How far must we travel to find our way home?
Today I have something special – my first interview with an actual author! I’m pretty excited! Shenanigans over at Reads and Reels organized this book promotion, but I actually got to read the book and ask the author a few questions.
The book is Fender: A Novel by author Brent Jones. You can get it here from Kindle Unlimited.
The book is about Brennan, a middle-aged guy whose life has been turned upside down when his wife and daughter are killed in an accident. He’s ready to hole up in his house and surrender to the grief, but thanks to his friends, he agrees to go on a road trip, just the guys and his beloved dog, Fender.
It was a change of pace for me, to read a book from a squarely male perspective. The only female characters in here are presented in flashbacks or as bit characters. I could really feel the difference in the way the book worked, but I enjoyed the difference.
I’ve traveled by car a lot in my life, driving to visit relatives, moving, family vacations – so I could really imagine that part of the book. There’s something magical about the open road. It really does feel liberating.
From bad checks to bathroom graffiti, Brent Jones has always been drawn to writing. He won a national creative writing competition at the age of fourteen, although he can’t recall what the story was about. Seventeen years later, he gave up his freelance career as a social media manager to pursue creative writing full-time. Fender and The Fifteenth of June are his first two novels.
Interview Q & A
1. What inspired you to write this book?
As I mentioned in the afterword, my wife and I took a cross-country road trip with our dogs back in 2015. I recently published a blog post
with photos and the itinerary from that trip. It was a life-changing experience traveling across America by car, and the road trip in Fender
largely follows the same path we took.
I’m sometimes asked why I write contemporary fiction—literary fiction, as some call it. How come I don’t write about vampires or killer robots or contact with Martians? The answer is pretty simple. I think truth is strange enough without needing to invent alternate worlds. And when I come up with ideas for stories, I usually try to take two or more seemingly unrelated real life experiences and find a way to mash them together.
I started with the road trip idea and blended it with experiences I’ve had with my dog, Gibson, who much like the beagle protagonist in my book, is named after a guitar. Gibson has helped me through some difficult times, and I started wondering if there was a way I could combine the two ideas of a vehicular adventure and the comfort of a canine friend.
Both aspects of the story were worth telling, I thought. And so I worked backwards—what circumstances would need to transpire to bring together the therapeutic love a dog with a cross-country road trip? And that’s how Fender was born.
2. Where did you get the idea for Brennan and his close friendship with the guys? Is that based on real life?
I wish it were based on real life. I can’t say I have any close friends from childhood. For that matter, I’m a bit of an introverted loner as an adult. But there is something to being able to connect with people you share a history with. There’s an instant bond there, especially if those shared experiences include elements of overcoming adversity together. For two people to abandon their families and leave town for several weeks just to help out a friend, I figured they must share some pretty deep roots. And I felt that a shared experience of childhood poverty and neglect would be a powerful enough reason to forge such a bond.
3. Fender the dog is central to the story. Tell us a story about your dogs.
Fender, the dog, is largely based off Gibson, who is a pug mix and five-and-a-half years old. But the dog who usually gives us the most stories is Stirling, our four-year-old lab mix. It’s becoming a running (albeit unfunny) joke that whenever we travel with Stirling, we need to map out all the nearby emergency vet clinics.
When driving through California, Stirling got into something at a dog park and ended up ill for the rest of our road trip. He couldn’t hold down water or food after that. Last year we rented a waterfront property for two weeks in Nova Scotia, and Stirling decided to make friends with a porcupine. He needed several quills removed from his face in the middle of the night, and the closest vet was an hour away by car.
He’s a good boy—he comes to see me every morning for a hug! I’ll be sitting at my desk and he’ll walk up beside me, place a paw on my leg, wait for me to turn, then stand upright and wrap both his front paws around my neck. It’s just part of our routine and it happens just like clockwork. He’s a lot more work than Gibson, but he can be a lot more affectionate, too.
4. I loved the author’s note about the road trips you took before writing this book. Is there anywhere you’d like to visit that you haven’t been yet?
There are many places in the world I still hope to visit one day. But for the sake of staying consistent with road trips and the themes in Fender, I’m going to pick a location in the United States. My wife is originally from Atlanta, and we’ve made several drives there from Fort Erie. We recently drove to Washington, DC for a wedding and Miami, Florida for a funeral. Between us, we’ve been just about every state, and we’ve logged an absurd number of hours on the road. But there is one state I’ve always wanted to visit and neither of us have been, and that’s Tennessee. I’d love to drive out to Nashville or Memphis—or both!—for a few days to check out the local music scene and tour the Gibson guitar factory. We’ve driven through parts of the state, but have never stopped.