This is the first of an ongoing series where I interview authors of books that I have read. I am very excited to have Trish Doller as my first volunteer. Thank you so much, Trish, for being game and so thorough!
My questions are in bold/italics.
As I said in my review of Trish’s first book, Something Like Normal, I have no idea how I came across her book and added it to my TBR (To Be Read) pile; maybe I saw it on someone else’s blog, in Goodreads or on one of the many tweets that pop up in the bottom right-hand corner of my computer screen. Whatever the conveyance, it was fate. This book and I were meant to be together. You can read my review here.
The second coolest thing about Trish is that she works at a bookstore. She has also worked as a morning radio personality, for a newspaper and (fourth most interesting thing) at an amusement park. (I hope that you read between the lines to get that the first coolest thing is her writing.) Third most interesting thing? She lives with a pirate. In order to keep you reading, I will not reveal that I neglected to ask her about the sitch with said pirate.
So, here we go!
How did you choose the subject matter for your book?
I first got the idea for Something Like Normal almost a decade ago, when I interviewed a young Marine home from Iraq. He was just nineteen and I kept thinking how young he was to have done and seen so much. That really stuck with me. When I started writing, the character was going to be physically wounded, but the logistics of getting him from point A to point B in every scene was daunting. [Then I] read a book by a former Marine called Soft Spots: A Marine’s Memoir of Combat and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I realized that not all wounds are visible and that the trauma of war and watching a friend die would be every bit as difficult to deal with as a physical limitation. I did a lot of reading on the subject of PTSD, including getting to know the author of Soft Spots.
Travis Stephenson, the main voice in your novel, is a sympathetic character, but there are certainly things about him that are unpleasant.
I wanted Travis to be as authentic as possible, which meant he was capable of being both insightful and stupid – sometimes incredibly stupid – at the same time. He’s flawed, which makes him very human and very real. Even if we don’t always like him.
Would you consider this to be a coming-of-age novel?
I think in some senses Something Like Normal is a coming-of-age novel because Travis leaves his family an impulsive and kind of angry boy. And even when he has matured while he was away, he still has to come home and deal with the same problems he had before he left. Only now, they’re compounded by the trauma of war.
What are your feelings about someone as young as Travis going to war?
It makes me terribly sad to see obituaries of Marines and soldiers killed in action. So much life ahead, now gone. But, I’m also terribly proud of the young people willing to do a job that many of us could never do. There’s something to be said for being young, brave and stupid. And I mean that as a compliment.
I love that you wrote from the male perspective. Was this a conscious choice?
Something Like Normal was meant to be from the perspective of the girl Travis had wronged (she was not Harper at the time) but when I started exploring his personality, his voice came roaring through in a way I could not ignore. So, in a sense, I chose to write from a male perspective, but in another, I didn’t really have a choice. He wouldn’t shut up.
Would the story have worked if the soldier had been female?
I’ve never really thought about whether the story would have worked if the soldier had been a female. But having recently read The Road Home by Ellen Emerson White, I know that it can. Her book is set during Vietnam and the character is a trauma nurse, but she deals with many of the same problems that Travis faces in Something Like Normal. Travis was always meant to be an infantry Marine, so I never entertained the idea that the character could have been female.
Can men write from the female perspective as well as women, and vice-versa?
I think any writer can write any gender. I think some writers are more adept at it than others, but that shouldn’t discourage anyone from writing from the opposite gender’s perspective. I think the key is to remember that we’re all humans, so rather than trying to decide whether a response is “male” or “female,” the writer should try to make characters respond from a human perspective.
Everyone knows that there are teens who do drugs, have sex and are foul-mouthed, yet when it comes to books, there seem to be rules with regard to what age it is appropriate to be reading about these things. What are your thoughts?
I don’t think books are instruction manuals that teach kids how to misbehave. Do some teens get ideas from the content in YA? Maybe, but most kids are smarter that they’re given credit for. When it comes to Something Like Normal, I think it is appropriate for anyone mature enough to handle the content – whatever that age might be – and whatever that child’s parental approval level might be. As a parent, I’ve always had a very liberal policy about books, but I’ve also been aware of what my kids can and can’t handle. As far as sexual situations, drug use and drinking…I realize not every teen does those things, but many of them do. And while I don’t add them gratuitously, I don’t shy away from them, either.
What is your opinion about books being turned into movies?
I am torn over books being made into movies. On one hand, I’ve seen some great cinematic interpretations of books – The Hunger Games and Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist come to mind. But on the other, I worry that we’re moving to a world where a book is not perceived as big or important unless someone wants to make it into a film. Publishing is tough enough just getting the book on the shelf, but now to have to feel pressure about selling film rights? I don’t know. I like books.
I know you love Tumblr…anything else we should know about what you like to do in your spare time?
I spend a lot of time avoiding housework, hanging out with my dogs, watching Doctor Who with my daughter, and going to the Keys as often as I can. I’m supposed to take diving lessons – and I am really excited about them – but every time I schedule the lessons, a book gets in the way!
Speaking of…what’s your next book about? When does it come out?
My next book is called All That Was Lost and it’s about Callie, a seventeen-year-old whose mom abducted her when she was five. After her mother is arrested, Callie is sent to a small town in Florida called Tarpon Springs to live with the father she doesn’t remember. There she has to learn to adapt to a normal life that includes friends, guys and an extended Greek-American family that she never knew she had. It’s a little edgy, a little sexy, and has a lot of heart. And it comes out October 2013.