All The Wind In The World was one of the most surprising reads of 2017. Set in the near-distant future, amid severe climate change, a young girl, Sarah Jac, and boy, James Holt, in love, travel working the maguey fields that line the Southwest.  When an accident puts them on the run, they end up at the Real Marvelous ranch. They think they might be safe, but the ranch’s magic and mystery soon begin to reveal themselves as more than Sarah Jac and James bargained for.  This story unravels so uniquely and was so finely crafted by Samantha Mabry.  Her sweeping language made the elements of magic and the Western setting come to life and the ending left me absolutely stunned.  And I wasn’t the only one. All The Wind In The World is a 2017 National Book Award nominee2017 National Book Award nominee and has 4 starred trade reviews, among being on numerous lists, and I anticipate seeing this book on many year-end lists.  Check out more about the book and the author after the jump.



Sarah Jac Crow and James Holt have fallen in love working in the endless fields that span a bone-dry Southwest in the near future—a land that’s a little bit magical, deeply dangerous, and bursting with secrets. To protect themselves, they’ve learned to work hard and, above all, keep their love hidden from the people who might use it against them. Then, just when Sarah Jac and James have settled in and begun saving money for the home they dream of near the coast, a horrible accident sends them on the run. With no choice but to start over on a new, possibly cursed ranch, the delicate balance of their lives begins to give way—and they may have to pay a frighteningly high price for their love.

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Mabry, Samantha © Laura Burlton Photography

Samantha Mabry grew up in Texas playing bass guitar along to vinyl records, writing fan letters to rock stars, and reading big, big books, and credits her tendency toward magical thinking to her Grandmother Garcia, who would wash money in the kitchen sink to rinse off bad spirits. She teaches writing and Latino literature at a community college in Dallas, Texas, where she lives with her husband, a historian, and her pets, including a cat named Mouse. She is the author of A Fierce and Subtle Poison and All the Wind in the World, which was long-listed for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Visit




Samantha was kind enough to answer some questions about All The Wind In the World, her writing process and tequila!

Can you give us your 30-second elevator speech for All The Wind In the World? 

Sarah Jacqueline Crow and her boyfriend James Holt are migrant workers, harvesting a desert cactus called maguey. They end up at a ranch called the Real Marvelous that may or may not be cursed. Regardless, bad things happen –some of those bad things they make for themselves; some are possibly caused by a witch. As the ranch devolves, so does James and Sarah Jac’s relationship.

This novel has such a unique premise. What sparked the idea for this novel?

Two things, mainly: an old(er) film by Terrence Malick called Days of Heaven, which is also about a migrant couple whose relationship starts to unravel (that film is set in the past, and the couple in it works in a wheat field), and also, just generally, I was inspired by the landscape of far West Texas.

Many authors discuss how difficult writing their second book can be.  What was your book #2 writing experience like?

All the Wind in the World was actually much easier to write than A Fierce and Subtle Poison and took much less time. I don’t really know why. I think that just, from the beginning, I had a good sense of the setting and of Sarah Jac’s character. I knew what she would do and why and what her reactions to certain situations would be. I don’t expect to replicate this relatively quick writing process ever, ever again. It seems like a stroke of luck or magic. I say that because I’m working on a new project now, and it’s back to slow, steady, and frustrating.

Why do you love Sarah Jacqueline and James Holt and why should we root for them?

I’m glad you love them. I love them, too, but I wanted to make their relationship become trickier and trickier so that the reader starts to doubt if they should, in fact, be rooting for them. This is one of the rare(r) relationships in YA in which the couple starts off together. I wanted to keep applying pressure to them, so that the reader would start to wonder if they are better off together or apart. Sarah Jac certainly wants her and James to stay together, and since we’re viewing the story through her eyes it’s hard not to feel for her and empathize with her desperation and frustration. She wants this relationship to work mostly because so many things in her life are either broken or are out of her control.

I love Sarah Jac & James’s interactions, especially early on in the book. Which was your favorite character to write?

Oh, for sure Sarah Jac. She was fun to write because she’s very transparent even though she’d like to think she’s not. She’d like to paint herself as very crafty and secretive, but really she’s mad and frustrated, and that anger and frustration surface in every single thing she says, thinks, and does. It was great to write a character that’s just always simmering under the surfac

I have seen All the Wind in the World described as contemporary, dystopian, western and romance. What genre(s) would you place it in and why?

I’ve always considered it a Western first and a romance second. My goal was to write a Western, but one that was bleak and futuristic like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. I also wanted it to be a romance, but a different kind of romance, in which the couple starts off together and then slowly breaks apart to the point where you don’t know if they can mend themselves back together. So, I had specific genres in mind, but I also knew that I wanted to invert/subvert those genres a bit.

Maguey, in particular how it is turned into tequila, plays a big role in your world-building. How did you decide on this plant and what is your favorite tequila drink?

Other than the fact that it grows easily in West Texas, maguey is a very striking plant. It’s very large and spiky and imposing-looking. As a metaphor, I liked the idea of how drastically it transforms from one thing (cactus plant) to another thing (liquor) and how much hard work and time goes into that process. You have to hack it up, roast it, mash it, and then distill it until it becomes something both pure and intoxicating. In a way, I was trying to compare that process to what happens to Sarah Jac throughout the novel. She goes through so much, so how is she transformed by the end of the story?

I do love a margarita of any kind, from the sugary concoction out of a machine to the little fancy, super-strong ones with fresh lime and served straight up. I also like a Paloma, which is made with tequila and grapefruit and soda.

No spoilers: When it came to the ending, did you know how it would unfold when you started or did it happen organically through the writing process?

I did know how this story would end. Usually, even before I start writing, I have a good sense of the beginning and the end of the novel, and have a few snippets of the middle. Most of my drafting and revising has to do with adding in pages to the middle because my drafts are usually very short. I enjoy big climatic moments at the end followed by bittersweet codas, which is what I’ve hoped to do with All the Wind in the World.




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