Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Patrick Gabridge: The Interview

Patrick was gracious enough to provide 3 copies of his book for this giveaway and also do this small interview. Thanks so much to him!


1. The brief bio on the back of the book says you're an MIT graduate so aside from being incredibly intelligent :-), tell us a little about yourself.

Well, in addition to writing books, I also write plays, radio plays, and screenplays. I've been highly involved in the theatre wherever I've lived--here in Boston I've probably worked with 18 different companies and hundreds of actors. In addition to writing, I was a stay-at-home dad for our two kids, I ran a theatre company, published a marketing newsletter for playwrights, fixed up houses, a bunch of other things. I've been a gardener for years, and this spring I'm getting involved with a farm training program, where I'll be farming a 1/4 acre plot. I have broad interests in life and my writing--so I've written about tornadoes, the history of the Bible, 16th century astronomers, the American culture of fear, political satires, romantic comedies. I get interested in a million different subjects, and writing lets me explore them as deeply as I like.

2. Living in Tornado Country obviously influenced your decision to write about them, what about them intrigues you?

They're so incredibly powerful and eerily beautiful and unpredictable. And they're comprehensible within the human frame of reference--you can't actually see a hurricane, it's too big. The same thing for a flood. But a tornado is something we can witness and yet still not be able to fully comprehend its power. People will see a tornado and just stop, transfixed. There's something so visceral about the shape and sound and power of it. And I like phenomena that are hard to scientifically explain. Scientists have a pretty good idea how tornadoes work, but they're still very hard to predict. I feel very much about tornadoes the way Victoria does.

3. What was the inspiration for the characters Victoria and Ben?

There's a lot of historical precedent for a character like Ben in literature and mythology, a man beyond time, part of nature. And the love story that goes with it, is part of so much mythology. Love and nature. He provided an interesting explanation and challenge for Victoria, and it was awfully fun to try to imagine what life would be like for him. For Victoria, I wanted to create a character who lived in a very consciously rational world who is confronted with something that just can't jibe with her version of reality. I grew up around science and scientists (my dad is a microbiologist), so I had a good idea of how she would think.

4. To me, this is a very non-traditional paranormal. Realistic Fiction I think we could call it. The romance even felt better for me. Why go the route of realistic and not full-out paranormal?''

Well, I think it's non-traditional paranormal, in that it's non-stereotypical paranormal, in that it doesn't have the expected "types" of paranormal creatures--vampires, zombies, werewolves, etc. The more realistic framework keeps Tornado Siren from being completely fantastical in its setting. But to me, what makes a paranormal story most interesting is changing one key element of reality, and then seeing how characters and the rest of the world react. I've often played with that in my writing for theater--telling stories that are twisted just a little bit. These are the kinds of stories that most fully engage me, the ones that make me look at the world a little differently when I walk down the street, or watch the news. One of the most gratifying aspects of having Tornado Siren published is when readers tell me that they don't see the weather reports of tornado touchdowns the same anymore.

5. Aside from it being a scientifically well written novel, it's interracial. Why interracial?

When I started writing this book, my wife and I had just adopted our daughter. My daughter is black (we're white), and I wanted to write a strong female black character (bi-racial in the case of Victoria) that she might find interesting and inspiring someday. There just weren't many black women scientists in novels that I could find at that time. (I wouldn't say that's changed a lot since.) I also wanted Victoria to have a sense of being an outsider--she's biracial, which can either mean that she fits in well with many different communities, or that she feels just a little bit outside. She's an outsider at her workplace because she's a woman of color. This experience of feeling like an outsider provides a great sense of connection between her and Ben, who is an outsider to the entire human race.

6. Who is your favorite character?

I couldn't pick a favorite. I like Victoria for being so intense and curious and determined--someone willing to walk across Kansas just to see the truth for herself. It's easy to love someone like that. But Ben is so appealing to me for his purity and integrity--he's not trying to impress anyone, he just wants to be himself.

7. What was your favorite part of the novel?

The section in Smith Center always really gets to me--the power of the storm, the devastation, the horrible images, the power of the truth hitting Victoria so hard (and Ben, too). I spent some time there when I was writing, doing research, and so it felt weird to write a scene so destructive to a real place. But it felt clear to me, in a way that brings together essential questions faced by the characters.

8. Even though it's published and well-received, is there anything about it that nags at you? That you maybe thought you could have changed?

I think it's easy to go back and say, oh, well, I'm a better writer now, maybe it'd be better if I wrote it now. But books are a frozen slice of time for a writer, a reflection of characters and story, but also who I was when I was writing it. If I wrote it now (or even re-opened it and started re-working it), it'd be an entirely different story, because I'm different now. The funny thing about writing plays versus writing novels, is that plays stay fluid for a lot longer. You make changes in workshops leading up to production, during rehearsal, and maybe even between or during subsequent productions. For a novel, you make a lot of revisions, but eventually (if you're lucky), it's published and that's it. There are pluses to that, though, because you can move forward a lot easier.

9. What other novels have you written?

My agent is currently shopping two novels for me. One is middle-grade fiction, for kids ages 9-12, about a young adopted black girl forced to spend the summer with her irascible white grandfather. While she's there, she discovers that he disappears into the wood every night, with shovels and picks, digging for something. She ends up getting pulled into his intense search for buried treasure. It's a fun treasure hunt story, but also about a relationship that grows between granddaughter and grandfather.

The second is an adult novel about a married couple who are compulsive movers. They meet on a moving day, get engaged on a moving day, they move 18 times in 18 years. And then the wife decides she doesn't want to move anymore. Her decision causes a huge rift in their marriage. It's a book very much about marriage, about a couple trying to figure out how to stay married if they're no longer the same people they once were. Race plays a part in this one, too. It's a very American story, looking at the heart of the wanderlust that makes up our American identity.

10. What is to come in the future?

I'm hard at work on a new historical novel (my first) about Robert Smalls, a black hero from the Civil War. I have some short plays in a festival in Boston in January, and a reading a new full-length play coming up in New York in February. And a short film is being made of one of my one-act plays, Measuring Matthew. It should be hitting the festival circuit next spring and the internet. We had a blast shooting it, and I'm excited to see how it turns out.


Thanks again, Patrick!
For more information on Patrick, visit his website, purchase Tornado Siren for your Kindle or the paperback if you don't win a copy during the challenge.

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