Steven Harper on Drunk Writing in the Basement and his new novel The Importance of Being Kevin

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The Importance of Being Kevin by Steven Harper
Dreamspinner Press

Published July 2nd 2019
Cover Art: Aaron Anderson

Buy Links

Dreamspinner Press |  AmazonIndie BoundGoogle Books 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Steven Harper here today on tour for his new release, The Importance of Being Kevin.  Welcome, Steven.

 

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DRUNK WRITING IN THE BASEMENT

Ever drunk written a chapter and then read it the next day and still been happy with it?  Trust me there’s a whole world of us drunk writers dying to know.

I totally wrote a chunk of a fantasy novel while I was high in my basement.  Truth!

See, I’m a rotten sleeper.  Have been for most of my life.  Nothing beats a long day like staring up at the ceiling all night. Finally I complained about it to my doctor, and she prescribed Ambien.  Miracle!  Suddenly I was able to sleep!

Ambien does have its problems, as you’ve probably heard.  It can monkey with your memory or spur you to wander about your house, opening odd cupboards and stumbling down stairs.  It never did any of these things to me.  Until…

One evening I was hard at work on DANNY, my YA bisexual fantasy novel, and I noticed it was getting on to bedtime.  I didn’t want to quit writing quite yet, but I did pause long enough to take a dose of Ambien.  It usually takes about half an hour for it to kick in, so I could get in another chunk of writing.  I got back to my computer to hit the keys.

And then I woke up in bed the next morning.  It wasn’t until after breakfast that it came to me–I didn’t remember how I’d ended the day yesterday.  Mystified, I went into my office.  The computer was powered down.  I booted it up and called up the most recent files.

I discovered an entire scene I didn’t remember writing.  It was an action scene, a fight between a monster and the main characters.  And it used the style and voice I had chosen for the novel.  The writing was solid, and it advanced the plot the way I needed it to.

Reading it was the strangest feeling.  I never get to read my own work as a reader, and I’d always kind of wondered what it was like for people to read my stuff.  Now I was actually doing it.  This writing was mine, with characters and a setting I had created, but I had no idea what twists the scene would take or how it would end.  It was like finding a journal entry I didn’t remember making, or stumbling across an album filled with photos of myself I had never seen.  It was me, but not a me I remembered.

I kept the scene, with only minor edits.  If you’ve a mind, you can read DANNY and look for it.  Email me your best guess, and I’ll tell you if you found it!

I didn’t write THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING KEVIN while high on Ambien, though it did involve a my front porch, a water fountain, and a hella lot of caffeine.   That’s another story.

BLURB

Kevin Devereaux’s life can’t get worse. He’s on probation. He’s stuck with an unemployed ex-convict dad. And he lives in a run-down trailer on the crappy east side of town. To keep his probation officer happy, Kevin joins a theater program for teenagers and falls hard for Peter Finn, the lead actor in the show—and the son of the town’s leading family. Despite their differences, Peter returns Kevin’s feelings, and for the first time, Kevin learns what it means to be in love.

But Peter’s family won’t accept a gay son—let alone a boyfriend from the wrong side of the tracks—and in their conservative town, they must keep the romance secret. Still, they have the play, and they have each other, so they’ll get by—

Until a brutal attack shatters Kevin’s life and puts Peter in danger of going to jail for murder.

About the Author STEVEN HARPER PIZIKS

Steven Harper Piziks was born with a last name no one can reliably spell or pronounce, so he usually writes under the name Steven Harper. He grew up on a farm in Michigan but has also lived in Wisconsin and Germany, and spent extensive time in Ukraine. So far, he’s written more than two dozen novels and over fifty short stories and essays. When not writing, he plays the folk harp, lifts weights, and spends more time on-line than is probably good for him. He teaches high school English in southeast Michigan, where he lives with his husband and youngest son. His students think he’s hysterical, which isn’t the same as thinking he’s funny.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Visit Steven’s web page at http://www.stevenpiziks.com or http://www.stevenharperwriter.com . You can also find him on Facebook as Steven Harper Piziks and on Twitter as Steven Piziks.

A Caryn Release Day Review: The Importance of Being Kevin by Steven Harper

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Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Slow start, strong finish.

I have to admit I did not read the blurb as closely as I should have, so I was surprised to discover one of the MCs was only 16 years old.  I think I read “probation officer” and automatically thought adult.  The fact that this is a story involving high schoolers makes it a little distressing, as it really covers some seriously dark and violent topics – I don’t believe the blurb gave adequate warning – that are not my usual cup of tea, especially at this age, and I’m sure that colored my feelings about the book, and this review.  My ambivalence towards the violence made it difficult to really get into the book, but by the end, the author wrapped it all up in a way that made me think, ahh, now I get it!  So, ultimately satisfying despite that ambivalence early on.

The story began with 16 year old Kevin Devereaux trying out for a summer production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.  He’d never acted before, and only tried out because his probation officer made doing something productive during the summer a condition of staying out of juvie.  Kevin was shocked to find not only did he make it in, but he was cast as Algy, one of the leads.  The other lead was scored by Peter Finn, a 19 year old theater veteran who was everything Kevin was not – confident, good looking, wealthy – and the two boys discovered immediately that not only were they both gay, but they were attracted to each other.  For Peter, those feelings came naturally, but Kevin had so many hang ups about himself that he had a great deal of trouble accepting that maybe finding a boyfriend really could be just that easy.

But just after their first meeting, just after their first kiss – Kevin became the victim of a terrible assault.

I have to admit, I was shocked.  I just wasn’t expecting the violence.  And then the reasons why Kevin was on probation in the first place, and why his father was in prison, also came out, along with the dark aspects of Kevin’s personality:  his temper, his anger, and his inability to control them.  Suddenly, I wasn’t sure what to think of him.  I had a hard time reconciling Kevin’s sweet, shy, insecure side with his violent actions and thoughts.  And I really felt that way pretty much all the way until the end last few chapters of the book, which kept me from truly identifying with the romance between the two boys until the end.  Both Kevin and Peter grew and matured in significant ways due to the trauma they each experienced during the summer, and that character growth is what made this better than a 3 star read for me.  There is also a wonderful scene with Kevin’s first exposure to other queer youth that was so heartwarming, and just gave me all the feels.

The way the author wove in quotes from Wilde’s play to reflect exactly what was going on with the MCs was very clever, especially as the plot of the book does not reflect the plot of the play.  I was also extremely pleased that Kevin rarely fell into the TSTL trap of not telling people what was going on, or witholding important information from them – at least not for too long anyway – that I have seen in other books addressing similar topics and relationship inequalities.  Peter also kept important information from Kevin at first, but revealing his true identity to Kevin seemed like it came at the appropriate time (and that was the only significant parallel with the play!).  Kevin’s father turned into a fairly complex man who was able to truly understand and support Kevin, and was an excellent secondary character.  The villain, however, was too simplistic, and Peter’s parents were mostly caricatures.

Overall, a really good book.  And I’m very glad I stuck with it despite being a bit surprised by the age of the MCs.

Cover art by Aaron Anderson was exactly what the blurb should have been – a portrait of a deeply troubled young man.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks |

Book Details:

ebook, 218 pages
Expected publication: July 2nd 2019 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN1 39781644052563