• Thoughts on Greyhound ...



    photo by Connie Le Sithi


    This blog post is in response to someone online who asked for me to explain where some of the origins of my novel Greyhound came from ...

    First of all, most of the characters are based upon real people. I met Marcus during one of the many Greyhound Bus trips that I've taken across the states as a child, and this person did have a lasting effect on not just that period of my life, but for years after. I thought quite a bit about a few of the people that I had met and crossed paths with on those trips for some time.

    I had been mentally writing this book in my head for a couple of decades. I could see most of the pages and knew the bulk of story from beginning to end. The bulk of my books are like that, but I think most writers would say that, too. I'm not going to say that writing Greyhound was easy, because it wasn't. But it did come out the closer I stayed to it and the more I worked on it. I also wrote the last 200 pages during one of my repetitive periods of pneumonia, so it was difficult at times trying to decipher my yellow tablets, but I pulled through.

    Strangely, one of the biggest influences on my life through the years was a celebrity. I don't often talk about it, but for the record it was Marvin Gaye. I had listened to his music growing up and felt incredibly close to records like 'What's Going On.' Music was really the only escape for growing up in an impoverished life full of adult children that couldn't figure out how to get themselves together or that what they were doing was inappropriate. I bring this up because when you don't have good role models immediately near you, you have a tendency to look for them in unlikely and often unfulfilling places.

    Not having a father myself, or a workable substitute, my world-view was pretty heavily damaged in 1984 when I had read that Marvin Gaye Sr. had shot his son in a fit of anger and insanity. I couldn't understand how the world could treat someone like that so unkind as to put them in such harms way. A father shooting his son, mostly out of jealousy for what he had become, despite everything, just caused me a great deal of pain and very quickly made me cynical. It bothered me and I probably carried it around for far too long and it may have further cemented my distrust of men and figures of authority in general. I internalized those things back then maybe too deeply, but it was what it was. We're all affected by life and our experiences, mine just came from a completely external source or wherever I could find them. Good or bad. When I was trying to come up with a surname for Marcus and I chose Franklin, it was a silent homage to one of my favourite actors -- Avery Brooks.

    My hope is for the reader to walk away with something and know something, feel better or perhaps - see themselves within the pages and not feel alone.

    As for young Sebastien, one of the last things I did in writing this book was to change some of the names. I always write every book as `Steffan', just for the sake of writing ... else I can't see myself clearly or effectively. When I was young, I did stutter and pretty badly, too. It was a constant uphill, internal struggle for me to shed it and it took years. I tried everything that I could to break through and overcome it, but it persisted. One of the more interesting things about Greyhound is that when a close friend of mine read an early draft, she asked me why I decided to make young Sebby stutter and I had told her because I did and still do. She was floored by this revelation because she had never thought for a moment that I had this problem.

    The truth of the matter is, is that I'm an adult and when I'm having `technical difficulty' as I often say with my mouth, the last thing I'm going to do is let you hear me falter in my speech. I will adjust or say something else instead. I often describe the words that come out of my mouth as `milkshake through a maze.' I have to slow it just enough as to allow me to maneuver, even to this day. In one of my recent blog posts, I wrote about a Facebook habit I have of typing: `Steffan Piper often says all the wrong things' as my status. If people only knew the things that I want to say, but can't, try to say, but have to substitute, never say and watch the moments and opportunities pass unmet. Let me tell you, sincerely, it can be heartbreaking to watch unfold.

    I will say that I buried a lot of information in subtext, background and inference. If you feel the story isn't delivering the information that you first thought and it just reads as a coming-of-age road novel, I would suggest to slow your reading and approach it like one of those `Myst' role-playing games. There are hidden clues everywhere that color the story differently the further and deeper you read it. Forgive me if you feel that this is something forced or a tactic. It isn't. It's just the way I write.

    The Langston Hughes thread within the story is actually something that has caused me a great deal of pain recently, but it's also something, currently, better left alone. I was always a huge fan of his work, I knew he would be a character in the book, even if in a small way. The first time I had been introduced to his poetry or poetry at all, was on a Greyhound bus. Poetry was the first thing I started writing, so you could probably, and very safely, say that Langston Hughes inspired me to be a writer. That's just how it went.




    4 comments:

    1. Sofia5:57 PM

      Gorgeous Steffan, thanks much.

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    2. Thanks ... I think I'm still editing this ...

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    3. Steffan, your book is terrific--one of the most honest, entertianing, heartbreaking, and healing books I've read it years. And I would love an autographed copy. I'll show you mine if you'll show me yours... I look forward to your next book. I know you don't have just a book in you, you have a writer, so get back to work! Thanks for sharing all that!

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    4. Thanks, Susanne.

      For the record I just edited this info dramatically. I'm going to repost it in a different format.

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