The “What If” Game All Writers Play
Posted by Literary Titan
Return to Hardscrabble Road picks up where Hardscrabble Road left off and delves deeper into Roger’s growth from a tormented boy to a determined young man at the crossroads of everything he loves and fears. What was the inspiration for the setup of your story?
Hardscrabble Road was born from a 10-year oral history project, during which I interviewed my former father-in-law and his two older brothers about their violent, unsettling childhoods during the Great Depression and war years with a psychotic bootlegger for a father and a mother who had no interest in raising her kids. Theirs were childhoods that would’ve killed most of us, but they not only survived and escaped into the military but then thrived as adults. All three were remarkable men and were extraordinarily resourceful children as well, so I collected their stories and used them as the inspiration for what has become my bestselling novel, Hardscrabble Road, which outsells all my other books combined and probably will continue to do so for all time. Many readers over the years have requested a sequel, which I resisted at first–preferring to write mysteries, thrillers, and other genres–but eventually I found myself missing the rambunctious MacLeod family and decided to pick up right where Hardscrabble Road left off. I used a couple stories from the oral history project that I couldn’t fit into the first book as my stepping-off point and then embarked on the “what if” game all writers play to decide on the rest of the plot.
Roger “Bud” Macleod and his two brothers are intriguing and well-developed characters. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?
When I began my first draft of Hardscrabble Road, the three boys were based very closely on the actual men who inspired the book, but as I continued to write about them, their fictional guises took shape more concretely, until the only similarities between Roger, Chet, and Jay and the three men I interviewed were purely coincidental. The longer an author writes about a given character’s thoughts, dialog, and actions, the more they come to life in the author’s mind and on the page. For Return to Hardscrabble Road, I reread the first book to remind myself about their styles of speaking, favorite expressions, and attitudes, and then I built on them. It was like revisiting old friends and discovering new facets of them as they were now coming into their own as young men.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
I wanted to explore how the scars my characters developed in their youth–due to the trauma they experienced–would be revealed in their behaviors as young men who now have agency and can act on their impulses and desires. For example, Roger struggles with giving in to violent reactions when faced with bullies and threats to his family. I also wanted to explore forgiveness, family loyalties, and the urge to “fix” others’ problems. All of these issues drive the plot in different ways and lead to Roger’s growth and maturation.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I’ve started a sequel that brings back the heroine of my amateur-sleuth murder mystery Aftermath and the heroine of my kidnap thriller Watch What You Say, putting them together (against their will, at first) and sending them on a new adventure. I’m hoping to pull in characters–and descendants of characters–from my other novels. If Marvel can do that, so can I! I’m a ponderously slow, perfectionistic writer, so the as-yet-untitled sequel won’t come out for a couple years. Meanwhile, though, fans of the Hardscrabble Road books have lots of other novels of mine to explore. Rest assured, characters from all of them will get a mention or perhaps a cameo in the new book.
About Literary TitanThe 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 December 11, 2022, in Interviews and tagged author, author interview, book, book recommendations, book review, book reviews, book shelf, bookblogger, books, books to read, ebook, family saga, fiction, George Weinstein, goodreads, indie author, kindle, kobo, literature, nook, novel, read, reader, reading, Return to Hardscrabble Road, story, writer, writing. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.
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