Sunday, May 6, 2012
Interview with YA Author Steve Finegan
“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.
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.