How We End Up is an intricate contemporary story that follows the lives of three strangers and shows how people can intersect at life changing moments. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
I used to walk the beach in a park near my house. The park gets numerous visitors, mostly families, and I would frequently walk by young children playing in the surf. This area is known for its rip currents, and there are always news stories about people being caught in one and having to be rescued. It occurred to me that one day I might have to jump in after someone, particularly a child. Fortunately, I never had to. It got me thinking about how these rescues are often called “miracles,” but the story stops there. It did not, of course, tell us the aftermath, so I began formulating a story that shows us how they were brought together and tells us what happens to these people over a long span of time.
I felt that this novel was about the characters and how people change over time. What were the driving ideals behind the characters development throughout the story?
The central male character, Jackson, rescues nine-year-old twin girls. Although they they are twins, I saw them as being very distinct from each other, and I imagined they would lead dissimilar lives. Not only are their sexual orientations different, but one is worldly and self-destructive, while the other begins as a bit naïve, which leads them both to disastrous circumstances. Jackson, who achieves literary fame by writing about the rescue, suffers from a case of hubris, which results in his star falling. Their personas and their relationships, particularly their romantic entanglements, are affected, often negatively, by both the inner conflicts of the three characters and by chance. I see this as something we all endure. Some things we decide upon by choice, while others are left to happenstance and over which we have no control. All of these experiences lead to “how we end up.”
When you first sat down to write this story, did you know where you were going, or did the story develop as you were writing?
The “skeleton” of the story was apparent to me from the start, but as I continued writing, the details—specific events, relationships, and the consequences of the characters’ reckless behavior—appeared. This is pretty much my writing modus operandi in general. For me, writing is a discovery process.
What is the next book that you are working on and when can your fans expect it to be out?
My next book is about a character who leads five different lives, each detached from the others. It is somewhat experimental, maybe, but this is all I presently can say about it. If fortune smiles upon me, I might finish it within 6-8 months; after that, I would think publication would follow in about the same amount of time.
BEING RESCUED IS NOT THE SAME AS BEING SAVED.
Jackson Levee, a professor and writer, plucks two drowning twin girls from the Gulf of Mexico. Their attractive single mother has her own ideas about how to thank the hero. Jackson and their family go from being complete strangers one day to intimate friends the next. Jackson soars to literary fame after writing about his rescue of the twins, while the girls mature into beautiful but troubled young women. Over the next twenty-five years, everyone’s recklessness in love, marriage, and life produces wild and devastating results, forcing the three of them to struggle as they try to realize their destinies and find balance in life.
Douglas Wells crafts an intoxicating story teeming with passion and exhilaration to danger, addiction, and despair.
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Douglas Wells’ new book, How We End Up, seeks to become even more intricate and complex then his debut book, The Secret of all Secrets. The reader follows three main characters as their lives come together, only to drift apart and come back together after 25 years. Jackson Levee is an ambitious college instructor when he manages to be in the right place at the right time and saves twin girls from drowning in the Gulf of Mexico. He goes on to write a poem about the event, which brings him acclaim and success. Hadley and Haley, the twins go on to become beautiful women. All three of them are then brought on their heels through various events and it is after two and half decades they meet again to suffer a devastating event together and discover who and what they are as human persons.
At this point, readers familiar with Wells’ more philosophically bent, literary stories and How We End Up is no exception. What has become more refined, is Wells style with incorporating all of these events into a cohesive story. His previous work seemed to have a lot going on, and while it still achieved a particular effect, it wasn’t as polished as this story. In some ways, he uses the layman’s philosophy to a decent effect, but it becomes even more pronounced as the themes of self-identity, purpose and life’s meaning takes center stage.
As much as this book is about Jackson, Haley, and Hadley, it is more about life and what happens to a person over the course of the years. Some readers may have mileage that may vary with this theme, but I believe it makes the novel resonate that much better. In fact, Wells’ inclusion of philosophy serves the novel all the better for serving this theme and given what he has written before he wants to focus on the human condition. We all ask the big questions and reflect on how our lives may have been formed otherwise, but with the intersection of these three lives, it brings this reality to the forefront.
All in all, Wells presents a literary novel that brings all the best sort of introspection and soul gazing that can be given in a reader’s experience. Fans of such fiction will be pleased with this, as are any who enjoy personal intimate stories that are full to the brim with drama. Students of philosophy will appreciate the small tributes and tid bits here and there as well.
Pages: 296 | ASIN: B079VCWS3S
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The Secrets of all Secrets follows Zane who receives a USB from a stranger that contains a message that promises the Secret of All Secrets. What was the inspiration for the setup to this fun novel?
I wanted the premise of the story to be wacky and like a fairy tale with epistemological overtones. Many of us grew up with fairy tales of one sort or another, so the concept is recognizable. The USB is Jack’s bean stalk. Once it’s there, he has to climb it. The USB idea occurred to me because I use them in my work as a college professor. I wondered what would happen if all knowledge, the meaning of life, etc. were on one? The next question: What parties would want to pursue The Secrets and to what lengths will they go to get them?
In this story you combine irony with wry humor and manage to keep it all topical. What themes did you want to explore when you started this book?
The overarching theme is illustrated by Shakespeare’s line from The Tempest: “The stuff that dreams are made on,” which is what The Secrets represent. What would be the government’s dream for getting The Secrets? Probably something to do with gaining ultimate power. Corporate America’s dream? Wasn’t there someone who said there’s no such thing as making too much money? The two crazy extremists’ dream is to create an Anti-Amerika, “Amerika with a k.” That the representatives of these entities are comical bunglers illustrates the way in which human beings can wreck any mission. As for the two main characters, Zane and Dali—Everyman and Everywoman—the dream is more about self discovery. It’s a classic conflict: individuals versus institutions and malevolent factions. Jack versus the Giant.
Zane and Dali are both enthralling characters. How did you set about creating their dynamic relationship?
What’s kind of funny is that when I started the novel, there was no Dali. Once I got to the point in the story where Zane begins his quest, I knew he needed a partner, someone equally smart, resilient, and resourceful but with a different sensibility. Zane is an intellectual. Dali is more pragmatic. There is tension between them, but there’s also balance. “Two peas in a pod,” as is stated ironically early in the book. It doesn’t hurt that they are attracted to each from the start without admitting it to themselves.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I’m working on a satire of political correctness. I’m hoping to finish it and have it published in a year or two. Some of this is dictated by my teaching schedule, but if you know any publishers willing to give me a triple figure advance, I think I could work a little faster.
Zane, a seminary and grad school dropout, obtains a USB drive left by a cloaked figure on a bridge in the middle of the night. The drive’s content offers Zane “The Secrets of All Secrets”—a tantalizing proposal for someone who has nothing left to lose.
Following the drive’s directions, Zane heads to Florida where he encounters Dali, a poor waitress who received an identical USB. Initially clashing, they band together, taking a chance that The Secrets are genuine as they receive more instructions from their USBs.
Four conflicted government operatives; an extremely tall corporate executive with an extremely short, scholarly hit man in tow; and two crackbrained, fringe-element, anti-government separatists are after The Secrets—and are all willing to kill to get them.
Zane, Dali, and their pursuers encounter an armadillo festival, visit a nudist resort, and hang out with a presumed dead ’60s rocker. Pandemonium occurs at each venue with Zane and Dali one step ahead of everyone… that is, until all parties convene for a climactic confrontation over The Secrets.
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Douglas Wells’, debut novel, The Secrets of all Secrets begins with a mysterious stranger, who issues a fateful quest. The reader follows Zane, a graduate school and seminary drop-out, who receives a USB from the stranger. The USB contains a message that promises the Secret of All Secrets and he is pressed to go find out how far the rabbit hole goes. He soon meets a waitress at a diner, named Dali, who received a similar USB. They initially butt heads, but they soon come together to figure out the mystery. They are dogged at every step by four conflicted government agents, who pursue them to the very end.
Wells combines smart, informed prose with fun, engaging dialogue to create an interesting story that hails the modern quest narrative, but also the old-fashioned road narrative calling to mind Jack Kerouac and others of that generation. There are plenty of moments where Zane calls back to his graduate school education with references to Pascal and Tolstoy, which do become a bit pandering to a point, but soon get lost in the action that ensues.
Zane and Dali are both enthralling characters, where Wells’ skill shines through and even shows up among the government agents who serve as the bulk of antagonism in the novel. The decent character portrayal also smoothes over the often-sparse description and scene setting that would normally keep the reader engaged, but the characters are able to do this on their own. The ideological lines that all the characters have seem to be commentary on our day to day lives, from government drones to Zane’s cynicism.
The setting of Northern Florida was an interesting choice and provides a unique setting rich in regional idiosyncrasies as well as clashing rural and coastal tendencies. Zane and Dali adventures are increasingly crazy and fit in with this setting choice. They venture into an armadillo festival, nudist resort and even find a presumed dead 60’s rocker. All of this combines to be a sort of satire of American politics and greed.
All in all, The Secrets of all Secrets will keep the reader’s attention until the very end with its light-hearted prose and topical social commentary. Wells blends the ironic with wry humor and never misses a point to push the absurdity of his tale a little farther, as if encouraging the reader to do the same.
Pages: 224 | ASIN: B07147R17F
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