It’s been a few months since the release of The Drive Home: A Tale of Bromance and Horror and all sales and downloads combined…hundreds of people have enjoyed the novel and many keep asking me about the events that took place during “the drive.” Emerald Inkwell came up with some questions based on personal and fan feedback regarding the story and its twists and turns. We sat down for another author interview, this time, filled with spoilers about the story!
So, if you haven’t finished The Drive Home, click on that link and grab yourself a copy.
This is your final warning: *Spoilers Ahead!*
Oh, my god! What the hell’s wrong with you!?
(laughs) You’re going to have to be a little more specific.
Let’s just get right to it and talk about that ending. I have to say I never saw that coming.
Which part? There were two sides to the ending, Ben’s and then the detective’s.
Let’s go over both. What about Ben’s ending? So, he just snapped and killed a bunch of people, huh?
Basically, yeah. The reaction I got from a lot of people–from the ending chapters as a whole–ended up being the reaction I was aiming for. At first, it gives you that “what the hell?” moment and you don’t quite get why he came unhinged. But then when you start to think about it, you realize it was a lot of little things that we’ve all experienced to some degree just piled on top of him, weighing him down until his mind couldn’t take it anymore. His home life wasn’t what he wanted after he made such a huge decision to move away with Lynn, the long-time job he’d wasted nearly a decade at had gone tits-up, his dream of being a writer seemed unachievable, and his best friends were all moving on with their adult lives, seemingly without him. All of that and more just became a perfect storm of bullshit that inspired that Fight Club-esque mental break.
That’s something I loved about Ben’s break, what “Taylor” tells him in the interrogation room. That Ben “needed a story” and Taylor gave it to him–it was a very “writer-like” thing to do.
That was actually one of my favorite reasons for the break. All the things in life he thought he was controlling (like his job, love life, et cetera) he truly wasn’t. Yet the one thing he thought he couldn’t figure out, like deciding on that perfect story to launch his career, it turns out he was controlling it all along. We’re capable of so much and even if we don’t know that, our souls do. Sometimes our bodies can give us a “push” in the right direction when we’re lost.
It does make a sad sort of sense. Did you pull any of that from personal experience?
In a way. Some of the situations the characters go through or have been through were kernels taken from my life. A lot of the events and conversations were definitely from experiences, either mine or someone I know. I think that makes it more relatable. That’s the side that allowed me to “write what I know.” Then I had to add something to the mix and throw a curveball at the main characters.
I’m guessing that’s the killing spree. I’m assuming you’ve never gone out and murdered a bunch of people.
Well…let’s not get into that! (laughs) No, I haven’t, I swear! But to that point, do you think the writers for Dexter went out and ritualistically killed a bunch of bad guys, just so they could “write what they know”? Of course they didn’t, but they likely did their research and talked to police and serial killers to get into the character’s mind. So, some experiences helped shape the characters in The Drive Home, then I did some research and studied similar characters in fiction to help craft the broken side of Ben. The Taylor side.
So, one question we really wanted to ask was: How is it that no one noticed that Ben was talking to himself all the time? The scenes where he and Ben are together might seem weird from another character’s perspective.
Ah, that is definitely a good question. Addressing that was something I intended on making sure of from the start but didn’t realize I had done it already when I re-read the first draft. It definitely would look weird if someone was arguing with themselves in front of someone else, but there are actually very few times when Ben and Taylor are seen talking to one another in front of other people. Quite often they’re alone when it happens. As for the few times when someone is around them, the dialogue actually blends together as though one person was talking. Other times, Ben is often imagining himself talking to Taylor or is in Taylor’s shoes imagining Ben doing or saying something. Which means that Ben’s mind is playing tricks on him, hearing phrases like “you boys” when someone simply said “you” is just a side effect of that. To the same point, if you saw someone mumbling or talking to themselves, would you really speak up and ask them if they’re alright or just keep on moving?
Let’s shift the focus to Detective Sawyer’s story arc. Why focus so much on him and ruin his life in the end?
Well, if you think about it, that’s why I focused so much on him. So that I could ruin his life in the end. I really enjoyed writing the character and that ending, though. I had always wanted to create that surly, middle-aged detective character who smokes too much and just thinks people are inherently stupid. Originally, the ending was at a slightly confusing spot after the interrogation and Ben had essentially taken on Taylor’s persona while his own consciousness was all but extinct. But it felt unfinished, it needed something to wrap up Ben’s story a little more, which is where the epilogue came in. It gave me a chance to show that even though Ben was once a good guy, things still didn’t work out for him.
But Dan’s poor wife! It was definitely a surprise ending and it really picked up some last-minute steam during the epilogue. Was that intentional?
Yeah, the added “last-minute steam” was intentional. I didn’t want to follow a standard, single climax followed by a wrap-up, story structure. I wanted to give it more of a rollercoaster at times. And that last little bit definitely gave me the opportunity to keep readers “hooked” even after the last page turned. When I had the idea for Dan to come home to another serial killer it turned The Drive Home into something different for me, something more. It changed from being the end of life as Ben knew it, to being the genesis of Dan’s character arc. He has this traditional cop background, but this is going to change him in ways he could never have imagined. When you realize the story that focused so much on Ben and Taylor wasn’t truly about them, and that it’s sort of an “origin” story, your perspective changes a bit.
An origin story? Does that mean we’ll be seeing Dan again? Or Ben, maybe?
When I started writing The Drive Home the answer to that question would have been “no.” But now that it’s out there and I’m hearing people thoughts on the story I think I do want to continue Dan’s storyline more. Delve into that crime/detective genre some more. People really enjoyed his chapters and got a very different type of energy from them. But, I’ve got some ideas for where he may go from here, but nothing set in stone yet. As far as seeing Ben again, you’ll just have to wait and see what happens, but what I will say, is that Dan and Ben’s stories are forever linked. Whatever Dan decides to do next, I’m sure Ben will be involved somehow.
That is pretty exciting, actually! We talked with a few people as they were reading TDH and found that they all said the same things at certain points throughout it. Things like “I think I know who the killer is!” or “I know where this is going.” But when they reached the ending, they were surprised at the Taylor twist and Dan’s fate. Was the ending always planned like that or did you come up with it during the writing?
Yeah, I had a few people say those things to me too. I had an idea of where I wanted things to end, but I wasn’t sure exactly how or where that would happen. As I was writing, I knew that consistency would play a big part in making sense when they got to the end. Like there are very few times after they leave Eugene that both Ben and Taylor are seen together or actually talk to the same person. As I really tried to develop these interactions and moments it helped me find the ending during the writing, rather than planning it out ahead of time. Where I initially ended it, it was about sixty pages lighter and missing something.
It’s funny how things work out like that sometimes. Alright, I do have one last question and it’s something that interviewers always ask new authors. Do you have any advice for writers who one day want to publish a book?
When I Googled that question, I came up with a lot of very similar answers. “Read a lot” or “Write every day.” While those answers are definitely true, I have one tip that helped me out quite a bit.
If you’re like me and get distracted easily—which a lot of writers I know do—write multiple stories at once. Not literally, mind you, but have a few different ideas, preferably in various genres. That way when you get bored or stuck you have something new and different to switch to. Different genres will keep your creativity on its toes and holds your interest longer.
Oh, and if you’re a writer or an artist or like doing something creative, get in touch with Emerald Inkwell. We’re working on trying to bring together a great community of inspired individuals to collaborate on projects or even just bounce ideas off of. We don’t have a start date yet for any “meet-ups” yet, but it’s high up on our priority list. It’s going to be fun!
That’s all for this interview regarding The Drive Home, but I’m sure there’ll be plenty more based on this project and others! I love discussing writing and story ideas with anyone who’ll listen. And my favorite company (Emerald Inkwell!) loves to listen to me gab on and on. I hope this helped shed a little light on some of the bigger twists in the novel and I can’t wait to bring you more great stories in the future.