wicker King is a psychological young adult thriller that follows two friends struggling as one spirals into madness.

Jack once saved August's life…now can August save him?

August is a misfit with a pyro streak and Jack is a golden boy on the varsity rugby team—but their intense friendship goes way back. Jack begins to see increasingly vivid hallucinations that take the form of an elaborate fantasy kingdom creeping into the edges of the real world. With their parents’ unreliable behavior, August decides to help Jack the way he always has—on his own. He accepts the visions as reality, even when Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy.

August and Jack alienate everyone around them as they struggle with their sanity, free falling into the surreal fantasy world that feels made for them. In the end, each one must choose his own truth.

Written in vivid micro-fiction with a stream-of-consciousness feel and multimedia elements, K. Ancrum's The Wicker King touches on themes of mental health and explores a codependent relationship fraught with tension, madness and love.

Creating August & Jack's Characters: Inspirations and Challenges

by K. Ancrum

For whatever reason, I’m aggressively obsessed with ouroboros. The first time I saw one I was like “Ah yes, this is what I’ve been waiting for my entire life. The physical representation of self consuming, equally weighted chaos, twisting in a circle that never ends.” Which, incidentally, is exactly what August and Jack are: A physical representation of self-consuming equally weighted chaos, twisting in a circle that never ends.

They were born to be perfect halves for each other: each excelling at what the other lacks, each lacking what the other provides. The trajectory of their descent and the exchange of power between them had to be completely even throughout the entire book, with the end goal of a complete switch between their social and psychoemotional positioning.

All of the topics covered within the book deserve to be treated with incredible seriousness and respect so I did a ton of research to make sure they were portrayed accurately. Aside from ouroboros, I wasn’t inspired by anything in regards to their personalities, because I was more focused on making sure that I wasn’t making an inaccurate abelist mockery of how their circumstances impacted their personalities. To be completely honest, I am still nervous about whether or not I succeeded.

August and Jack both suffer from neglect, but they are different types of neglect and it has impacted them both differently as a result.

August’s parents are divorced. His mother has bouts of catatonic depression and isn’t available for him because of this. Her depression also doesn’t allow her to work, so she and August are financially impacted by this. However, when she is stable she is very caring and her relationship with August is one in which he knows he is loved. He spends the whole book quoting lessons she taught him, and he fully understands his own circumstances thereby avoiding resentment between them. As a result, August has the classical independence of a child impacted by neglect, but he is also overly responsible and reliant on his own authority. He is caring like a parent and has difficulty identifying other forms of affection because for him, love = responsibility.

Jack on the other hand, is dealing with a purer and colder form of neglect. Unlike August, his parents aren’t around because they leave often for work trips. They provide him with everything he needs physically but give him nothing emotionally. They often break promises about when they will be back, constricting Jack in a cycle of anticipation and abandonment. When they do eventually return, they are blazĂ© about how this impacts Jack because they view the fact that they provide him with endless financial resource as a reasonable exchange. As a result, Jack is needy, obsessed with indicators of commitment, has no respect for the value of money and fiercely guards his gentler emotions. He also falls into the classic trap of trying to please people he loves at his own detriment—something he and August share but for completely different reasons.

author K. Ancrum
August and Jack treat power (read: responsibility for each other) shared between them like a hot potato. August—as the one with the most practical home training and responsibility complex—largely carries the power dynamics until it begins to exhaust him. Whenever that happens, Jack notices and then does things that make August feel powerless until August relaxes enough to pick up that weight again. This worked as a reliable coping mechanism for them for years, until the weight of the responsibility that needed to be carried grew unmanageable due to the circumstances of the book.

I would say, the only truly difficult part of writing this was writing August struggle with correctly identifying his feelings for Jack. Which is such an aggressively familiar and painful bisexual experience. Managing to have every character in the entire book mention something to him about “maybe you don’t just think of him like a friend” as August densely ignores all of it was so chaotic. Unreliable narrators like August are so hard because their internal monologue is just a smoke screen through which you have to write the reality of what’s occurring. And then on top of It, you have to hope that people don’t just see the smoke and shrug.

Aside from this, they’re both incredibly similar. They’re both imaginative and kind, they both want the best for each other and they’re both trying to figure out a way to love each other without breaking.

As some really intuitive person on Goodreads pointed out, the way they feel about each other is absolutely one of the only lights in the darkness of their world. There is a gentleness and purity about how they reach out for each other. Curling around each other in the night, brushing their fingers against each other’s cheeks, gazing with longing when the other’s back is turned. Ultimately, this whole thing is about watching them sweetly find excuses to touch until they’re sitting in the rubble from the decimation of their lives, and both realize that excuses don’t even matter anymore.

Be sure to pick up The Wicker King when it comes out on October 31st. Add it to your Goodreads, and connect with K. Ancrum on their website, Twitter, and Facebook.

A huge thank you to Macmillan (Brittany!) for the opportunity to be part of the blog tour, and K. Ancrum for introducing us and giving us this added insight about Jack and August. You guys, GET EXCITED for The Wicker King!

Follow the rest of the blog tour

Seeing Double in NeverLand (10/22) | Interview with author
Novel Novice (10-23) | Styled by Books
A Backwards Story (10-24) | Playlist
Take Me Away to a Great Read (10-25) | Mood Board
Love is Not a Triangle (10-26) | Would You Rather Q's
Undeniably Book Nerdy (10-27) | Guest Post: Creating August and Jack's Characters: Inspirations and Challenges << you're here!
It Starts at Midnight (10-28) | Guest Post: top ten favorite stories with alternate worlds and/or realities
Book Briefs (10-29) | Guest Post: Top 10 Things we didn't know about Kayla!
Adventures of a Book Junkie (10-30) | Interview
Across the Words (10-31) | Character Cast

Happy reading,

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