An exciting adventure into young adult Sci-Fi with a positive message: Hope.
The multi-faceted Independent Author Kenyon Gagne writes for a younger audience with a dash of adventure… He also reads Dostoyevsky, Dickens, Austen, and Alcott! Here’s how the interview went:
Jenn: How did your journey as a writer begin?
Kenyon: I’m going to include the link to an essay on my website that goes into a lot of detail answering this question, and the next question especially! But I’ll give you the shortened version: My journey started with a love for reading. My Mom–who passed away just three weeks ago–was very diligent about reading to my brother, my sister, and me. We’ve all been book lovers ever since. I think I realized in fifth grade that I had absorbed some pretty good writing technique, and I leaned on that to squeak through high school. I have never had the most organized brain, so it didn’t occur to me back then to attempt anything longer than short stories. Poetry became my main jam and was the perfect outlet for my teen angst. It was definitely what I was doing when I was supposed to be doing math.
When I was 24 I met my future wife, and became too happy, and too busy, to write much. When I was in my mid-forties, and my two daughters had gotten a little older, I started to reflect on how we were reminding them every day that ‘all doors were open to them’, and ‘life was what they made of it, while I myself continued to work forty hours a week at a job that gave me no joy. I knew I could write; I decided to take my best idea and give it my best shot. If I had known how rewarding it was to organize my brain-hurricane into a coherent, full-length novel, I would have done it decades earlier. But I do think it benefited from some growing up on my part.
J: What was the inspiration for The Goners Trilogy?
K: The striking slowdown in America’s progress into space after the Challenger Shuttle explosion–the evident (and appropriate) weight our leaders were giving to resolving any problems before risking another human life. Then, a cluster of suicides at the high school in my old hometown threw itself in sharp contrast with this caution. The idea of a government program that accepted suicidal volunteers for the purpose of advancing human progress without consideration for safety popped into my head. It was just a conversation I had with a coworker, but it lingered in my head for another 15 years. Then, a relative of a relative committed suicide. She was only 12 or 13. My own girls were just a couple of years younger, and I really started to think about the hurt life can inflict on a young person. I wanted to share my greatest natural resource–my boundless optimism–with all the kiddos in the world, but also acknowledge that their struggles were real. When I decided to write a book, these ideas all came together. The Meaningful Conclusion Program was the perfect vehicle for my three main characters to find out if hope could begin, and flourish, where it was pretty much contractually not allowed.
J: Setting a soundtrack for the book was such a great idea! How did that idea come about and which track is your favorite?
K: Once I had decided to write The Goners, I began to picture it like a movie in my head. I would imagine scenes over and over while listening to songs I thought matched the dynamic. Many of the most powerful moments in my favorite movies are amplified with music. I couldn’t resist trying to infuse my book with some of that power. My FAVORITE song linked to the books is easy. When The Goners Movie is made someday, and people are going back to see it thirty-five times, it’s the song that will give them goosebumps the way the Star Wars theme did to their grandparents: ‘Question’, by The Moody Blues. The breakneck beginning, the heart-breaking middle, it’s just so dramatic and perfect. It was a go-to for me when I was a sad teen, and when I got into my future wife’s car on our first date and sat on the cassette, I thought this relationship might have a chance.
My favorite song from ‘Damsel’ is probably ‘Maybe the People Would Be the Times’ by Love. It sits at the dead center of the trilogy and has almost a fiesta sound, but with a weird kind of sadness or apprehension. It lets you know that our beloved characters have gotten somewhere, but can we trust that they are on the right track?
J: Which character of The Goners Trilogy do you most resemble?
K: Well, Dublin is an exaggerated version of me as a sixteen-year-old: desperate for female companionship, and convinced that his face must be the problem, not his personality, or anything else within his ability to control. Kaywin is an idealized version of grown-up me. I would hope to be as loving, kind, and patient as him. It was very new and very challenging for me to try to live in Prudence’s head. She is the opposite of Dublin: Dublin is invisible in the way he most wants to be visible; Prudence is exposed and exploited and would give anything to fly under the radar. Although she was conceived as a counterpoint to Dublin (maybe even because of this) I took the task of describing her journey very seriously. It was a little easier in Book One because she had so many walls up. Now that they are coming down a little, I’m continuing to research issues that are common among abuse survivors so I can render her respectfully and realistically.
J: Tomorrow you wake up with Prudence, Dublin, and Kaywin. How would you do as a fourth on their mission?
K: Terribly! I don’t want to die! I have zero need for speed–I don’t even want to race Moon Cruisers, let alone some of the other crazy stuff they have to do! I would be the ‘Lunar Sanitation Specialist’ kind of Goner…
J: Who are your author “heroes?”
K: At the risk of sounding like Dublin…sigh…Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky are way up there for me. I’ve finally read a couple of Jane Austen books, and man is she good! Charles Dickens–I think ‘A Christmas Carol’ is the most beautiful thing in the English language. So, lots of classics. I loved my Hardy Boys as a kid. Love, love, love some Edgar Rice Burroughs (Tarzan, John Carter of Mars, and many more). I think I learned how to set up a dramatic moment from him; he is the master of that. There’s a lot of baggage associated with J. K. Rowling now, and I understand why many would not want to support her anymore, but I think the Harry Potter books did more to stimulate young people to read than ANY books EVER. Wonderful books for their long-term plotting, and for building a world that you just want to go back to over and over again. Suzanne Collins–ten pages into The Hunger Games, she had me caring more deeply about a character than I ever had in my life (another thing I wanted to emulate in my books!)
J: What can readers expect from you next?
K: The Goners Volume 3! Although it will definitely be a while. I have lived so long in the world of The Goners, that it’s hard for me to answer what might come after. I’ve thought about re-editing V1, because: people love the premise. People love the characters. People love the cover. And yet, I am still working my day job.
I think if I re-edited it I could address the pacing, which lags in parts, among other things. I still have faith that these characters and this concept could offer something to a lot of readers. Other than that, I’m sure that when I finish Volume 3, new ideas will come flooding in. My wife is constantly searching for the perfect Witch novel, and constantly finding ones that she finds just okay. I’ve toyed with the idea of trying to hit that bullseye.
J: What advice do you have for new writers?
K: Write your book with passion, the way you want to, but do use beta readers afterward. I did not, and I wish I had. It’s okay to be uncompromising with your artistic vision–it’s yours and no one else’s–but some small changes could give your book a much better chance to succeed. Make friends in the #WritingCommunity on Twitter! Learn from their successes and failures. Spend some money on your cover! From the dawn of time, till the end of time, people will in fact judge a book by its cover. Make sure you love your story and get over your fear of telling people about it!
J: What are you currently reading?
K: I’m very near the end of Little Women. I’m a slow reader, and it’s much longer than I thought it was, but I have absolutely loved it. I’m a notorious crier, in a house full of stoic women, so this book has gotten me made fun of more than once.
Okay, that’s all for now. Have a wonderful day, everyone!