Patrick will be giving away an autographed copy of Where You Belong to one lucky commenter each week of his tour. So stay and visit a while, and leave a comment!
There's an excerpt from Where You Belong after Patrick's interview.
Orphaned at an early age, the closest people in Frost Devereaux's life are the free-spirited Frankie Maguire and her conniving twin brother Frank. Over the years Frost's life takes him from the lush fields of the Mideast to the burning heat of the desert to the sparkling promise of Manhattan. His heart, though, never strays far from the two people who have meant the most to him. Ultimately, Frost must decide where—and with whom—he belongs.
Patrick, welcome to Violetta's Fancy. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with me. I'm quite fascinated by Frost Devereaux. You created more than just a book when you set out to tell his story. His biography looks like a webopedia entry, he's written stories that have taken on ebook form... Do you have any trouble keeping his writing separate from yours?
Actually some of his writing is mine—or was. The short stories that are included in the text are ones that I had previously written, except for the little 9/11-themed story that he writes. I have to admit that some of this was because I was lazy and didn’t feel like writing another short story when I already had a perfectly good one in my archives. But the ones I chose I feel fit the plot for those moments of the story, so it all worked out.
What was the original impetus to create the virtual life of Frost Devereaux? It is, after all, an enormous undertaking, and I understand you did it all yourself, didn't you?
Yes and this is one of those rare occasions where I can remember exactly where I was when it happened. I was flying on a plane from Detroit to Phoenix and I got to thinking about what kind of web page I could design for the book. Then I remembered I hadn’t designed a web page in nearly ten years, which is like prehistory in computing terms and I didn’t really have the money to pay anyone. So I got thinking that it would be great if I could just put the information on Wikipedia and let them deal with it. Well, I thought, why not? Except I thought Wikipedia might get mad at me, so I decided to make a fake Wikipedia page. As for “Wukipedia” I always like Fozzie the Bear on the Muppets, whose catch phrase was always “Wucka wucka.” And as they say, the rest is history.
Where did you find, and how did you decide on Frost's photo on his bio page?
It’s just a file from MS Clip Art. I can assure you it is not me, as he looks much better than me. I always wonder if someday the real person will stumble across the website and see his long-lost twin.
Where You Belong is straightforward fiction, but the work surrounding it and its main character is what pointy-headed academics call metafiction. Now that it's mostly there and is acquiring a life of its own, how do you feel about it? Can one aspect (the novel) be considered complete without the other (the Web content)?
I think the novel can easily survive without the web content. Though reading the history of towns like Midway, Iowa or Yearling, New York can add a little historical perspective. And reading the complete synopses of Frost’s books and the book written by his friend from Somalia isn’t essential, but it adds more depth to the experience.
You know that writers always worry about not writing... Has working on Frost Devereaux's universe and writing (as opposed to your own novel) taken time and energy away from Where You Belong, or has it helped replenish your creative well? Has it helped or hindered your time management?
I didn’t write any of the website content until after the book was done and by then it was winter, which in recent years I’ve devoted to editing anyway, so I really didn’t miss out on much.
We always have a love-hate relationship with our characters. We may end up tiring of them if the book takes too long to write. Are you glad to be done with Frost? Or is it a bittersweet parting?
I think it was far more bittersweet than glad. I really enjoyed not just Frost but the Maguire twins as well. Even the secondary characters like the extremely cheap Fergal Maguire or Meyer the fatherly fighter pilot-turned-chauffeur or Guy the French-Canadian lumberjack artist became like an extended family for me. The hardest part of course was killing off some of these characters. It had to be done, but it was like losing a favorite aunt or uncle.
Would you do something similar again, assuming there would be a reason to? Would you create fiction within fiction to enrich your fictional world, or was one time enough labor?
Definitely, if that’s what the story called for. I’ve actually done it a few times prior to this, so I could easily see doing it again if it works for the story. That’s always the important thing.
What's your next project?
Right now I’m working on an old-school sci-fi invasion story called “Liberation Front.” It’s about an invasion from Mars, only in this case the “Martians” are human colonists returning to reclaim their birth world. The main character, one of the Martians, begins to question what her people are doing. The story was largely inspired by the war in Iraq, but I don’t think it’s going to be very political, at least not overtly.
Thanks for having me on and asking such great questions!
You're welcome, Patrick, thank you for stopping by!
And now, let's give everybody a taste of your storytelling craft.
Excerpt from Where You Belong by Patrick Dilloway.
I wake up again and the hand is gone, but I’m not alone. I sense a figure lurking in the shadows, hovering there like a ghost. I think at first it’s my mother; unable to speak I revert back to babyhood and whimper in what I hope is a reassuring fashion. The figure, caught, shuffles forward and I see it’s not my mother—it’s my father.
“Hey, kid,” he says. “How you feeling?”
This is a stupid question as I’m in a hospital bed, surrounded by machines with my face wrapped in bandages. He hesitates before taking the seat next to my bed. For what could be a minute or an hour he sits there, staring at me as he searches for something to say.
“It’s too bad about your mother,” he says.
Though not quite four, I understand this means something terrible has happened. I whimper again, this time mournfully. This rattles my father; he twitches uncomfortably in the chair. He doesn’t want to be there and I don’t want him there; I want Mommy. My father was only the man who lived in our barn.
His hand reaches out to touch my forehead, but his skin is sweaty and warm, not the cool, soothing presence of my other visitor’s. I try to move my head to shake it away only to find I can’t. “I’m not going to hurt you, kid,” he says. His hand moves across my forehead to the bandages. He peels these back gently and then leans close to me so that he can see what lies underneath. Whatever it is causes him to quickly pull his hand back, letting the bandages fall into place again.
“Oh shit,” he whispers into the darkness. I’m too young to know the meaning of this expression. Still, from his tone of voice I gather something’s wrong and whimper again. “It’s all right, kid,” he says, trying to sound cheerful. I know he’s lying. I know things aren’t going to be all right. Not ever again.
My father pats my left hand with his. “Hang in there, kid,” he says. He backs away until the shadows swallow him again. He pauses for a moment before making a decision. The door clicks shut. I wait a moment for him to come back, but he doesn’t. Not ever again.