An Interview with Ashely Adams
Rum Punch Press: Your background is very interesting. How has your BS in Wildlife Biology and posts with the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service influenced your writing and the topics that you explore?
Ashely Adams: This is an interesting question because I feel like I’ve only recently come to realize how much my science background has affected my writing. In many ways, I’m still working on answering that for myself. I love writing about the natural sciences, and being entrenched in that world obviously spurred my interest in those topics. I think there are also subtler influences. Research was obviously a huge part of my undergraduate and work experience, and while I know that’s not an exclusive STEM skill, I feel as if it’s really become reflexive to my writing experience. Not only does it make for better writing, but I genuinely enjoy it. I got to go down so many unexpected rabbit holes just in this short piece. I also have a lot of practice with the terminology of the science world. For me, it’s not just something that will make an interesting essay, but a part of my everyday vernacular. My friends and family can attest to my love for spouting off pieces of trivia (for better or worse).
RP: We love this paragraph: “Spinosaurus stars in action movies terrorizing T-rex and humans alike. Museum dioramas filled with fiberglass display bones. It sits on a child’s shelf, a monster in miniature, resting hominid fashion thanks to new, rotatable legs. The sail is so satisfying for toddlers to nibble on, cutting their advanced, heterodontic teeth. The first testings of their own evolutionary progress.”
What is it about about dinosaurs and the idea of prehistory that holds such fascination for writers and filmmakers? Was there a particular cultural touchstone that ignited your interest in the subject as a writer?
AA: First off, I’m so happy you enjoyed that paragraph. I’d been itching to use the word “heterodontic” in something.
As for why artists love dinosaurs, I suspect their reasons are pretty similar to mine. They’re surrounded by such mystery. What they looked like, how they sounded, how they acted. Over ninety-nine percent of all life that ever existed died without leaving any trace, so we’ll never get the full story. The little we do know is incredibly fascinating. It’s a bit of a cliche by this point to say, but not even the most imaginative sci-fi writer could come up dinosaurs and their sheer diversity.
Dinosaurs and writing have always been tied pretty closely together for me. I can’t imagine this will come as a surprise to anyone, but Jurassic Park was really the kickstarter for this obsession. I watched it when it was first released on VHS as a very young child. My parents weren’t planning on letting me watch, thinking I’d be frightened, but I snuck out from my room and watched the whole thing from behind the couch and ended up loving it. Afterwards, I started getting all the dinosaur toys I could, acting out these political dramas between the herbivorous and carnivorous dinosaurs. It was like Game of Thrones if acted out by a seven-year-old with dinosaur toys (and less gratuitous violence and nudity).
RP: What is your current area of fascination? As a writer, what subject matter is keeping you up at night?
AA: I’m still very interested in prehistoric life. I think there could be room for more dinosaur pieces in the future. I’d love to write about the Cambrian period. During the Cambrian, multi-cellular life really started kicking off and the body plans are absolutely off the wall. Seriously, Google Anomalocaris, Opabinia, or Hallucigenia. In addition, I’m really into astronomy. I’ve always really loved the field, but the New Horizons mission has really pushed me to explore this subject as a writer.
RP: We love your writing–where can we read more of your work?
AA: I had a poem recently published in Foliate Oak Literary Magazine called “A Study in White-Nose Syndrome Mortality”. I also got a short story picked up at Flyway called “Observation Bias”. So if you like bummer poems about bats or octopus ruining experiments, they might be worth checking out. I also was a fiction/non-fiction associate editor over at Passages North so you’ll find me lurking in the “Notes from Crew Quarters” segments.
Thank you so much to Rum Punch Press for giving my writing a home. This essay was the first piece I ever got published and I have a Spinosaurus-sized gratitude for that.