Stunt Road is the story of Pete McFadden, an unemployed computer graphics designer who cynically invents his own system of fortune telling. When “Horokinetics” unexpectedly takes off and becomes the next “big thing,” Pete stumbles into web of corporate greed and personal betrayal that threatens to turn his harmless prank into a dangerous psychological weapon he can no longer control. It’s Frankenstein for the digital age.
The book is the result of a conversation I had at a new age themed restaurant in Los Angeles – my family and I started speculating on ways to mimic the supposed accuracy of astrology, and gradually I began to imagine what might unfold if I were to actually invent my own system of fortune telling. Using the idea to satirize corporate marketing cynicism and human gullibility just sounded like too much fun to pass up.
What is your writing process like?
For me the greatest challenge in writing is getting momentum. I’ll spend months dithering and outlining before committing a single word to paper. Once I’ve got the ball rolling on whatever particular project I’m working on, the writing seems to happen automatically. But keeping that momentum is a Sisyphean task, so in practice I produce text in bursts, punctuated by periods of gloomy distraction. Hardly an advertisement for the writing life…
Your day job involves running a small holiday cottage complex in the French countryside. How do you balance work and writing?
Precariously. In summer, our tourist season, I am occupied more or less full time with looking after our guests, fixing toilets, mowing grass and pretending to be charming. In winter I get up very early, when I can bear it, but then writing has to compete with cutting firewood and maintaining our seven acres of woodland and fields. It’s a wonderful life out here in the middle of nowhere, and about as far from the LA suburbs of my childhood as one could get. But I get a lot of people asking what I do all day, imagining perhaps that we sit around drinking wine and watching sheep. The fact is, this country living business is hard work. And of course when you work from home, when you are your own boss, it requires some discipline to write instead of doing other “more important” things like making coffee… or making money.
You make no apologies for self-publishing your book. Why did you decide to go this route?
In my case the decision was a combination of circumstances and character. I have a knack for bad timing, and I contrived to finish my final edits just as the world economy was collapsing and book publishers were announcing their utter lack of interest in publishing fiction by obscure first-time authors. I sent the manuscript to a few agents, but quickly concluded that in the current climate I was wasting my time. But I’m also a contrarian by nature, and the idea of going it alone appealed to me. Having total control of the fate of my novel is both challenging and satisfying. And I get a lot of mileage out of grumbling about those big bad publishing companies and how I didn’t sell out to the Man.
What kind of editorial process was involved? Did anyone else look at the manuscript before it went to press? A writers group, for example, or a professional editor?
My wife and I are both lawyers by training, so we’re both used to editing text to a ridiculously high standard (an inadvertent double space between words can get you twenty lashes in a big corporate firm). I also was lucky enough to have a team of willing volunteers in a variety of professions who went over the manuscript with a fine-toothed comb.
What kind of feedback have you gotten regarding the book?
I’ve had great reader reviews but, as is the case with most “indie” authors, frustratingly few professional reviews. The biggest criticism has been that the main character is somewhat infuriating. He is lost, and only begins to find himself towards the end of the book. Most readers are able to forgive him his faults as he slowly struggles to accept responsibility for his actions, but others judge him more harshly. He is deeply flawed, as are we all. If you have little tolerance for human weakness, it’s not the book for you.
Describe your ideal reader.
Anyone who doesn’t take him or herself too seriously should enjoy Stunt Road. The ideal reader for this book is someone who instinctively questions the world around us, who can laugh at the human condition, who isn’t too quick to judge others, and who isn’t convinced that he or she has all the answers. I write for people who can appreciate just how awful this world can be, but who refuse to let that quell their sense of humor.
What are you working on now?
I worked with refugees for a couple of years in West Africa in the late 1990’s when the civil war in Sierra Leone flared up again. I’ve carried those experiences around with me for a decade now waiting to feel ready to write about them. So I’ve recently begun a novel loosely based on what I saw there. It will be much darker than Stunt Road, but still, if all goes as planned, retain a sense of humor and of hope.