Author Interview: Brian M Gelinas

Brian M Gelinas Bio:
A published author and news reporter for a local daily newspaper, I currently live in the small Massachusetts mill town known as Athol, where I was born and raised. Instilled early on with a desire to write, I’d spend hours in my room penning imaginary tales. The older I got, the stronger the desire to write became. It’s almost like I have to write to be a complete person, whether published or not, and if I don’t, it feels like something is missing.

For the most part, I’m drawn to writing true-to-life dramatic stories that I hope will move others in some way. My first success came in 1997, with the publication of a creative commentary piece in Worcester Magazine. In 2001, I won the Louis P. Shepherd Award in Creative Writing while a student at Fitchburg State College.

Author Interview Brian M Gelinas:
It’s rare today to find an author who does nothing but write for a living. Do you have a ‘real’ job other than writing, and if so, what is it? What are some other jobs you’ve had in your life?

Brian M Gelinas: Well, I’ve already answered the first question in my introductory paragraph. The interesting thing here is that I now write for the newspaper for which I delivered newspapers when I was a teenager. That was my first paying job. I guess things really do come full circle at times, as they say. Other jobs I have had include grocery store clerk, furniture assembler and office computer support person.

What compelled you to write your first book?

Brian M Gelinas: Seeing kids in trouble in the news almost daily inspired the idea for the basic premise of my first novel, American Odyssey. It got me thinking about how people watching those kids on the news or reading about them in the paper — who didn’t know those kids beforehand — didn’t really know who they were at all or how they ended up at that point in life doing what they did. The five-minute TV clip, or short news article hardly told their story. Not that I’m making excuses for such kids or exonerating them. It’s just that, with not knowing their back story, those who don’t know them probably shouldn’t be judging them at all based on what is presented in the media, like a lot of people often do. I knew there was a story in there somewhere, and I set out to tell it.

I decided to have the narrator, 17-year-old Hunter Leroux, be one of those kids in trouble, and to have him say to readers that while they might have seen him on the news, they don’t know him or what his story is, but he’ll tell them if they want to hear it. In a larger sense, I think Hunter’s story is everyone’s story in a way. After all, most of us are undoubtedly guilty of having judged someone else without really knowing that person, and most of us have probably been judged by others in a similar way.

Tell us a little bit about your book/s. What are their titles; which is your favorite if you have more than one, and briefly let us know what they are about. Pay particular attention to your most recent book and/or your first book:

Brian M Gelinas: As I said above, my first published novel is titled American Odyssey (Outskirts Press, Sept. 2006). It’s a gritty, coming-of-age tale about three less-than-fortunate teenage boys, who runaway from their troubled lives in a depressed New England factory town, stealing whatever they need or want along the way and becoming wanted fugitives. What ensues is a tumultuous cross-country trip to South Dakota that affects each of them in ways they hadn’t expected and forever changes their lives. It’s written to appeal to both adults and mature young adults, with the primary target audience being the latter.

The story unfolds through the voice of its lead character, Hunter, who’s angry and disillusioned with life after the death of his estranged father. His friend, Wade Canter, is a tough but abused 18-year-old city kid with a lengthy arrest record. Billy Prescott, 15, is innocent and unassuming and simply longs to go out West to see the wild buffalo. Their troubles begin in their journey when, armed with a handgun, they assault an old man and steal his car. As one wrong choice follows upon another, Hunter becomes increasingly haunted by his past and slowly begins to question the dangerous course he and his friends have chosen.

Revealing the depth of the characters and their motives through flashbacks and their present day actions, the novel offers a relevant account of innocence lost and the consequences of choices made. Interwoven into the intricate plot are several universal themes that I feel are relevant to all teenagers. Among them: the need to believe in oneself and others, the significance of keeping strong ties to family and friends, and the need for parents to be there for their kids.

Are you currently working on any writing projects our readers should watch for release soon?

Brian M Gelinas: The book I am currently working on takes place partly in Barren Falls (the town from the first book) and in a fictional nearby town called Henderson. The main characters are new, although a few of the minor characters from the first book do have bigger parts in this book. Most of the story takes place prior to the events in the first book.

To summarize, the plot revolves around two best friends, who get caught up in the drug scene, and what happens to them as a result. Those who have read the first book will be rather surprised as to the backgrounds of the main characters in this book – two come from well-off privileged families, while two others are less fortunate. Those who have read the first book will also find it interesting that one scene from the first book is included in this one. It is played out from the point of view of the new main characters. However, this second book is neither a sequel nor a prequel, but should be considered more of a parallel companion novel to the first (if that makes sense).

At this point, I have quite a lot left ahead of me with regard to the writing of the second book, and can not say at what point it will be finished or when it will become available for purchase.

Have you ever won any writing awards? If so, what?

Brian M Gelinas: As noted in the introductory paragraph, in 2001, I won the Louis P. Shepherd Award in Creative Writing while a student at Fitchburg State College.

I did submit American Odyssey to the 2007 Writers’ Digest international self-published book competition. While it did not win one of the awards, it did receive some high praise from the judge who read it. In part, the judge had this to say:

“Gelinas uses the word ‘odyssey’ in his title advisedly, in both the literal and literary senses. He manages to make Hunter and Wade’s odyssey across America feel both epic and intimate, the latter in particular through the first-person narrative, which is quite effective. One of the best things about the book is its dialogue, which manages to sound slangy and believable and authentic and yet doesn’t resort to any of those annoying dialect tricks that so often pull readers out of the story. Gelinas manages to make me care for characters who are very different than me, and this is what good fiction is supposed to do.”

What type of music, if any, do you listen to while you write?

Brian M Gelinas: I usually don’t have music playing or the TV on when I’m writing. I need to completely put myself in the story, and in the mindset of the characters. I do, however, find inspiration in music and television at times. See the answer to the next question for more other things that inspire my writing.

What inspires you and motivates you to write the very most?

Brian M Gelinas: I find inspiration for my stories in a lot of things. Among them are personal experience, people I’ve known, the news, incidents I observe, and life in general.

What one thing are you the most proud of in your life?

Brian M Gelinas: I am proud of the fact I have published my first novel, and of just recently having interested an agent with a major NYC agency in reviewing the manuscript for possible representation and the marketing of it to traditional publishing houses. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

What about your family? Do you have children, married, siblings, parents? Has your family been supportive of your writing?

Brian M Gelinas: I’m a single guy who surrounds himself with family and good friends, who are all as excited as I am that I’ve finally gotten my first book published. And, to tell the truth, some of those family members and friends were actually quite involved in the process of getting American Odyssey to print.

Several read the original typed manuscript (and subsequent rewrites) and helped to proof it and offered criticism and advice. It was great having that interaction with readers and their feedback as I moved along with the writing of the book.

The main characters of your stories – do you find that you put a little of yourself into each of them or do you create them to be completely different from you?

Brian M Gelinas: My characters, as with my stories, are fictional overall. However, like many writers, I do draw on experiences in my past to a certain extent to enrich the story I am telling. I also draw on characteristics of people I’ve known, people I know now and myself when developing characters. However, none of my characters represent any specific person in real life, ever.

As an example of drawing on the past, in American Odyssey a few of the flashback scenes are based on things friends and I did growing up. I took those experiences and expanded on them fictionally and used them to detail the backgrounds of the characters. And several of the characters in the book are based, in part, on kids I knew back then. However, I hesitate to say just what is real and what is fiction when people ask. I feel that to do so would be like a magician giving away his secrets, thereby destroying for the reader the illusion of the whole story being real.

Is there an established writer you admire and emulate in your own writing? Do you have a writing mentor?

Brian M Gelinas: Some of those authors who have influenced me are also some of my favorites. To name a few: Jack Kerouac, Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, J.D. Salinger, Robert Cormier, S.E. Hinton, Stephen King and James Douglas Morrison (poet and lead singer of the 1960’s rock group The Doors).

What about now: who is your favorite author and what is your favorite genre to read?

Brian M Gelinas: A partial list of my favorites has been given already. While true-to-life dramatic stories are on the top of my reading list most often, I am open to all genres and will read just about anything if I find its premise interesting. My bookshelves include a wide range, from drama (adult and YA), fantasy and science fiction, thrillers and mysteries. A couple of books I’ve read in recent months that I found enjoyable are Peace Like A River by Leif Enger and The Chosen by Chaim Potok.

Hey, let’s get morbid. When they write your obituary, what do you hope they will say about your book/s and writing? What do you hope they will say about you?

Brian M Gelinas: I think I will pass on this one for the most part. I’m far too young to contemplate my own obituary. However, I would like to think I become successful enough with my writing that I would be remembered as a favorite to some, and that my books are regarded as ‘must reads’.

Location and life experience can sprinkle their influence in your writing. Tell us about where you grew up and a little about where you live now – city? Suburb? Country? Farm? If you could live anywhere you want to live, where would that be?

Brian M Gelinas: I’ve briefly described my hometown previously, and it certainly has influenced my writing, particularly American Odyssey, as the fictional hometown of Barren Falls is based on my hometown to some degree. In fact, many of the small-town settings described are based, in part, on actual locations in what is known as the North Quabbin region, where I live. The photograph on the front cover is also a hometown shot, with hometown kids depicting the three main characters. If I could choose to live anywhere at the moment, it would be South Dakota in the Black Hills region. I’ve been out that way in the past. There’s nothing like the wild openness and sense of unbounded freedom that it evokes.

Do you have any pets? What are they? Tell us about them.

Brian M Gelinas: I have a gray tiger cat named Jessie, who is more like a dog. She follows me around the apartment nearly every waking moment and most times has to be in the same room I am in, which means doors cannot be closed. She had the habit for a while of curling up on my desk next to the computer while I was writing. She’s gotten away from doing that. She also runs to the window and anticipates my arrival home when I pull into the parking space below my apartment windows.

Bring us into your home and set the scene for us when you are writing. What does it look like?

Brian M Gelinas: I do most of my writing on my desktop computer in my room. However, since inspiration can strike at any time, I often find myself scribbling notes with pen in hand when I’m elsewhere.

Do you watch television? If so, what are your favorite shows? Does television influence of inspire your writing?

Brian M Gelinas: Current TV viewing includes: Sports, classic movies, Discovery Channel, National Geographic Channel, History Channel, certain news programs (60 Minutes, Sunday Morning), TV Land. There are few new series I follow regularly, but I do watch Cold Case on occasion. Classic shows I’ve enjoyed include: M*A*S*H, All in the Family, Northern Exposure, Picket Fences, Good Times, Seinfeld and Star Trek (original, TNG and Voyager). And I watch One Life to Live on a regular basis.

I would say that some television shows, to me, offer a great example of exceptional dialogue and how to use it to advance a story.

What about movies? Same as above.

Brian M Gelinas: There are many on my list of top movies. Stand By Me, The Outsiders and The Outsiders: The Complete Novel, Bless the Beasts and Children, October Sky, Dances With Wolves, Rebel Without A Cause, and Citizen Kane, to name a few. One of the more recent releases that immediately made that list is Freedom Writers. It’s a powerful, inspiring true story that shows the real power the written word can have.

As with TV shows, movies are great examples for effective use of dialogue. They are also a way to view how scenes are structured for dramatic effect and how various transitions can be employed when telling a story. Movies and TV shows also allow one to see in a visual sense the many different ways to tell a story.

I often find when I’m writing a story that I am picturing in my head how a scene would play out on the big screen.

Focusing on your most recent (or first) book, tell our readers what genre your book is and what popular author you think your writing style in this book is most like.

Brian M Gelinas: As noted previously, American Odyssey is written for mature young adults. I would refer to it as YA road novel.

With regard to writing style, I believe my style, like most writers’, is unique to the writer. However, if I were to compare it other writers’ styles, I would say many readers might find my writing reminding them somewhat of Robert Cormier’s or Stephen King’s, as one reviewer has described it to a degree. A link to that review is provided below.

How long did it take you to write your most recent (or first) book? When you started writing, did you think it would take that long (or short)?

Brian M Gelinas: I started American Odyssey in December 2005 and finished it in March 2006. A lot of people say what you are probably thinking right now: only a few months?! Now, to explain a little more about this fast paced writing whirlwind: about a third of the novel was new material, a third came from previously written short stories that were woven into the story in various places, and the remaining third was material pulled from another novel that I’d started writing sometime ago, but which went nowhere and was never finished. Interestingly, the two main characters from that novel became secondary characters in American Odyssey. And the hometown rival of those two in the unfinished novel became the rival of Hunter and his friends in American Odyssey. One or two other characters from the unfinished novel also found their way into the story, but in different forms.

Is there anyone you’d like to specifically acknowledge who has inspired, motivated, encouraged or supported your writing?

Brian M Gelinas: Three people have helped me greatly in my creative writing pursuits. They are:

1.) Arthur Marley, one of my creative writing professors in college. I learned from him the rules to writing don’t always apply and can be bent and even broken in the name of artistic license. As an example, what might not seem like a sentence in and of itself can become a sentence (a stream-lined sentence, he called it) when incorporated into a paragraph. He also stressed the best works are often those that come from the heart and strike at a universal truth that we all share. I remember him also saying that to really hit a home run you had to write as if you were telling the reader something you could only, or would only, want to tell your closest friends.

2.) John Hodgen, another college creative writing professor. Similar to Mr. Marley, he boosted my confidence with his open, honest critique and advice. He also reinforced in me the conviction I pretty much always had that the most meaningful and honest works often result from a true, raw emotion. Or, in his words, “Writing is hard work…if it’s [going to be] any good, you have to do it and it invariably has to hurt.”

3.) The late, popular novelist Robert Cormier. I met him in 1983 when I was a junior in high school, and we exchanged a few letters after that. He told me that as writers our tools are words and we need to seek the best ones, and we need to read and always write. Through reading you can see the techniques of storytelling in action.

Touching on my job as a reporter, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give some credit to Marcia Gagliardi. She instructed me more than efficiently in the craft of news writing while I was a staff member on the school newspaper at Athol High School. She instilled the basics early on and they’ve stuck with me.

Anything else you want your readers to know?

I’ll use this spot for a few different purposes. The first will be to offer just a little more about American Odyssey.

My intent with the book was to write a straightforward story that would speak honestly to today’s youth with regard to some of what they might be going through. After all, while times change and each generation is affected by the time in which it comes of age, I feel the teenage experience at its core remains the same in a lot of ways, and always will.

To reach the realism needed, I felt I had to write the book in a frank and unapologetic fashion, which includes the use of strong language, incidents of violence and child neglect, teenage drinking and references to sex and drugs. The story couldn’t be sugar coated, otherwise kids wouldn’t buy into it for a minute. This likely means, of course, there will be those persons who find the novel unsettling in some ways. To them I would say the reality depicted is, in many ways, a reality for a lot of kids today, and to that end the story speaks of an undeniable truth. And, as the novel implies, that truth is one that can’t and shouldn’t be ignored.

The reality I’m referring to is one that leaves few cities and towns across America untouched. Athol itself has received national news coverage in the past for very negative acts perpetrated by teens that grew up here and decided to go on the run for whatever reasons. The North Quabbin area has also garnered regional news attention for teens getting into trouble in other ways. I simply tried to bring to light a subject that some adults might have a hard time acknowledging. I feel it is done in such a way that parents of today can, through the book, glimpse a world that most teens “hide” from them.

Given that, I strongly feel that both parents and their teenage children should read the book, as it could jumpstart discussion of how young adults feel about what is going on in their lives. I’m hopeful that progressive parents will be more than open to letting their kids read it, as I expect the overall story and characters will, in the end, strike a positive chord to a certain degree with a good many of those kids.

Next, I’d like to talk a little of my efforts to promote the book. Aside from seeking an agent, I continue to market the book in a number of ways. This includes seeking reviews, listing it on various Web sites (including TeensReadToo.com, YABooksCentral.com and WriteOut.co.uk), conducting promotional on-line giveaways, hosting an author’s profile page on MySpace, doing local and regional speaking engagements and book signings, soliciting traditional bookstores to stock it, doing interviews (both on-line, in print, and on local access TV) and promoting the book as being available for adaptation into a film on the Web site InkTip.com. With regard to the latter, four film industry professionals have downloaded a PDF file of the book to date. Unfortunately, I have had no takers as of yet. Aside from all of that, I am also working to interest area high schools in utilizing the novel as part of the English reading curriculum.

Lastly, I would like to provide some Internet links for those who might want to learn more about my first book, as well as me. Here they are:

Reviews:

http://www.teensreadtoo.com/AmericanOdyssey.html (A review by Mark Frye, media specialist/librarian at a high school in South Carolina.)

http://www.bookpleasures.com/Lore2/idx/0/2826/article/American_Odyssey_.html (A review by Jessica Roberts, who lives in England. Jessica has been a book reviewer for a newspaper and a national women’s magazine and is working on a novel herself.)

More About Me:

On MySpace @ myspace.com/atholwolverine

Here you will find out more about me, as well as more about the book, as well as progress on my future writings and promotional efforts and successes regarding American Odyssey. If you “stop by,” be sure to check out the blog entries.

Book Availability:

The book is available in paperback to readers on-line at, among others Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, Borders.com, target.com and the publisher’s Web site at www.outskirtspress.com/AmericanOdyssey. An eBook edition is also available through the Outskirts Web site. The book is also available to distributors and retailers through wholesalers such as Ingram, and Baker & Taylor. Individual customers can also order it through traditional retailers by providing either of the following ISBN numbers: 1598007556 or 9781598007558.

To Michelle, thank you for this interview opportunity. The chance for additional exposure is always welcome.

—-

Thanks, Brian! We look forward to reading more about your writing and book in the near future!

.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Comments

comments

Leave a reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>