Non-human Species Deserve To Live Their Lives Free of Exploit

Chuck Augello Author Interview

A Better Heart follows a filmmaker that reconnects with his father in an unusual way and causes him to question what matters in life. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

I’ve had an interest in animal rights for most of my adult life and wanted to write about it in an engaging way that would entertain readers, but also inform them and perhaps challenge them to explore their own beliefs.  After my first novel, The Revolving Heart, was published, I started writing the opening chapters of a new novel, with an animal rights theme, that was nothing at all like A Better Heart.  After three chapters that novel stalled, and I put it aside for several months.  I then began hearing the first-person voice of Kevin, the novel’s narrator, and a character took shape.  I didn’t know that Henry, the capuchin monkey, and Kevin’s estranged father Brian would be critical characters until they literally walked into the opening scene.  Once that happened, the story fell into place, and I wrote the first draft in ten months, which for me is quite fast.   

Kevin thought his life was going great till he encounters Henry and reconnects with his father, causing him to rethink his personal values. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?  

Kevin feels responsible for the death of his mother and that guilt drives him toward a feeling of responsibility for Henry.  He’s someone who has always been self-focused.  As a filmmaker, he’s constantly drawing in his friends to help him with his projects.  He’s never really thought about the world beyond movies and his own ambitions, but as he learns about Henry’s experiences, he knows that he has a choice to help Henry reach freedom or to let him return to what can only be described as a primate prison.  

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Primarily, the idea that non-human species deserve to live their lives free of exploitation and pain. The way that most animals are treated is unforgivable, and a stain on the human character.   Another theme is one of forgiveness.  Kevin struggles to forgive his father for what he perceives as abandonment, and he struggles to forgive himself for his unintended role in his mother’s death.   

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I’m currently under contract for a book about the author Kurt Vonnegut.  It’s a mix of essays and interviews that I’ve done over the years with scholars and artists about their Vonnegut-themed works.  That should be available in 2023.  I’m also working on a novel set in the Bicentennial year of 1976.  The main characters are a college student and her uncle, who has returned home after living in Canada for ten years to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War.   

Author Links: Twitter | Website

For aspiring indie filmmaker Kevin Stacey, it’s another day on the set of his first film, but when his estranged father, a failed Hollywood actor, arrives unexpectedly with a bundle of cash, a gun, and a stolen capuchin monkey, he’s propelled toward the journey that will change his life.
The monkey, Henry, has been liberated from a research lab by animal rights activists. Inspired by his friend Veronica to reevaluate his relationship with other species, Kevin learns about the pain and suffering inflicted on lab animals as he forges a bond with the capuchin. When father and son embark on a road trip with Henry, Kevin is caught between the egocentric father who abandoned him and the temperamental monkey whose fate is in his hands. With both the FBI and his mother’s ghost watching, will Kevin risk his career and his father’s freedom to bring the stolen monkey to safety? Meanwhile, Veronica’s encounter with an eccentric Catholic priest triggers her own journey toward change.
A heartbreaking yet comic family drama, A Better Heart examines the human-animal bond and the bonds between fathers and sons, challenging readers to explore their beliefs about the treatment of non-human species.

Posted on April 12, 2022, in Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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