Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Giveaway and Interview- Far From the War by Jeffrey David Payne

Today I have author of Far From the War, Jeffrey David Payne here to answer some questions plus a giveaway.

Hi, welcome to Tantalizing Illusions! It's great to have you. To start off, there will be four fun, random-ish questions. Then there will be some questions about the book itself. 

1. You can't live without... 

Music. I prepare special playlists for each project to help me tap into the mood of the book when I sit down to write. And I'm a big music lover in general, from classical to reggae to bluegrass to techno.

2. What are your top five books?

This is a tough one. I tried to use the criteria of books you continue to think about long after you've read them. The Jungle, Upton Sinclair The Master and Commander Series, Patrick O'Brian The Guns of August, Barbara Tuchman Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthyCharlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl

3. The world's best food is...

Clam Chowder from Duke's. Sourdough bread is a close second.

4. What was on your playlist for Far From the War?

Here's the list...

Girl In The War - Josh Ritter  (One of my favorite versions of this one is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qb5Ax6eT8aA)
Bells For Her - Tori Amos
Dazzle - Siouxsie and the Banshees
Time to Pretend - MGMT
Lucretia My Reflection - Sisters of Mercy
The Fallen - Franz Ferdinand
Masters of War - Bob Dylan
The Funeral - Band Of Horses
Lorelei - Cocteau Twins
Heartbeats - Jose Gonzalez
Resistance - Muse
Teardrop - Massive Attack
The Joke Isn't Funny Anymore - The Smiths
Homeward - The Sundays
Apres Moi - Regina Spektor
Yes, Anastasia - Tori Amos
Running to a Stand Still - U2
Universal Soldier - Donovan

Where did the idea for Far From the War come from?

It started with a fascination with the San Juan Islands.  I've been all over the Carribbean, but I've never seen anything there half as beautiful as the view from Mount Constitution on Orcas Island.  My wife and I rented a waterfront cottage there one weekend to celebrate the completion of my first novel (not Far From The War, this one hasn't been published yet).  I fell love with the isolation and started to wonder what it would be like to be totally cut off from the mainland.  The idea for a book started cooking there in that cottage and as we toured the island I talked with locals about life on the island, how they'd handle it if the ferry stopped coming, if communications and power were cut off, etc.  I knew there would have to be some big calamity on the mainland to explain that loss contact.  This was around the time of the mid term congressional elections in the United States and some of the candidates were hinting about using violence if Republicans didn't retake the house.  One candidate in particular started talking about "second amendment remedies".  This sparked the idea of a modern day civil war and my original idea was to alternate between the POV of the island and some family member off on the mainland caught up in the war.  I quickly realized this would make for a long book (and I think forcing readers to read long books is kind of impolite), so I broke the alternating storylines into separate books.  The choice of Esther as a protagonist came through a process of elimination.  We're used to seeing war stories told from the perspective of a spy, of soldiers, of politicians.  I wanted a unique point of view for the story and one that wouldn't put the reader in a position of taking sides, because in this case who wins the war is beside the point.  I thought a seventeen year girl was an unusual perspective for a war story, but then the problem became how to explain why a seventeen year old girl would be so far from home and in a position to see some of the inside baseball before the war.  When a friend reminded me about the page program, I had my answer.

Esther is a clever, capable woman. How did you think of her?

I have a theater background and wrote a lot of plays before I switched to novels.  My friends in that world (most of whom were women) often complained about a lack of good roles for women.  This put me in a mindset of trying to depict women as something other than the protagonist's companion whenever possible.  For Esther in particular, I tried to draw on my memories of high school debate.  Debaters are a different breed and when you're on the debate team you spend a lot of time in cafeterias and libraries talking about things most high school kids never talk about.  I remember a host of quirky, smart, funny, ambitious, and often tough girls from those days.  I'd say Esther is an amalgam of those girls with a little of my wife's hipness and my mother's stoicism thrown in.

Esther's journey was long and full of hardship. Was it based on a real story?

Not really.  I think it was influenced by some real war atrocities throughout history, but I did so much reading and research that I'm not sure if I can connect the specifics of my book to any real historical events.  A little unintended similarity may have crept in by osmosis, though.

There were some disturbing, terrifying scenes in Far From the War. Did you have a hard time 
writing them?

Yes.  I once saw an interview with Salmon Rushdie where he said "if you don't cry writing it, they won't cry reading it."  Perhaps the image of a grown man crying in front of his iMac might strike your readers as creepy, but the honest answer is I did get a little swept up at certain points, particularly the Chicago sequence, the road agent sequence and the end of the book.  The Chicago sequence was tough because Esther was just beginning to let go of enough ambition to have some real friendships, the road agent scene for obvious reasons and the finale at the ferry landing because I'm a father now and I tried to imagine how I'd react if I were in the same position as Esther's father.

Is there a message you want your readers to take from Far From the War?

I think there are two messages, one as a corollary to the other.  The first is that family has to come first.  The only lasting happiness in this life comes from loving and being loved.  Unfortunately the family you're born into can't always provide this happiness, this sense of safety.  Only a family that provides real love is worthy of your loyalty.  If you're not born into it, you have to go out there and find the right partner that can provide it. I think all the misery in this world comes from people who don't understand that.  They were born into predatory and unloving families and have rejected the notion of emotional attachments to others or they've given up completely.  For that reason, I feel sorry for them, but we also have to be on our guard, because those people run the world and they'll march a whole generation to their deaths or take the whole world back to feudalism if we're not vigilant.

So the corollary message is that some level of political awareness, if not activism, is necessary to provide a safe environment for your family once you've found it.  Shelby Foote once said that what really caused the first civil war in America was a failure to compromise.  Our sense of political identity needs to morph into something less divisive and more cooperative.  Whatever your political stripe, you can't honestly expect your side to win all the time, but you can work with your opposition to prevent a problem or crisis from festering into something that can only be settled with violence.  The people of the world have walked off the field and left politics to the bitter and unloved, people who don't really have anything to loose.  This does not bode well for the future of the world, much less America.

What can you say about your next book, The Mail Still Runs?

The Mail Still Runs is told from the perspective of Esther's younger sister Charlotte.  Through her eyes we see how the war impacts life back home and how Esther's absence impacts the family.  We also see what happens after Esther gets home and follow the reunited family through later stages of the war.  I'd also add that Chad's father, who's briefly mentioned in Far From The War, is a major figure in The Mail Still Runs and if you remember what Esther's family tells her about Matthew, it would follow that he makes an appearance in the second book.  Since you're Canadian, I'll also mention that much of the second book takes place on Vancouver Island: Port Hardy, Tofino, etc.  I'll be exploring what happens in Canada when millions of American war refugees start pouring over the border.

The final book in the series, The Flag We Sleep Under, is told from Matthew's perspective.  It will give us a soldier's perspective on the war, his take on meeting Esther and eventually his attempt to find her and resume the relationship that started on the battlefields of Kansas.

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Those were some great answers. I have some new titles to add to my TBR for one. I can't wait for The Mail Still Runs! Till then, you can all read Far From the War. 

Giveaway Rules and Policy:  
- 13 and older, and please have your parent's permission
- international
- to enter, just fill out the form below
- ends on October 31st 2011 at 11:59 PM EST 
- if there are 100+ entries, I'll also be giving away my personal copy of Far From the War so there will be two winners (so spread the word!)

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