Surviving on the Fringes of Society

Jim Hartsell Author Interview

Jim Hartsell Author Interview

Pushing Back follows a young man who’s struggling to find his way in life but finds help in unexpected places. What was the inspiration for this emotional novel?

I spent my professional career working with teenagers who were surviving on the fringes of society. They are the invisible children, the throwaway kids, but I believe that theirs is a story worth telling. In the several decades I was their teacher (and their student), some common themes began to emerge. The expected anger, despair, and cynicism were there, but there was more. Their resilience and bravery were admirable, and although not apparent on the surface, there was a part of each and every one of them that wanted to figure it out, to learn how to be an adult, to find a voice. I thought I could play a small part in giving them that voice. While Boone is not based on a specific person, his struggles and successes are theirs, and to a surprising extent, ours as well.

Boone is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some ideas that guided his character development?

I see Boone as a kind of Everyman, working through the same questions and grappling with the same insecurities that most teens have. Boone faces much longer odds than most; in addition to the economic and social disadvantages he carries, he finds himself having to unlearn many of the lessons his father taught him about how the world works. His father’s rage and distrust color Boone’s view of the world in general and the motives of those around him in particular. He is moving into adulthood hampered by his upbringing and driven by his desire to get it right, to become a successful adult.

I enjoyed how this novel explores poverty, addiction, and depression. What were some themes you felt were important to explore in this book?

Boone’s anger comes at least partly from the fact that he has had very little life experience that tells him that adults are trustworthy, kind, or capable, and he’s old enough to know that he is entering adulthood himself. Growing up with a mean drunk for a father and a mother who has given up on pretty much everything means that his experiences with others are seen through that lens. Acts of kindness or generosity run counter to what he knows from his family experience, and the internal struggle between the way he was raised and what he is learning about the larger world is central to his sometimes painfully clumsy attempts to negotiate the world he is entering. Boone is stumbling into adulthood, but he is moving forward; his dawning recognition that some of his basic assumptions need to be revised is part of the reason he is making progress. I do see this book, as well as the other two in the series (a fourth is in the works) as hopeful.

This is book one in your Boone Series. What can readers expect in book two?

Matching Scars begins soon after Pushing Back has ended, and Boone is more completely out on his own, learning about how the adult world works and taking on more adult responsibilities. A crisis in Gamaliel’s life redefines their relationship and eventually leads to significant changes for Boone. He begins reaching out to others, creating a sort of tribe he can call his own. His relationships with Nancy and his new friend Tiny develop and are tested in ways Boone never saw coming. He continues to make mistakes, sometimes through ignorance and sometimes through his inability to completely set aside the counterproductive and sometimes dangerous lessons learned from his father and, to a lesser extent, his mother. His temper is somewhat less on a hair trigger than in Pushing Back, and his developing trust helps him as he reworks his definition of the world. In his expanding circle there are familiar enemies, new friends, and unexpected opportunities to step up and be the adult he’s trying to become.

I have to add that if Boone read the answers to these questions he would very likely say, “Man, I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about with all this stuff. I’m just trying to get by.”

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website

The Boone Series is the story of a teenager on the fringes of society. He doesn’t have looks, or money, or education going for him, but he’s a decent human being trying to grow up with the odds stacked against him. He is often belittled or ignored, but like others out there on the edge of things, he has a story that deserves to be heard. “Pushing Back” is told from Boone’s point of view.

The first book in the series finds Boone at sixteen years old, in a family he can’t wait to escape. His father is an angry drunk who scrapes out a living doing farm work and takes out most of his frustration and rage on his family. Boone’s mother is a passive sort, unable or unwilling to stand up to her husband, and his sister is only seven, so he feels like he can’t leave. Then, in one weekend, his family disintegrates around him and Boone finds himself alone for the first time in his life.

Soon he begins to realize how much of his father’s anger and mistrust is also a part of him, and much of his struggle to become an adult revolves around trying to let go of most of what his daddy taught him. Circumstance brings him into contact with an elderly neighbor, and he and Gamaliel form an unlikely friendship. Gamaliel’s son-in-law has nothing but contempt for Boone and the conflicts with him bring out the worst in Boone’s character.

Boone’s low social standing and his inexperience with most kinds of relationships makes his growing involvement with Nancy, a former classmate, full of stumbles and missteps on his part and a determination on hers to make things work, even though she has her share of normal teenage insecurity as well.

A decent person at heart, Boone’s battle with his inner demons and his almost complete lack of knowledge about the adult world make his progress intermittent at best, full of setbacks often of his own making. He approaches maturity clumsily, but when he can figure out the right thing to do, he usually does it. Unfortunately for him and those around him, sometimes his anger and insecurity get in the way.

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About Literary Titan

The Literary Titan is an organization of professional editors, writers, and professors that have a passion for the written word. We review fiction and non-fiction books in many different genres, as well as conduct author interviews, and recognize talented authors with our Literary Book Award. We are privileged to work with so many creative authors around the globe.

Posted on July 12, 2020, in Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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