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Northwest Passages Book Club: Author Sarah Gailey discusses clone novel ‘The Echo Wife’

UPDATED: Fri., March 5, 2021

Sarah Gailey, author of “The Echo Wife,” joined Northwest Passages Book Club just hours after Deadline announced that Annapurna Productions had successfully optioned the book for film adaptation.

“Everyone I’ve spoken to at Annapurna is brilliant and thoughtful and kind,” Gailey said. “They really understand the book and are really committed to bringing it to the screen in a way that’s faithful to the emotional heart of the book. I’m so honored to be working with them and I can’t even tell you what a dream come true it is.”

Gailey discussed “The Echo Wife,” during a virtual gathering of the Northwest Passages Book Club with arts and literature reporter Stephanie Hammett at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Here’s the premise: “Martine is a genetically cloned replica made from Evelyn Caldwell’s award-winning research. She’s patient and gentle and obedient. She’s everything Evelyn swore she would never be. And she’s having an affair with Evelyn’s husband. Now, the (cheat) is dead, and both Caldwell wives have a mess to clean up. Good thing Evelyn Caldwell is used to getting her hands dirty.”

As an executive producer working alongside Annapurna Productions, Gailey will serve in a consulting role with respect to character building and other similar considerations during development.

Just a few years back, Gailey explained, that dream would’ve felt entirely out of reach.

The introductory video played ahead of the discussion referenced a speech Gailey delivered in 2017 in which Gailey discussed the societal fear of female voices.

At the time, Gailey identified as female, whereas now they identify as nonbinary. So, for more reason than one, Gailey explained, their relationship with the idea has changed a great deal since giving the excerpted speech.

“My biggest shift in perspective has been including all marginalized genders in that concept,” Gailey said, explaining society’s apparent fear, in their view, that when people of marginalized genders speak up too much, “that’s awfully scary.”

In 2017, Gailey was just starting to find a voice online, but at the same time, “beginning to experience all of the harassment that comes with that,” Gailey said, explaining their firsthand experience, dealing with “society’s fear” of voices like Gailey’s.

“As a non-binary person, I have to decide if I’m willing to take that risk every time that I decide I’m going to talk about just about anything,” Gailey said, adding that trans men and women, as well as cisgender women, experience the same pushback. “And I think that fear really comes from a fear of change in the status quo.”

With this pushback in mind, Gailey was asked what had been the most valuable thing gained by allowing themself to be outspoken.

“Everything,” Gailey said.

“The Echo Wife,” Gailey explained, was written entirely during those years of adjustment.

“So much of this book comes out of my journey from being someone afraid to use my voice to someone who is confident in using that voice,” Gailey said. “It’s completely changed my life … because I’ve stopped being afraid of people who might not like what I have to say.”

Gailey spoke at length about their writing process and early literary influences.

Gailey’s favorite authors to read were those who never condescend to their audience, referencing K.A. Applegate’s “Anamorphs” series.

Gailey also expressed delight in hearing from readers about how “The Echo Wife” has made them start to re-evaluate and even abandon the more toxic relationships in their lives, especially during this past year of pandemic isolation and widespread struggles with mental health.

In a similar vein, Gailey spoke on their creativity.

“I tend to turn to work as an escape from hard feelings so I’ve been very productive,” Gailey said. “But the stress of the pandemic isn’t really conducive to artistic creation.”

Post-pandemic, Gailey is looking forward to resuming their book tour travel schedule.

“Visiting independent bookstores all over the country – that was one of my favorite parts of my job and my life,” Gailey said, joking that they were really starting to miss airplane snacks.

As a sidenote, when asked whether the title of the book, “The Echo Wife,” might have something to do with the myth of Echo and Narcissus, Gailey joked that they ought to pretend that was the case.

“The relationship between Echo and Narcissus so – if you’ll pardon me – echoes the relationships in this book,” Gailey said. “So let’s just delete this footage.”

“The Echo Wife” is available for purchase at Auntie’s Bookstore.

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