PORT TOWNSEND — When Kira Jane Buxton talks about her post-apocalyptic, comic animal story “Hollow Kingdom,” she’s ready for the frequently posed question.
People ask, “ ‘Where did this book come from?’ ” Buxton said, “the subtext being ‘What’s wrong with your mind?’ ”
The writer understands that her debut novel strikes people as strange and otherworldly. It’s about a domesticated crow, S.T. (the scatological full name is a bit profane for this newspaper), who witnesses the possible end of the world as we know it. Humans/zombies are rampaging around Seattle. So S.T. and his animal friends get out there and try to save that world. Readers go along on the strange trip.
The novel is “The Secret Life of Pets” meets “The Walking Dead,” said author Karen Joy Fowler.
Buxton, who grew up in Dubai, Indonesia, Singapore and Korea — Mom taught English, Dad worked for an oil company — will alight in Port Townsend for a reading and signing of “The Hollow Kingdom” this Saturday.
Admission is free to the 7 p.m. event at the Writers’ Workshoppe-Imprint Books, 820 Water St., where the novel, released last summer, will be available for purchase.
“I’ve always been a crazy animal lover,” Buxton said in an interview from her home in Lynnwood. Her first job was as a volunteer at a zoo in Jakarta, Indonesia, where she would take herself on walkabouts. She remembers spending time with Sumatran rhinos, and being bitten by a baby white tiger — a badge of honor for this girl.
Much later, while living in Bothell, Buxton found herself captivated by crows and ravens, then read everything she could find about them. In “Hollow Kingdom,” she sends her hero S.T. for a ride on the back of a larger bird. Housebound, he hasn’t flown over Seattle — or felt these sensations — in ages.
The bald eagle’s mighty flaps rose us higher, shrinking the grass, the Norway maple, and Ballard High School. I dug my feet into her back, feeling the muscle under her carpet of smooth down …
To be feathered, I thought — as the eagle owned the sky, gravity tipping its cap, is to eschew captivity, to taste the pulpy fruit of freedom. Oh, how I had missed it. Gliding smoothed out the ride. She flapped half as much as the crows, slicing through the air as if it were whipped frosting. Her fleece-white head jerked mechanically in front of me as she used those keen yellow eyes to navigate, monitoring the Lego pieces of Seattle below.
Trees were broccoli. Roofs were playing cards. Roads were ribbons and hills were mole mounds … Flanking us were hundreds of crows, silent but for the whooshing of onyx wings.
I stole a glance behind me, almost losing my grip in shock. My eyes were met with an avian horde that was on our tail: an immense flock of crows, but also the white-and-black bands of Canada geese. There were song sparrows and house finches, frantically flapping mallards, and great blue herons, the sky’s RVs.
In her book, Buxton explores such unlikely friendships between species, and the resources they can provide. The author herself will have a couple of avian friends with her Saturday night: Cynthia Daily, director of Discovery Bay Wild Bird Rescue, is bringing them to the reading.
One of the best things about writing and promoting this book, Buxton said, is the chance to meet people who are working to protect wildlife and the natural world.
She added that “Hollow Kingdom’s” S.T. is not finished squawking about things; he’ll reappear in a sequel. It’s in final edits now, but Buxton doesn’t have a publication date. The television rights have been optioned, she said, and an animated series for adults could appear some day soon.
All of this is, for both Buxton and her corvid knight, “a wonderful, wild ride.”