Broken Pieces

Jack Canon's American Destiny

Author Interview – Andrew Seaward

Thursday, May 30, 2013

imageDo you recall how your interest in writing originated? I always loved to write, ever since I was in grade school. Poems, short stories, plays, you name it. Aside from reading, it was one of the few ways I could escape from the dullness of life in suburbia. But, somewhere along the way, I lost that desire, and traded my pen for a liquor bottle. At first the drinking was a sort of congratulatory trophy at the end of a long night for a job well done at school, sports, whatever. After a few years, I became physically dependent, unable to stop for fear of shakes, hallucinations, even seizures. What resulted was a five year long struggle in and out of hospitals, rehabs, and detoxes all over the country.

For a while, I didn’t think I’d ever recover and even considered suicide as a possible way out of it. Fortunately, I had some people in my corner who never gave up on me, namely my mom and dad, Patty and Randy Seaward. Because of their unconditional love and their tireless devotion, I was eventually able to get the treatment I needed to recover. It’s been four and half years since I put the cap back on the bottle, and I haven’t once looked back. I’m loving my newfound freedom.

As you can see, I’ve even returned to my writing. In fact, this novel was one of the things that helped me stay sober. By exploring the insidiousness of addiction through the lives of my characters—Dave, Monty, and Angie—I was able to learn some things about myself that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise discovered. What I learned is that I still have a long way to go before I can say I’m truly recovered. But that’s okay. After all, it’s not a race. It’s a lifelong journey.

What inspires you to write and why? Everything! Life! From the dullest trifles to the wildest, zaniest adventures, I can find the drama in just about anything. Of course, I get accused of being a great embellisher. But I disagree. I think most people just aren’t as observant. The drama is there. It’s right in front of us—at work, at home, at the grocery store, at the train station. I once saw two blind men bump into one another right outside of Whole Foods, they then have a sword fight with their canes right there on the frigging street corner!  It was amazing. But I seemed to be the only one watching. Everyone else just kept passing by. Couldn’t they see what was happening!? As writers, we must open our eyes, sit, watch, and listen. Who knows what will be the inspiration for my next novel. It could be you.
What inspired you to write Some Are Sicker Than Others? At first, I didn’t want to write this story. Having spent the better part of my twenties in and out of hospitals and rehabs all over the country, I wanted to get as far away from addiction and thinking about addiction as I possibly could. But I couldn’t do it. No matter how hard I tried to forget all that had happened, the memories were right there, taunting me, teasing me, reminding me just how inadequate I was. So, I did what any stubborn alcoholic with only a year of sobriety would do; I decided to face my addiction head on. I turned off my cell phone, powered on my computer, made a pot of coffee, and locked the door.
But after a few weeks of staring at a blank monitor, I quickly began to realize…I wasn’t gonna remember much. As it turns out, I had drank so much and caused so much brain damage that I couldn’t really remember what had actually had occured. I remembered bits and pieces and fragments of images, like waking up in a hospital bed strapped down by my wrists and ankles while nurses in green uniforms scurried behind me and connected tubes to my arms. But how I got there and what happened after, are all just blurs of another place and time. So, a memoir was out of the question, unless I was gonna fabricate most of it, but we all remember what happened to James Frey.
So, instead of trying to portray the insidiousness of addiction through my own personal story, I decided to portray it through the lives of three fictional characters. This turned out to be a very good decision. Through my main protagonist, Monty, I was able to ask a very difficult question, that I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to ask otherwise. The question I’m referring to is this:
What would happen if, only after a year of sobriety, I lost the only person in my life that I ever truly loved? Would I, like Monty, use it as an excuse to relapse and drink myself into oblivion? Or would I fight to stay sober and live my life clean and pure, the way that she lived hers?
The answer I came up with was a little disturbing, especially for my parents, who I put through absolute hell. But, I believe it was the honest answer, the truthful answer, and I couldn’t have written it any other way. Believe me, I tried.
Who or what influenced your writing once you began? Great question! And to answer it, I’m going to need to tell you a little story. But, bear with me, this could get ugly:
About five years ago, I was sitting at home staring at the checkerboard pattern of wine stains tattooed in my carpet, when I got a call from a girl (let’s call her Vicky) whom I had met only two weeks earlier while detoxing at a hospital in downtown Houston. It turns out, I had given her my cell number and told her to call me, but was so drugged up that I had completely forgotten. Anyway, she said she was going to a twelve-step meeting at the detox hospital (they had alumni meetings there on the weekends) and wanted to know if I was interested in joining. “Hell yeah,” I said. “I’d love to join you.”
I brushed my teeth, threw on a nice sweater, laced up my shoes, and hopped in my Toyota Corolla. She lived with her mom all the way out in the boonies in a small farm town called Alvin, TX (the same town Nolan Ryan grew up in, consequently.) It took me nearly an hour to find it, and another hour on top of that to drive back to Houston for the alumni meeting. We had a good time though, talking, laughing, and sharing our “war stories.” After two years of drinking in isolation, it felt great to be able to connect like that to someone.
Once the meeting was over, I took her out to dinner at Pappadeux’s. Then, we went back to my apartment and watched a movie about heroine addiction called, “Things We Lost in the Fire.” Now, I know what you’re thinking, but you’re wrong…nothing happened. Being the Southern gentleman I am, I offered her my bed while I slept on the sofa. There was absolutely no funny business; no getting up in the middle of the night and slipping under the covers, no team showers, not even so much as a bare nipple!
The next morning we got up, ate breakfast, and drove out to Bellaire for an early morning meeting that Vicky had heard about from her sponsor. After it was over, we had lunch and I drove Vicky back to her mom’s house in Alvin. 
It went on like this for several months. After on work on Friday, I’d pick her up from her mom’s house and take her to the alumni meeting, after which we’d have dinner then crash at my apartment. We spent the whole weekend together, going to meetings, watching movies, and basically just keeping each other sober. We even went skydiving one weekend and wakeboarding another. It didn’t take long for me to develop some strong feelings for Vicky. Not only was she a sexy little Hispanic coke addict (what else could you ask for in a woman?), but she was also the only person in my life at that time who still wanted to be around me. Everyone else was gone, because I’d turned my back on them; my parents, my friends, my sister, my brother…I pushed them all away, because I was too ashamed of all the horrible things I’d said and done to them. But Vicky was different, because she didn’t really know me. She didn’t know all the terrible things I’d done in my addiction. In exchange, Vicky never told me anything about herself, at least, not anything too personal.
But, could you love someone you didn’t know? No, probably not. But so what? That’s the way we liked it. It gave us a chance to start over and be different people. We didn’t have to face our shame and all those poisonous memories—we could just put them on a shelf somewhere and try to move forward. So, what if it wasn’t real love? So, what if it was just codependence? We kept each other sober and that’s all that mattered, right?
Well, after about four months of seeing each other, Vicky suddenly stopped coming over. A dozen or so unanswered voicemails later she finally called me back and told me we couldn’t see each other anymore. She said she was getting back together with her ex-husband, who, it seems, had divorced her while she was in rehab, kicked her out of the house, and confiscated her vehicle. This explained why she was living all the way out in Alvin with her mother and always needed a ride to meetings. But, now, since she had proved she could stay sober for more than a few hours, her ex-husband was willing to take her back and “re-marry” her. She no longer needed me to pick her up and take her to meetings, because she got her car back, not to mention her house and her husband, whom she was still in love with.
Needless to say, I was completely shattered. I felt betrayed and used and fell into a deep, dark depression. I quit going to meetings. I quit calling my sponsor. (I never really liked him in the first place. The only reason I had him was because he was married to Vicky’s sponsor). After about a week of sulking, I started contemplating drinking, which at that point in my career was the same thing as contemplating suicide. You see, I had built my entire recovery around Vicky, and without her, I had nothing. I was lost. I was right back where I started.
Now, I’d like to say I relapsed and fell out of the program and ended up on the street eating from a trashcan. That would really drive home the “dangers of love addiction”. Unfortunately or fortunately, my story isn’t as neat and clear-cut as others. In fact, it’s downright confusing. I still haven’t completely figured it out. But, let me try…
The four months I spent with Vicky was the longest stretch I ever had staying sober, and somehow, it was just enough to “free” me from not just the physical, but also the psychological dependence I had on alcohol. By keeping me sober for those first ninety days out of detox, Vicky became a sort of crutch for my recovery…meaning she helped me to “walk” while I was still wounded, until I was healthy enough to “walk” on my own.
But what if something tragic had happened in those first ninety days out of rehab? What if she had gotten killed in a hit-and-run car accident? Would I have used that as an excuse to go back to drinking? You’re damn right I would’ve. And that, right there, was the jumping point for Some Are Sicker Than Others

What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general? TIME! Oh, if I only had the time!

Fact is…writing is so damn immersive hours will pass by, but only feel like a few minutes. Sometimes I’ll sit down to write at 4:30 in the morning, and before I know it the sun will be coming up and holy crap! I have to be at work in thirty minutes.  It stinks, because it takes a while to get going and once you’re into it, it’s hard to pull yourself away. It’s kinda like watching a really good movie. Once you get to a certain point, you just have to finish. Unfortunately, a novel can take years and years to finish. So, you end up thinking about the story when you really shouldn’t; at work, at the grocery store, in traffic. Sometimes I’ll catch myself at work just daydreaming for hours upon hours. It’s like I become paralyzed. I can’t think of anything but the story.
This happened to me on when I was trying to figure out the perfect ending for Some Are Sicker Than Others. I had three POV characters, each with their own thread in the story, and my job was to get their lives to converge in a compelling, but logical manner. It was all I could think about for a good two months. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t exercise. My relationship with my girlfriend suffered. She’d be talking to me about something and I wouldn’t even be paying attention. She’d say, “What the hell is wrong with you?” I’d just look up with a dazed look on my face: “How do I end the story?”
It actually became a serious health hazard. I can’t tell you how many car accidents I nearly had because I wasn’t paying attention to what was in front of me. One time I missed my exit and accidentally drove all the way to Boulder. Boulder’s thirty miles away in the opposite direction! I have no idea what I was thinking. Well, actually I do. I was thinking about my antagonist’s confession to the hit-and-run accident!


Post a Comment