These interview topics were developed from Percy’s own biography to get at some of the interesting stories that might not be shared otherwise. Percy was asked to share stories about himself as they relate to the topics below. You can follow him by clicking here or looking at his Facebook page here.
Please share a story about yourself as it relates to each of the three words. If you do think of something that relates specifically to your latest book, A Few Lives Lost, please share.
Friendship. Among the greatest of all human achievements. Right up there with the internet, the Apollo program, and pogo sticks. The difference being that you don’t need an army of engineers and scientists to hold a patent as co-inventor on the former. It spans the entire spectrum of possibilities; as shallow as a single conversation, or as deep as taking a bolt of lightning in the face for another person. Now that’s powerful stuff. Once established, like any human invention, friendship requires maintenance. A screw tightened here, or some fuel added there.
Having lived all across the country, my most recent move covering several thousand miles from Seattle to the Kansas City area, I found myself letting old friends wither on the vine instead of rightfully adding them to the to-do list for the week. I also never got into the social networking scene… until now. Writing has forced my hand somewhat in this field and I find myself more and more engaged with friends, both new and old, from around the world. An unforeseen positive that I never would have guessed to come about from devoting more time to the computer.
The four children of A Few Lives Lost don’t have the luxury of falling out of touch. Together they survive, apart they succumb. Light, even when they’re together they succumb. Bad example! My personal experience of the necessity of friends, and then somehow letting that necessity sit on the back-burner, had me wanting to play with the idea of forging unbreakable relationships that couldn’t possibly suffer the same waning that distance and priority have brought to mine.
Paradoxically, I didn’t want to create this relationship from characters who were from identical backgrounds. I wanted to take black and white, blur the lines through hardship and their need for each other, and illustrate that nobody’s views and beliefs are immune to further learning and understanding when we’re reduced to our animalistic fundamentals. i.e. take away our cozy situations, our guaranteed stability, and our pride, and we find ourselves much more open to listening to the other side. This particular dynamic is very much a childhood vs. adulthood, immaturity vs. maturity thing for me. Through high school and college, I thought I knew it all. That my views were iron-clad and immovable. Then I woke up and grew up, recognizing that so much in the world isn’t black and white. One of my very best friends differs from me in nearly every aspect – political views, religion, social status, life outlook and goals, etc… ‑ and yet we maintain a closeness that is practically indescribable. A Few Lives Lost is a case of opposites attracting despite the potent repulsion in between, with the ultimate message that opening your mind to other beliefs, cultures, backgrounds, and traditions has vastly superior rewards, including life itself, than shutting out foreign possibilities.
I don’t want to get any humorous and quite sacrilegious Monty Python songs stuck in anyone’s head… what am I saying? Yes I do. Always look on the bright side of life! My parents divorced at an early age and I lost one of them in high school. We were never poor-poor, but definitely broke. In money anyway. My family’s spirits are too strong to bend, let alone break, under such minor hardships. As a matter of fact, I’m not even going to refer to them as minor hardships. I’ll simply call it life. It’s living. It’s what we all do, and I’m as certain as the Jertain in the curtain (a little of my Dr. Seuss repertoire spilling out there) that the majority of planet Earth’s population, human and non-human, have it harder than me. This life is mine. It is what I make of it. If I make hardships hard, thus life will be. It’s my choice.
In A Few Lives Lost, I really wanted to capture the idea that society today has become more spoiled and entitled than at any point in humankind’s history, and yet we still find ourselves complaining about this thing or the other (not pointing fingers as I am as guilty as a dog at the dinner table!). We’re bothered by what some celebrity wore downtown when we should be concerned with who is running for office and how they are defending our personal views and freedoms. Two of the main characters have an amazing life that is ripped away, and violently so, when society crumbles. The other two had nothing to begin with. How their perspectives on life differ and whether society’s downfall is a bad thing at all, is one of the major devices playing throughout the story.
I wouldn’t say that I am a frivolous person, but I definitely enjoy my sense of humor. Laughing is one of my all-time favorite activities. The difference between frivolity and where I consider myself to be is the maturity to understand the tone a situation warrants. I can be carefree, silly, and downright immature, but I would like to think that I do so when it’s appropriate (My wife would undoubtedly argue otherwise). On the other hand, as an aerospace engineer by education and primary trade, I can be literal and, to be blunt, obtuse in my appreciation of the humor around me (No arguments from my wife here!).
Perhaps contrary to the idea of frivolity is my very reserved nature. People didn’t know I was applying to colleges until after I was accepted, and I even debated with my wife as to whether we should tell our family that we were pregnant (the promise of baby-related help and gifts won me over on that one!). As my debut novel, my wife was the only person that knew I was writing prior to publication. I don’t like drawing attention to achievements before they’ve been accomplished, or at least before they’re guaranteed to be accomplished. I believe this stems, at least in part, from people telling me that they are going to do something and then never following through. I’m going to quit smoking, I’m going to get a job here, I’m going to do this or that. Intentions aren’t action. Going to isn’t the same as I have. Two years of secrecy, two years of late nights and early mornings in front of the computer, all rewarded with a real accomplishment that I am proud to have my name on.
Unfortunately, as publication neared, I realized as with any piece of artwork, I would be opening myself to my audience. This clearly conflicted with my private nature. The idea of exposing my work, and therefore myself, to the world was quite daunting, and perhaps the single largest challenge I faced late in the book’s development. There were times I thought having a nude photo of myself circulated across the internet would be less revealing. There are times today that I think that! I coped with one simple thought: If this book is a piece of garbage, it is my piece of garbage, and for that I can be proud. The book has been well received and the exposure itself has been a wonderful exercise in pulling me out of my box, forcing me to interact with people and establishments in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise. My sincerest hope is that love it or hate it, a piece of garbage or the beacon on the hill, my work isn’t perceived as frivolous waste.