Marilyn Holdsworth

Broken Pieces - Rachel Thompson

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Author Interview – Andrew Seaward

Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it? If there is one thing I learned in writing this novel, it’s that there really are no hard and fast rules to a successful recovery. What works for some, may not work for others, and it’s really up to the individual to find his or her own path to successful recovery.
It’s this ambiguity that makes addiction so maddening. You can never tell who’s gonna make it and who’s gonna keep going down that spiral. Take my antagonist, Dave, for instance. I knew a guy exactly like him when I was at rehab in California. He was the meanest, most narcissistic son of a bitch I had ever laid eyes on. He never once took responsibility for any of shortcomings. It was always someone else’s fault—his wife, his lawyer, even his counselors.
None of us, including him, thought he was going to make it. We figured he’d be out on the street smoking crack in a week or two. But then, one day, he completely snapped out of it. Almost overnight, he went from that bitter, egotistical monster, to a kind, generous, and sympathetic father. All it took was a visit from his two sons, ages nine and eleven, who politely asked him in a group therapy session to please not die and leave them alone with their grandmother. After that visit, he rededicated himself to his recovery and vowed to stay sober for his sons, and nobody else, including him.
A lot of the counselor’s thought it was a bad idea. “You have to stay sober for yourself, and not someone else,” they said over and over. “What if your sons leave? What about when they go off to college?”
Well, by that time, he figured he’d have enough sobriety that he’d be able to stay sober on his own. Turns out, he was right. Last I heard, he was still sober, and was even sponsoring a couple young men in the program.
Now, who would’ve thought that? Not me, that’s for sure. Fortunately or unfortunately, this illness has a funny way of challenging our preconceived notions.
Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it? Yes, though I’m not sure if it was actually writer’s block or just fear of being honest. Allow me to explain. When I got to writing the end of the book, I found myself completely paralyzed. I couldn’t come up with anything original and every idea I had was total garbage. I stared at a blank computer screen for the better part of an entire Summer. In fact, while everyone else was out at the city pool playing Marco Polo, I was locked in a hot, sweaty office trying to conjure up the big “Hollywood” ending. I swear, I must’ve gone through a dozen, maybe more, iterations; everything from a hurricane ripping through the rehab (which would’ve been a tad unbelievable considering the rehab’s location in the Rocky Mountains) to an airplane falling out of the sky and flattening the patients…you name the ending, I considered it.
It wasn’t until I went back to the beginning and completely re-wrote myself into Monty that I finally realized his choice in the end was really my choice, which I had been avoiding. I was looking at all these external things—hurricanes, fires, airplane crashes—to end the story, when all I really had to do was look within myself and ask the simple question: What if it were me? How would I react to a similar tragedy? 
As I said, the answer was a little tough to swallow, especially for someone with the three years sobriety. But it taught me a very valuable lesson about myself and my recovery, which is…the path to recovery is a life-long journey, and if I ever want to get there, I can’t just settle with being clean and sober. I have to work on myself…work on becoming a better person, because if I just settle with not drinking, then guess what? One of these days, I’m probably going to end up drinking. It might be in response to some kind of tragedy like Monty experienced, or it might be something small like losing a job or not getting my next novel published. Either way, I’d better start putting in a little more effort, or else my fate could be Monty’s fate one day.
How did you come up with the title? I first picked up the term at a rehab in Anaheim, CA. Every now and then, one of my fellow patients would have a total meltdown during group therapy. They’d start cussing out the counselors, throwing chairs, banging their heads against the wall, picking fights with the other patients, and all other sorts of craziness. At that point, the security guards would come down the stairs in their blue polyester uniforms, wrestle the patient to the ground, and take them away to a “calming room”. Once the dust settled, the remaining patients and I would just turn to each other, shake our heads, and say, “Some Are Sicker Than Others.” It was way to break the tension. I ended up using it all through out my recovery.
It’s actually a fairly common cliché in Alcoholics Anonymous used to describe the varying levels of mental illness among the members. AA is a pretty diverse group. You get all sorts of different personalities; doctors, lawyers, actors, celebrities, ex-con’s, criminals, fathers, mothers, people with no families, people with huge families, and so on and so forth. The only common thread is a desire to stop drinking and/or using—though some may only be there to satisfy a court requirement, but that’s whole different story altogether. The point is, there are a lot of different people in AA and when you get them all in the same room together, you can have chaos. When the shit hits the fan—like a fight or a complete mental breakdown—it’s nice to have a little saying like that to ease the tension.
How did you develop your plot and characters? Great question! I’m what you’d call a “blind writer.” I don’t make an outline or a plot summary before I start writing. I develop my characters first, because, to me, they are the most important. They fuel the story. They grow the plot organically. And because all my characters are based on real life people—or at least an amalgamation of the best and worst of those people—I don’t have to do much work to get them to become three-dimensional. Once they pop to life on the page, the characters’ sort of take over. Through their unique behaviors and tragically flawed choices, they carve out the plot for me, like a wind-up mouse set into motion. The hit-and-run accident was a happy accident. I didn’t come up with that until the end of the second draft. It was the result out of Dave’s narcissism and negligence. Countered with Monty’s self-blame and neurosis, Dave ended up being the perfect candidate for the antagonist!

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Genre – Literary Fiction

Rating – R

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