Sunday, May 6, 2012

Interview with YA Author Steve Finegan

Into the Mist: Silver Hand is Steve’s debut novel. In addition to being a YA author, Steve is a seeker of the extraordinary in the ordinary and an avid, eclectic, and voracious reader.  Steve lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife Jeanne, son John, golden retrievers Gary and Cooper, one very old Yorkshire terrier named Corkie, and a horse named Jordan, who seems to think he’s a dog.

A pleasure to read. Enjoyed it thoroughly. Wanted more.”–Marc Mohan, The Oregonian

Hello Steve! Into the Mist: Silver Hand is the first book in a two-part fantasy adventure story. Please tell us about your novel.

Into the Mist: Silver Hand is a contemporary YA fantasy with adventures both in this world and in an alternate reality in which 13-year-old Gabe Wrenn becomes a central player in an epic battle of Good vs. Evil. But at its heart the story’s about Gabe’s struggles in this world to deal with his epilepsy and the way other people treat him as a result of it: His mom hovers over him. His brother bullies him. He has almost no friends. Gabe’s come to believe his epilepsy makes him an abnormal freak. On the other hand, Gabe’s dad believes his son’s epilepsy is responsible for making him a gifted graphic artist and writer. And his best and only friend, Ellie, thinks it gives him access to the supernatural world. To them, Gabe’s epilepsy is not a disability but an extraordinary ability.

This conflict, abnormal vs. gifted, is the engine powering this two-part series. Meanwhile, the reader should be experiencing another conflict: “Is this adventure real or all in Gabe’s head?”

My husband read your book and couldn’t put it down. It was full of intrigue and adventure. He thinks adults would enjoy this book as well as teens. Where did you get your inspiration for this story?

This is fun. Back in 2009, I was mulling an idea for a fantasy story: What if a terrified boy is found running from the clump of oaks bordering the park behind his new house? And what if he’s clay-smeared and bloody, daubed about his body with weird spiral patterns, and carrying a gore-stained makeshift spear? And what if his horrible screams are in an incomprehensible language? And what if later he remembers nothing at all about what happened to him?

Well, I loved the situation and believed that I could concoct a decent novel out of the mystery. I also thought it might somehow provide me with an opportunity to explore the hazy boundary between fantasy and reality – a particularly fascinating theme. The question was: Where should I begin? Being a parent, I knew this boy’s folks would most likely rush him either to the emergency room or to his doctor, so I called our pediatrician and asked him what he’d make of such a case. I expected him to brush me off or tell me the situation wasn’t plausible. Instead he said, “Wait a minute! I think I might know what he has.” Then he asked me to come in the following afternoon to talk about it.

The next day, I found myself gazing at Dr. Miller’s tacked-up collection of happy-baby Polaroid photos and wondering what he had to tell me about my young character. After a few minutes, he swept into the room, wearing his usual starched shirt and bow tie, and sat at his big oak desk. “I’d say your boy’s showing symptoms of TLE,” he said as if in answer to a question. “What?” I asked. “TLE. Temporal Lobe Epilepsy,” he repeated. I loved how seriously he was taking the case of my mystery boy. “What makes you so sure?” I asked. “I’ll show you.” He whipped around to his desktop PC and googled the term temporal lobe epilepsy.

For the better part of an hour, we sat cheek by jowl poring over online articles and talking about simple and complex partial seizures (which are short of the shuddering grand mal seizures everyone associates with epilepsy), and a host of other related issues. “The way I see it,” concluded Dr. Miller, “your boy had one of these more localized seizures right here.” He tapped the right side of his head just above the ear.

“Anyway he could have hallucinated an experience, which he then acted out, although it was very real to him. You see it’s as if the portal to the otherworld was in his brain, which more or less blurs the lines between fantasy and reality.” I felt a seizing in my chest. “Wow!” In that instant, I knew I had a story to tell. Yes, I had a ton of research to do before I could start writing it, but that didn’t dampen my spirits.

What kind of research did you have to do for this novel?

The research phase was intense and time-consuming. Fortunately, I had Dr. Miller and one of his colleagues, a pediatric neurologist, to guide me, answer questions, and read drafts, particularly those passages dealing with Gabe’s symptoms, associated behaviors, as well as his diagnosis and ongoing treatment. After a few weeks, I had to clear space on my bookshelves for the dozen or so new volumes about epilepsy and related disorders. Then there was the research into Celtic-Welsh myths and legends, which was really just an extension of a decades-old delving into certain mythological themes and motifs that I felt a desire to express. Other parts of the book were relatively easy. My son was 13 when I began writing it, so I was immersed in contemporary teen culture. I also have a very good memory of my own teen years, and how I interacted with my friends and enemies.

Wow! You really took your research seriously. That’s wonderful. What does your family think about your writing?

My wife and son are very supportive. My son John often reads and comments on early drafts. Believe me, he lets me know if I’ve written a teen scene that isn’t as authentic as he thinks it should be.

I love it. What a great son! Okay, it’s time to tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

Hmmm. The real me? Well, when I say I’m a seeker of the extraordinary in the ordinary, I mean it. Not in the sense of feeling compelled to skydive or anything like that, but to live more fully in the moment. This requires awareness and mindfulness, both of which are hard to achieve in our hyped-up world. So I meditate daily for about 30 minutes. I’ve been doing it for years. Just a simple sitting and breathing meditation. It helps tremendously to draw me back into my body and into the moment. It’s really amazing how much of the time our minds are caught up in the past and the future at the expense of the present moment.

You’re right. I totally agree. If we meditate about our lives for a few minutes each day, I think we would have less stress and enjoy the day a little better. Thanks, Steve, for this awesome interview.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great book! I think my son would really like it.

michelle130 said...

Love the interview and the book sounds good.

Shauna Buck said...

Sounds good!! jbsmunky at aol dot com.

wulf said...

Sounds very interesting, I'd love a chance to win this.


wcs53 said...

Looks like a good read that my children may enjoy.

nat said...

Sounds really good. My son would like it. I tweeted!/natcleary/status/199825898944475136


Wolfswan1 said...

sounds like a very intriguing story. I would love to read it.
wolfswan1 at gmail dot com

Jane Maritz said...

Looks like a good book!

janemaritz at yahoo dot com

Christina Kit. said...

Sounds awesome!

ccfioriole at gmail dot com

bn100 said...

I enjoyed the interview. The book sounds good.


Darlene said...

I love the good vs evil type of stories! Thanks for the giveaway!

darlenesbooknook at gmail dot com

Darlene said...

+1 for tweeting:!/DarleneBookNook/status/200613916760481794

darlenesbooknook at gmail dot com

Bridget Howard said...

Sounds great!!!

daysease said...

Sounds intriguing and SO interesting, and the interview was interesting as well. Thanks for the chance to win it. Hope you are well!!

Celita :-)

mrsdayseye at tiscali dot it

sweety said...

I would love to win this book!!

Thanks for the international giveaway!!


sweety said...

+1 Tweeted :-!/sweetyindia/status/200991479135608832


Krysykat said...

Awesome interview.


momma8385 said...

Enjoyed the interview.
:)Jeanne B.T.

Linda Weaver Clarke said...

Congratulations, Sweety! You are the winner of this awesome book. I know you'll enjoy it very much.