Friday, September 20, 2013

And So Live Ever by Trevor Irion (I know that guy!!!)

Back in my UCSB days I worked at a bank. The best part of that job was the other UCSB students I worked with. Trevor Irion was a fellow Gaucho and my co-worker. It was so easy to adore him. He was kind and smart and funny. Not just funny but really clever funny. I dig that kind of funny. Not long ago Trevor made an announcement on Facebook that he had written a book, and that book was available to download on Amazon. I downloaded it to my Kindle immediately and devoured the book in a couple days. It was so good that I had to share it here.  

Click on the cover for a link to it's amazon page!

I asked Trevor if he would be go kind as to answer a few questions for me (and you!) and he graciously accepted.....

1. How long did it take you to write your book? 
Six months (three of those were fairly solid all-day-every-day kind of months).  Then, years.  I need to backtrack a bit to answer this.  The first inkling of the story and the characters came about in a fiction writing class at UCSB.  The ultimate goal of the class was to have written thirty pages by end of the quarter.  At first, I was terrified and thought how in the world can I write that much?  It was an intimidating number.  But I kept at it and, over the quarter, I realized it wasn’t the number of pages that was the problem, it was trying to cram everything that needed to take place into those thirty pages.  The result was rather terrible and the story was work-shopped to death, so much so that I considered abandoning it for good (after I got my grade).  

It was not until after I graduated that I basically rebuilt the story and the characters and tried to flesh out their lives.  It’s still a slim book, perhaps more of a novella, but I wanted it to be lean, bare bones, to the point.  Overall, it took me about six months to complete a decent draft, which still evolved into several more iterations.  And then years went by.  It sat in a tidy file on my computer.  Probably once a year, I’d re-read it, make a few changes and then forget about it entirely for another year or two.  That cycle repeated until I went to graduate school, where I spent more time on it and finally turned it into something I was proud of.  I finished grad school just before my first daughter, Isabella, was born.  She is now six years old and I finally decided to self-publish the damn thing rather than have it sit for an additional x number of years.       

2. I know that you really did grow up in Lancaster, how autobiographical is the book?
I did grow up in Lancaster, California.  Good old Lanscatter, we used to call it.  The city is definitely real, and could be seen almost as a supporting character trying to destroy everyone’s dreams.  Not really, but I’m sure nearly everyone feels that way about their hometown at one point or another.  Anyway, I believe that almost anything you write has pieces of you within it.  It’s inevitable.  But, I would also say that And So Live Ever is not autobiographical.  I grew up (fairly?) well-adjusted; I still have two loving parents and an older sister I have always looked up to.  And nearly all of the main events and elements in the book are completely foreign to me – not having a father, living with the fallout of cancer, and dealing firsthand with violence.  What I do know about, although it seems so long ago, is being a fourteen-year-old boy.  So, those feelings and the general spirit of male adolescence and uncertainty, that is what remains the truest part of “me.”  Having said all that, there are snippets of family history interwoven into this story, but not necessarily my immediate family.  My mother’s family did live in the Antelope Valley in the 1960’s and there was, unfortunately, discrimination because they were Mexican.  The timeless argument over skin color.  I also lost an aunt to cancer and she was far too young when she passed away.  I was not directly involved in these events, but I tried very hard to capture the truth inherent in these types of situations and do them justice.  Because of a few personal connections, I truly hoped not to lessen those circumstances, and certainly did not want to make them feel cheap in the end.       

3. You are the Father of 2. When did you find time to write?
I am the father of two lovely daughters.  I had plenty of time before I had children to do anything and everything, period.  In fact, I can’t even remember what the hell I did before my kids were born.  I know I must have filled my time with lots of important “stuff,” although if it was so important, why don’t I have anything to show for it?  Maybe ASLE is about the only exception to that rule.  In the past few years, I have found it hard to squeeze in time, and have written only a few different, small stories of which something could, and may very well, blossom.  Sometimes, when it comes to writing, I feel like that old crazy uncle who never shuts up about what he can and should do, but never does any of it.  He is a sayer, not a doer.  In the same way, I have lots of scattered ideas running around in my head, but not necessarily on any pieces of paper.  Of course, now, it’s a lot more challenging to write while also trying to raise a family.  But I am reaching that point in my life where I know writing is just something I need to do.  I wouldn’t say it is always one hundred percent easy or fun, but nothing you consider worthwhile or rewarding ever is.  Hey, wait, I guess you could say the exact same thing about parenting!      

4. I think that character names are important. Where did Hayden come from?
All of the disciples of Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye realize that the name, Holden, will forever be taken.  In fact, that name might as well be retired because it will always lead back to that book.  Hayden, for me, is a very close second as far as names go that I really love.  It has a few different meanings and connotations, but the one I especially honed in on describes Hayden as being “from the hedged in valley.”  I became fascinated by the idea that his name literally means to be cut off, to be hedged in, to be stuck in one area of land.  For me, this definition represented his character beautifully.  I mean, here’s a kid who has been branded an outsider, an observer, a chronicler amongst his peers and he is very much bound to the place he has so much trouble calling home – the Antelope Valley.  The last name, Graham, is more of a word play on the unit of measurement – a gram, light as a feather, nearly no weight behind it.  I felt the connotation could allude to this particular period of Hayden’s life, of being fourteen, which definitely seems old enough to know better, but still not quite old enough to know much of anything.  Also, I thought if people ever thought of his grandmother as Gram Graham, it would be funny.         

5. You went with a kinda sorta happy ending, instead of the typical rainbows and puppies happy ending. Why? 
I love rainbows and puppies, and even cats and dogs playing poker.  What I set out to do with ASLE was to try to make it feel as real as possible.  It is fiction, but I wanted it be funny, sad, heartfelt, worth your while.  Life, hopefully, should be viewed in the same way.  But there is never really an ending to anything (at least I’ve come to believe this, but I guess it depends on one’s particular beliefs).  It’s just a smattering of beginnings over and over again.  I feel this more as a parent than, say, I did ten years ago.  Watching your kids grow up and go through all the small cycles of development from sitting to crawling to talking to walking, it’s just one stage bleeding into the next without any foreseeable ending.  The end of the book is similar in that it really is just another beginning.  And for the purpose of Hayden’s journey, I thought it was an appropriate time to end (or begin, again).  It’s definitely not a happy ending due to the loss he endures, but there is some implication of faith that he will make it, that he will be able to leave Lancaster and go on to do whatever he feels he needs to do.  

The other part I wrestled with was whether, as an author, I was being fair to Hayden’s mother.  Let me explain.  There are periods in our lives, perhaps due to nostalgia, when we are able to trace everything back to a specific moment in time in which we decide to take some measure of action.  It could be finally telling another person you love him or her or it could be protecting somebody from harm.  Hell, it could even be taking a measure of inaction, like completely neglecting somebody.  Whatever the case, there can be a line drawn – from that particular moment – to the thousands of things that happen in between – to the present.  And we ask ourselves; maybe we should have made a different decision back then because of all the stuff that has happened as a result.  But this is hindsight and that’s the beauty of it – it makes us seem a lot wiser than we are.  I think we often reminisce about our own histories because that is how our brain tries to reconcile the past, to make sense of it.  I think it is human nature to wonder what it would have been like had things turned out different.           

Hayden does the same thing near the end of the book.  He traces everything back to that one fight in the locker room and he believes if he would have done nothing, if he would have not interfered (inaction), the chain of reactions would be entirely different for him, for his mother, for his family.  These lines we trace back and reflect upon (usually at night before we go to sleep, or if we can’t sleep at all) are usually filled with great and terrible things.  And for Hayden, it is no different.  He cannot change the past; he must accept it.  So to answer the question about being fair, his mother’s fate is tied to the history of the chain reaction.  

6. Any plans to write another?  Sequel maybe? 
I will definitely write other stories, poems and a few limericks at my local bar.  As for the time frame, I don’t have any particular goals set.  Perhaps due to, or sadly because of, being a writer, goals have never been a strong suit of mine.  I have always liked the feeling of being done with something, though, and from ASLE’s conception to finish and the many years in between, I do hope this chapter in my life, of carrying this particular story around, has come to an end.        
I would like to mention one more thing: there have always been Young Adult books, even before we knew what to call them.  I’m sure we can all name a few we’ve kept in our hearts and minds over the years.  You know, the books which have shaped who we’ve become or affirmed what we will, or already, believe.  But I must say that when I started ASLE, I wasn’t sure exactly what to make of it.  Was it for children?  Teenagers?  Adults?  In the last thirteen years, YA books have not only become their own specific category (with their own library section to boot), but also a guiding light for those on the precipice of adulthood, or for those who have marched onward but often look back.  The truth is that there are infinitely touching stories out there, stories about people and the human experience, and there has never been an easier time in our lives when we can access these stories, and pretty much anything, with the touch of a few buttons.  But we cannot forget, despite the technological ease we may be living in, what is important.  Education may very well be fundamental, but reading is a component that is so incredibly vital.  We need to remember that using our imagination to interpret and produce art of any kind, regardless of the outcome, regardless of our attempt to understand one another through nothing but our foolish hope and desire, is absolutely essential for us as human beings.  There are too many daily distractions that lead us astray, or lead us to think otherwise, or worse, not at all.  As a parent, I try to be very conscious of this fact.  My children, simply, will grow up much differently than I did.  Maybe it will be easier for them.  The best I can do as a parent, but really more as a person, is to be an example of someone who wants to see them discover, explore, investigate, question and live beyond a small screen that fits in their pocket.  It will be difficult, as most quests usually are, but it can be done.                   

Trevor, thanks for answering all my questions. Congratulations on the book! It is fantastic and I look forward to reading more from you! 

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