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Generation Gaps and Social Upheaval

Bill Wetmore Author Interview

Bill Wetmore Author Interview

The Autobiography of Charlie Lord is a coming of age story following a teen trying to navigate life’s hurdles in the 60’s. How did the idea for this novel start and change as you wrote?

The book definitely grew and changed over time. I began writing this story in 1982 or 1983, shortly after moving to California. I wrote about 50 pages then put it aside. Every so often I’d pull it out and work on a chapter, then put it away, again. Then in 2017, while I was lecturing my 16 year old daughter on not squandering the gifts and talents we’ve been given, that she asked me point blank when I was gonna finish my book. Busted! I wrote a chapter that day, and a chapter the next, then another, and another. In 30 days I’d finished the book. Initially Charlie was going to be a member of the Mythic track team, but I made him a wrestler, instead, but the real difference in the book from how it was originally conceived is in the perspective I gained in the 35 years it took me to finish it. Charlie, and I, both developed tremendously as characters over that time.

Charlie is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some obstacles that you felt were important to his character development?

I’m not sure if Charlie’s navigation of life in Mythic is fraught with any more obstacles other than those that the average kid growing up in the 60’s and 70’s faced. Charlie is growing up in an era defined by generation gaps and social upheaval in terms of race relations, the assassination of political leaders, and the Vietnam War. Charlie tries to make sense of this with what limited tools he has. You might say that the book is really Charlie’s attempt to make sense of the America he loves, both the country and the character America Lightshadow.

I enjoyed the authenticity with which you told this story. Was there anything from your own life that you put into this book?

The book certainly contains elements of my own life. I wrestled in high school and planned on wrestling in college until I accidentally put my arm through a window the day before heading to the University of Connecticut. My father was a career Army non-commissioned officer and my mother is from Japan. The house Charlie grows up in is an exact copy of the split level l house I grew up in as a child, but I tried to extend the book’s authenticity beyond the physical descriptions of Charlie’s life. I wanted the book to be emotionally true. I wanted Charlie’s emotional reactions to be as complex as they are in my own life.

This is your first novel. What do you think this novel taught you about writing?

Well, first, I learned that writing a novel is a lot easier than it looks. Rewriting, on the other hand, is brutal, but that’s where you actually learn the craft of writing. I also discovered my “voice” as a writer while putting Charlie Lord, together. That, in itself, was worth the price of admission.

Author Links: Amazon | GoodReads

The Autobiography of Charlie Lord by [Bill Wetmore]A coming of age story about a half Japanese-American kid growing up in the mythical town of Mythic, Connecticut, in the 1960’s and 70’s. Charlie Lord discovers the sport of wrestling and the art of playing the saxophone while attempting to navigate the thornier questions of life, love, family, and friendship surrounded by a comic cast of characters in this poetic and brilliant first novel.

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Get Up And Write Crazy Stories

Bill Wetmore Author Interview

Bill Wetmore Author Interview

Unglued: The Book of Strafe is an entertaining and sometimes humorous look at a young man who’s trying to make his way through life. What was the inspiration for the setup to this story?

Unglued: The Book of Strafe is a fictionalized version of my experiences as a young man. I worked in a New Jersey chemical factory, in the glue department, each summer while in college and graduate school. Many of the events that happen in the book actually occurred in real life. I would work midnight shift in the factory then go home and sleep during the day. In the afternoon I’d get up and write crazy stories before heading back to the factory.

I enjoyed Peter Strafe’s character and how he continued to develop throughout the story. What were some driving motivations behind his character creation?

I actually created Strafe as a character while writing my first novel in college. The story was basically unreadable, but Strafe was meant to be a “wise fool”, the character who moves foolishly through an absurd world but somehow retains his child-like innocence. When I started writing Unglued, I decided to make it the story of Strafe who I’d first written about in 1975.

Peter utilizes Zen Buddhism to help him throughout his life. Why was this and important idea to include in your story?

I started reading about Zen while I was working in the glue department. Like Strafe, I’d sit up on the tank trucks and meditate while they were loading with glue. I had no idea what I was meditating for, to, or from, but none of that seemed to matter. I was determined to understand the real meaning of “one hand clapping” and become enlightened, dammit! Today, I’m not religious in the sense that I practice or follow any religious traditions, but I try to practice mindfulness in my affairs, and I wanted to have Strafe make small steps in the arenas of mindfulness and right living, too.

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

I’m currently working on a sequel to my first novel, The Autobiography of Charlie Lord. The book’s working title is The Apocalypse of Charlie Lord, and takes place in California against a backdrop of pandemic, fire, and other environmental catastrophes. It’s a comedy. Publication date late 2020.

Author Links: Amazon | GoodReads

It’s 1978, and for recent college graduate Peter Strafe, the path to enlightenment zigzags absurdly through his mother’s basement, a disaster-prone New Jersey glue factory, the Coconuts strip club, a sports arena that offers ten-cent beer night, dog ownership, the Museum of Modern Art, his girlfriend’s bedroom, a tornado, and (of course) California. In an attempt to make sense of the absurdity around him Strafe begins studying Zen Buddhism and practicing meditation atop tank trucks as they fill with glue. His foray into the world of Zen leads him to discover his inner writer. He writes poetic Zen gems like “We be” and “I shy” before moving on to wonderfully bizarre short stories and epic genre-bending novels that span continents and solar systems. Of course, all this growth has Strafe headed straight for a crossroads– company man for the American Starch and Adhesive factory or Zen Master writer?

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The Autobiography of Charlie Lord

The Autobiography of Charlie Lord by [Bill Wetmore]

Charlie Lord is a Japanese-American growing up in Mythic, Connecticut in the 1960s. He goes through all the regular challenges and joys of being a teenager at that time. He grew up in a somewhat unusual home with lewd displays and a sexually voracious uncle. Charlie was special in many ways. His IQ, to begin with, was higher than average. His excellence spilled over into hiding his deteriorating eyesight, saxophone, and later wrestling. This is a story of Charlie’s life as an ignored child with all his ‘board friends’ and special talents. We walk through the teenage life of ‘Hiroshima’ during a very eventful period.

The Autobiography of Charlie Lord is Bill Wetmore’s first book. The author has written a great book colored with humor and vivid imagery. This is a story about the engagements between family and the dynamics between people. It is a window into a family with a highly decorated father and a foreign submissive mother in that era. This story is consistently brilliant with only brief breaks for Charlie’s mom’s funny accent.

There is a certain quality that comes with being a child in that stage of life. This is the same quality that has Charlie hiding his eye problem. The same problem that has him love and adore his father with subtle caution. This character has been so well presented to the reader that you can almost concoct an image of Charlie and what he would look like at that time. The same excellent craftiness and expertise with words will have you seeing Eddie Lord in your mind in all his military greatness.

The way the story is told will grip you right from the beginning and keep you following Charlie’s life until the end. His humor and style of expression are uncanny. Some of the scenes do not seem to be in line with the characters as we know them. Like when Charlie comes home on a rainy evening then goes straight to bed without food. At first, it will be hard to understand but as we learn more about ‘Gloria’ and her relationship with her husband, it becomes more plausible. Their neglect of him is simply astounding.

The Autobiography of Charlie Lord is a deeply evocative book both in terms of narration and character development. There is some coarse language as well as some lewd scenes so it would not be suitable for a young child, but perfect for fans character driven stories.

Pages: 264 | ASIN: B077WHFNMJ

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Unglued: The Book of Strafe

Unglued: The Book of Strafe by [Bill Wetmore]

After college, Strafe’s life was pretty aimless. Living in his mother’s basement and trying to discover what his ambitions might be, he gave a perpetual half hearted attempt to find some kind of path he could follow. Only after landing an unlikely job at the local glue factory did Strafe’s life finally begin to take some direction. Suddenly he had a steady paycheck, a new found interest in Zen Buddhism, a creative spark he never knew he held, and an artist girlfriend he never expected to have, all while navigating the world inside the American Starch and Adhesives Company.

Unglued- The Book of Strafe, by Bill Wetmore, follows a compelling main character as he navigates a seemingly lackluster life while also cleverly illustrating how it can often be equal parts absurd and enlightening. From the first few sentences, it’s clear the book has a wildly tongue-in-cheek tone as Peter Caldwell Strafe explains, in no uncertain terms, his hatred of his first name. The ridiculousness increases from there, and although the first few chapters read like vaguely related short stories, they quickly gel together to create a more linear story. The Glue Factory, as it is affectionately known among the locals, stands as an entire character itself, with its inhabitants serving as the inspiration for many of Strafe’s own short story ideas. Despite his rocky start and apparent complete lack of effort, we watch Strafe grow and mature as a person over the course of time. By applying the laws of Zen Buddhism to his everyday life, he eventually becomes a self sufficient adult, separating himself from the turmoil and eccentricity that surrounds him most days. The snapshot of late 1970s suburbia is an added bonus of the book, and while it doesn’t play a huge part, it’s enough to add a layer of atmosphere that is indispensable overall. 

If Unglued has a theme, I think it’s that of personal growth. Strafe begins the book an adult, but lacking any of the responsibilities that come with that distinction. By its conclusion, he has become a completely different person. As each new day brings another surprise, Strafe learns to adapt and appreciate all the things he never paid much attention to in the past. 

Unglued was fun from beginning to end, and once it found a rhythm, it never slowed its pace. The book dealt with some serious issues in very lighthearted ways that made it an incredibly easy and enjoyable read. While it may be too far on the absurdity spectrum for some, I found it absolutely perfect!

Pages: 219 | ASIN: B08671HHTP

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