Author Cheryl Strayed skyrocketed to literary stardom with her 2012 memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, which recounts her 1,100-mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail. It has earned countless awards, will soon be released as a feature film starring Reese Witherspoon, and brings Strayed to Bend this week as part of the Deschutes County Public Library's Author! Author! Literary Series.
Source Weekly: I'm going to ask the really important question first: what is your favorite locally brewed beer?
Strayed: Great question and I am sorry to say I'm going to ruin it for you. I have never liked beer. You may recall that in Wild I wrote about the reporter from the Hobo Times who gave me a Budweiser; it was the first whole beer I'd ever drunk. Well, it might have been the last one too. I love wine. And Oregon wines especially—red, white, rose, sparkling, all sorts. I drink it daily. Does that make up for my failure on the beer front?
SW: In Wild, you often say that you like to experiment, that you say "yes" when others say no. Still true?
CS: We got a puppy in November. My kids had been begging for one all of their lives (ages 8 and 9), but it was only recently that we lived in a house where a dog was possible, so I finally consented. Your readers who've had puppies will know what a gigantic 'yes' it is to take this adorable beast into your home. It's like having another child, really. You can't sleep through the night. Your rugs get ruined. You find urine in unexpected places. On the more obviously adventurous front, my family and I were recently in Mexico and we all went zip-lining. The experience was absolutely terrifying for my husband and me—just sheer, grin-and-bear-it hell. It was a total blast for our children. Do you see a pattern here?
SW: With your writing success, literary events all over the world, a film adaptation on the horizon, a partner and children at home... do you still feel "wild?" How do you reconnect with this feeling in your everyday life?
CS: I do. The irony of the past couple of years is that I've traveled the world talking about hiking during a time when I have the very least time to hike. I've never been so out of shape in my life. I reconnect with the experience of the trail by constantly being engaged with the stories people tell me about what the book meant to them. It's moving and fascinating and I'm grateful for it.
SW: With the film Wild set to release this summer, what are you most looking forward to seeing on screen? What are you most apprehensive about?
CS: I'm most looking forward to the very same things I'm most apprehensive about. The whole idea of it is amazing and terrifying to me. I was very involved in the making of the film and watching them shoot scenes from not just my book, but my life was an experience unlike any other. I think the film is going to be great. Reese Witherspoon is phenomenal, as are all the actors in the movie. Their performances took my breath away. And the director, Jean-Marc Vallée, is an extraordinary filmmaker as well as a dear man. I'm most looking forward to seeing the beauty and the magic I got to experience on my hike—I saw firsthand how the cast and crew captured that on camera and it was stunning. I'm apprehensive about seeing my mom (played by the wonderful Laura Dern) die on screen. And also the horse-killing scene. That was terribly hard to write. I don't imagine it will be easier to watch.
SW: If you could take one trip tomorrow, and it was the last trip you'd ever take, where would you go?
CS: What a profound question: the last trip I would ever take and I would go on it tomorrow? I don't know the answer, but it makes me remember something my mom said to me when she learned at the young age of 45—the age I am now—that she was going to die soon. She told me she didn't want to go anywhere, and she was surprised to know that about herself. All of her life she'd dreamed of visiting exotic places that were beyond her means, but when she found out her days were numbered she didn't yearn to go anywhere. It was okay with her that she hadn't gone. She wanted to be where she was. Isn't that beautiful?