Kira Jane Buxton’s “Hollow Kingdom” has been described as “funny, poignant, and funny as hell” by Helen McDonald, author of H is for Hawk, and “The Secret Life of Pets meets The Walking Dead” by Karen Jay Fowler, PEN/Faulkner Award-winning author. As for me, I fell head over heels for S.T’s “plucky personality and his sweet, loyal slobbering sweetheart of a companion, Dennis the bloodhound.”
In “Hollow Kingdom” , Shit-Turd (S.T), a domesticated crow, armed with his TV-educated mind (including survival tips from Jackie Chan and Steve Jobs), an unquenchable love for Cheetos and MoFos (humans also known as Hollows by the fauna) and Dennis, an adorable bloodhound, set out to save the world and humanity, and what’s left of it.
Kira’s love for animals shone through her novel and it should be of no surprise. Not only she finds excuses to be around animals, she has also been surrounded by animals, continuously being “fascinated by their personalities and emotional complexity” and she reads voraciously about the natural world.
Kira’s first job, at just 12 years old, was at a zoo in Indonesia where she had had many close animal encounters such as “hand-feeding pythons, the Sumatran rhino, hippos and even getting bitten on the butt by a baby white tiger!” She was also a dog trainer and had volunteered at animal shelters, and she spends time with the wild birds she befriended, “getting to know their personalities and idiosyncrasies.”
“I had many close animal encounters such as “hand-feeding pythons, the Sumatran rhino, hippos and even getting bitten on the butt by a baby white tiger!”
Shit Turd took hilarity to a whole new level. It’s not often crows get featured in novels, what more as a main character. But for Kira, having been fascinated by crows for as long as she can remember, featuring ST as a main character came naturally.
She had always wanted to write about humanity’s extinction from a crow’s perspective, but just didn’t know how. So the challenge was getting started; filling that blank page. When the idea finally hit her, and she finally wrote the first chapter, she was “off to the races!” And the rest, as they say, is history.
After Kira and her husband moved to Seattle, she has been having crow encounters. “I now have two wild crow buddies who visit me every day, accompany me around the neighborhood on walks, and leave me gifts. A lot of S.T.’s antics and behavior is inspired by the female of my pair. I call her T. She’s a hilarious little character, has a great sense of humor and is a clumsy goofball. I adore her.”
“I now have two wild crow buddies who visit me every day, accompany me around the neighborhood on walks, and leave me gifts.”
Shit Turd. Now, that’s a very unique and hilarious name for a crow or any animal, really. But it suits ST to a T! “I was floored by S.T’s language, and his name was suddenly Shit Turd! It sounds a bit odd, but sometimes the writer doesn’t have as much control over what happens on the page than you might think! You can be trying to write about one character, and a very different beast will explode onto the page.”
Besides S.T. and Dennis, what stood out as well were the voices of the other animals in the novel, such as Winnie the Poodle and Genghis Cat, in the interstitial chapters. “I think it’s important to honor the organic nature of writing and if the muse comes out to play—let her do her thing. I had not intended for S.T. to have such foul language, but it was very in line with Big Jim’s vernacular and personality, and I wanted it to be as authentic as possible. I found it fascinating to get to know a flawed human character through the eyes of a crow who loves him dearly.”
“I think it’s important to honor the organic nature of writing and if the muse comes out to play—let her do her thing.
The mini chapters were also inspired by her life growing up in different countries. She wanted to explore what would be happening in different parts of the world as the apocalypse unfolded, hence we read about Winnie the Poodle and Genghis Cat, in Washington, USA, a polar bear in Greenland, an Angus Highland cow in Scotland, and even a 200-year-old Spruce tree!
“Genghis Cat is based upon my own rescued tabby cat, who is a totally adorable tyrant. I changed her name and gender so she wouldn’t sue me for defamation!”
“Winnie The Poodle is based upon a miniature poodle I know and love dearly. She lives in Berkeley, California, prefers vegetables over meat (she loses her mind over carrots!) and does this insane little happy dance with her toys.”
Kira says she has always been “drawn to writers who use humor to navigate difficult subjects, and of course, those who revere the natural world.” Her favorite novel is ‘My Family & Other Animals’ by Gerald Durrell’.
“I was quite young when I read a YA novel called ‘Empty World’ by John Christopher. That was my first experience of an apocalyptic scenario. I reread it recently and hadn’t realized how deeply it had impacted me.”
Like the rising and setting of the sun, Mother Nature continues to communicate, even in the event of an apocalypse. In ‘Hollow Kingdom’, Aura, Echo, and Web are its natural communication networks and became the guidance for S.T and his gang, their compass, if I may.
“They (Aura, Echo and Web) are based on real communication networks that I see every day when I sit outside with my birds. I’ve heard my dark-eyed juncos give alarm calls, only to watch my crow couple launch sixty feet into the air to mob a red-tailed hawk! My squirrel buddy, Earl, is always listening to what the birds have to say. The robins in my neighborhood are like a network of spies—they always know what’s going on.”
“My squirrel buddy, Earl, is always listening to what the birds have to say. The robins in my neighborhood are like a network of spies—they always know what’s going on.”
Kira was recently at the Decatur Book Festival, where I had the privilege of meeting her and getting my copy of Hollow Kingdom signed. And she was just as thrilled as I was to be there. “I think the highlight was getting to be on a panel with P Djeli Clark and having such a thoughtful and generous moderator in Milton Davis. Phenderson and I approach our writing in similar ways and share a lot of the same ideas about process. It was a pleasure to be in the company of two wonderful writers.”
Thank you for giving me this opportunity to interview you, Kira! I hope to see you again next year at the book fest!
Have you read Kira’s Hollow Kingdom? Can you relate to Kira’s love for animals? Have you ever been fascinated by crows? Please leave me your comments below!
Last but not least, may the power of good books be with you always!
Thank you for reading!
Photos of Kira and her pets are courtesy of Kira. Thank you! ❤️