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Not Entirely Wicked

Christopher Fried
Christopher Fried Author Interview

Whole Lot of Hullabaloo follows a college sophomore whose life gets turned upside down by a whirlwind of events he did not see coming. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

Since I had graduated from college in 2007, I had noticed what I view as questionable trends in university life. It seemed like there was an increasingly censorious nature on college campuses. This is abetted by social and news media outlets wanting to push scandal stories without getting the facts and background on the situations, as well as campus administration, faculty and student governance moved by mob mentality, weak wills, or even spite. However, I didn’t want to write an overly somber story, so I tried to include the humorous tone of 1980s popular cinema, such as Steven Spielberg and John Hughes films, and 20th century English comedic authors like Kingsley Amis and Evelyn Waugh. I wrote and revised the novel in 2014, but set it aside until 2020 when I hired a new editor go over it and had it published myself.

The characters in your book were intriguing and well developed. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

It’s important for characters to have a life outside the pages of a story, especially in a novel. This means that though the story focuses on life in 2011-2012, it’s important to show that the characters have lived before the timeframe, and will live after the last page. I tried interweave minor details of the characters’ pasts that might point to the reason why they’re reacting in the current situation. Also, even though a number of characters act or think in ways that are suspect, or destructive, from my point-of-view, I tried to draw them as foolish, or capable of doing bad, but not entirely wicked. They may have zeal, and that is usually a good quality, but it’s for the wrong thing, or it’s taken too far. Conversely, for the more positive characters, even if they make the better choice in the end, it’s rather dull if they don’t stumble or express doubt along the way. I think even heroic characters should express cowardice at times, otherwise it can be hard for us to relate to them as readers.

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

As mentioned above, campus culture, especially around topic of excessive judgment, thought conformity, and free speech. The notion that the university as it was intended to be is in a state of decline. T.S. Eliot in The Wasteland took the reader through a succession of images showing civilization in disrepair. I wanted to take the reader through a similarly nightmarish journey of contemporary academia from the eyes of the protagonist Troy Thomas (hence the subtitle) that sadly is all too real. However, on the positive note, I wanted to show the value of individuality and loyalty. I also highlight the importance of art (books, films, paintings, etc.) as a unifying factor. That’s why I include references to highbrow, middlebrow, and lowbrow materials.

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

Currently, I’m not working on a book, though I do have an idea that has been circulating in my mind. Though it’s not as firm so as to start sketching characters and an outlined plot. I don’t like getting involved in something then quitting mid-way due to lack of interest or other reasons. Outside of work, my time has been taken up by writing poetry and non-fiction articles, something I was involved in before I went into fiction. Also, as a supporter of 1980s culture and lover of science fiction, I’ve been serving as an advisor to an upcoming documentary on 1980s science fiction films, In Search of Tomorrow. Once it finishes and is released, I encourage all 1980s and sci-fi fans to check it out. It’s a bit of positivity in a sea of negativity.

Author Links: GoodReads | Website

It’s Fall 2011, and Troy Thomas and his best bud Ian Mueller, a top college lacrosse recruit, are enjoying life as sophomores at Central Ohio University. Living each day without serious care, they spend their free time hanging out with friends and attending parties. However, one evening Ian makes a serious social faux pas at a gathering that offends a few and embarrasses much more. Soon after, the campus is in an uproar. A whole slew of shenanigans ensue as Troy tries to make sense of not only his friend’s actions, but that of the reactions and behavior of the college community, which causes ripples throughout the state. During this chaos, Troy tries to discover who he is in a community gripped by social unrest and finds out whether friendship will crumble amid such division.

Darkly satiric, but touched with a nostalgia for 80s and early 90s pop culture, a tragic situation turns into a resounding comedic affirmation of individuality. Though inspired by twentieth century wits such as Kingsley Amis, Anthony Powell, and Evelyn Waugh, it’s a twenty first century piece of modern Americana: a timeless story conceived in a timely era.

Whole Lot of Hullabaloo: A Twenty-First Century Campus Phantasmagoria

Whole Lot of Hullabaloo: A Twenty-First Century Campus Phantasmagoria by [Christopher Fried]

President Sam Castle dreams of making his third year in charge at Central Ohio University the best yet. But right off the bat, he’s hit by a flurry of events that threaten to sink his boat before it sails on its third voyage. His trials begin with his risky decision to take on a new faculty member laden with controversies. As he tries to defend his decision before the College Board of trustees, he feels relations fraying with his wife, who is away in Tokyo. He’s soon faced with another dicey situation that looks to mar his tenure. Ian, a free-spirited sophomore, dons a Halloween costume that lands him in hot water with the school’s black community and its outside allies. It seems Castle has to make an example out of the boy or risk ruining the school’s reputation. This is not the third year he envisaged. It’s left to be seen if Castle will come out of this in one piece and with the college still standing.

Christopher Fried’s Whole Lot of Hullabaloo is true to its name. It’s a journey into campus life marked by the raucous you’d expect in a relationship between pompous academics, politicking admins, exuberant youth, and the sometimes meddlesome outside world.

The emotional rollercoaster Fried takes readers on keeps things interesting. One moment you’re feeling sorry for someone, the next, you’re shaking your fists at another character’s action in righteous indignation. There’s also a nice dose of silliness that will make you chuckle from time to time.

I liked how Fried wraps his thoughts in an amusing tale. His serious themes shine through alright. But instead of weighing you down, they give you critical things to mull over.

The book touches on issues like some people using societal checks and balances to exert injustice and weaponizing public uproar for their selfish interests. Maybe this would be a lot harder if the public wasn’t so inclined to lynch reported culprits of social injustices without first doing its due diligence. But that’s just me thinking out loud.

Fried also addresses our tendency to lean into extremes. On the one hand, we can be so lax about social issues like racism that they go unchecked. On the other hand, we can blow them out of proportion and try to trace every societal ill to them somehow. Fried’s issue is with the latter.

Whole Lot of Hullabaloo is a quick and easy read that is as entertaining as it is thought-provoking.

Pages: 198 | ASIN: B08LBT4FB3

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