Faktorovich: Last year I did a Kentucky Historical Society short fellowship for my Radical Agrarian Economics: Wendell Berry and Beyond book, spending some time at the society, and at neighboring archives, as well as talking to the region’s farmers. You mention in the version of your bio in the OUTBACK book that the magic there was based on your childhood experiences with the “creeks, caves and bluffs of western Kentucky.” Can you elaborate on what about Kentucky, as opposed to other states, makes it a place that so many American writers from Wendell Berry to Abe Lincoln were inspired by or wrote about? Is the nature in Kentucky somehow more magical; is it more accessible; are people living there trained to love it more than in other places? And if you love Kentucky so much, why did you move to Florida? Do you want to go back? In the Acknowledgements you thank your parents, Larry Wayne Adams and Mary Francis Adams, “for sharing their Kentucky childhood memories” with you, so are the reminiscences in this novel theirs more so than your own? It seems that Australia’s Outback is as different in climate to the bluegrass Kentucky as a place can be, so why the parallel?
Adams: The OUTBACK magic is based on my Kentucky childhood experiences. My grandfather, Eliose Trotter, worked for the Kentucky State Parks’ Department of Forestry. Eliose harvested nuts, nurtured saplings, and planted acres of trees. My father, Larry Adams, worked 40 hours a week in a plastic factory. Every afternoon and weekend he farmed until late at night. If dad took a day off, he was fishing or hunting. My two male role models respected the earth and everything that came from it.
Why did I leave? I was told if you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it’s meant to be. I moved to Florida to chase my animation dream. When I left, family and friends said, “You can always come home.” As a public speaker in elementary schools, I return “home” to Kentucky often. I’m greeted with, “Welcome home!” I don’t get this greeting in the suburbs of Central Florida.
I spent eight years shipping books from Florida across the United States. I realized shipping from the central United States reduces shipping cost drastically. In 2015, I moved my book warehouse/distribution center to Dawson Springs, Kentucky. Kentucky is a better location, if you’re in the distribution business. I now understand why factories locate in the Central United States.
My parents’ childhood stories encouraged me to explore the simple pleasures of being a kid. I ran barefoot and rode horses bareback because luxuries like shoes and saddles weren’t required for adventure. Books were required. My librarian mother made sure the Adams kids were registered for the Dawson Springs Branch Library’s annual Summer Reading Program. We read for points and for fun!
Reading is a powerful tool in the hands of children. Words change the world. Peter Pan flew to Neverland, an imaginary place without problems. I traveled to the Never Never land, a vastly remote area of Australia’s Outback that I read about. Kentucky “out back” where I played and Australia’s Outback parallel not in “temperature” climate, but as Never Never lands where a lost boy like me played.
Climate, like many words, has alternate meanings depending on who, what, when, where, and how it is used. Anna, you see Kentucky and Australia as vastly different. I see them as two sides of the same coin. I folded a rectangular world map in half and half again. The United States and Australia are similar in size; located in the same position in opposite hemispheres; and both had natives displaced by western civilization. Digging a hole from Dawson Springs, Kentucky to the other side of the world, would place me near Dawson City, Victoria, Australia. Dawson Springs, Kentucky once thrived, and Dawson City, Australia did too. Coincidence or a great story of parallels?
Read the complete interview with Mark Adams, Award-Winning Illustrator with Anna Faktorovich, PhD