by Josh Cook, published May 18th on The Rumpus.
Picture this: a curbside juggler with a rose between his teeth. That’s the opening image of Susan DeFreitas’s powerful debut novel, Hot Season. Vivid (and sometimes strange) images strike again and again, conjuring ponderosa pines, cafés, old houses, and new characters.
The book is firmly set in the fictional town of Crest Top, Arizona, and follows a group of activists—some budding, some radical—trying to save the beloved Greene River from being drained in the name of a new housing development. The book is about many things, and it follows a handful of characters from varied backgrounds, but it is expertly bound by this common thread: A place can be hallucinatory—and sometimes perverting—and unexpectedly powerful, flipping or challenging or rejuvenating or reorienting your ideals.
Susan DeFreitas is an editor, author, and educator. Her work has appeared in The Utne Reader, The Nervous Breakdown, and Story Magazine, along with more than twenty other journals and anthologies. She is the author of the novel Hot Season (Harvard Square Editions, 2016), the chapbook Pyrophitic (ELJ Publications, 2014), and holds an MFA from Pacific University. Her short stories are available through Patreon.
I chatted with Susan via email over the course of a few months.
The Rumpus: Hot Season seems to be so many things—bildungsroman, political satire, eco-thriller, love story. Just when you think you get a handle on the book, it swerves. The prose, too, can go from crisp and minimal to lush to jazzy and back in a matter of a single page. Can you talk a little about the confluence of style and subject matter? Was there an image or character that brought it all together for you?
Read the rest of the interview here.