Today, I’m very lucky to have JT Twissel (author of Flipka and The Graduation Present) here to chat on the blog. Two weeks ago, I went on a beach vacation and really enjoyed reading The Graduation Present on the sand. It’s a hilarious and unpredictable book, and I highly recommend it.
Mary: So JT, as I was just saying, I loved your novel, The Graduation Present for various reasons. It’s so funny, and it kept surprising me in all the best ways. Just when I thought one thing was going to happen, the story would take a sharp and unexpected turn. It also seemed to combine more than one genre, which kept me on my toes too. What genre would you say The Graduation Present best inhabits.
JT: Thanks Mary! I think “coming of age” is probably the best way to categorize GP. The main character/narrator is a neurotic nitwit at the beginning of the book and towards the end she’s beginning to mature. At least, I hope she comes across that way. I did my thesis on the works of Jane Austen and so I’m very drawn to themes of young women confronting the world for the first time with many “prejudices.” Riley, for example, assumes that Gil, the young man she’s attracted to, has certain prejudices against her because she is young and naive (and always getting herself into trouble).
Mary: In The Graduation Present, we learn a little bit about the home life of your protagonist, Riley. Would you tell us a bit about your youth/childhood and where you grew up?
JT: I spent my so-called “formative” years in Reno Nevada, or, as it is often called, Sin City North (Sin City South being Vegas). My father was a professor at the university, however many of the kids I grew up were the children of “pit” bosses at the casino. So I learned from an early age not to judge people because of what they did for a living. I’ll always be grateful for that experience.
In high school I struggled to find the right crowd to fit into until I had an epiphany and realized – it really didn’t matter. I began wearing costumes to school, (my favorite was a Dr Zhivago shirt, plaid kilt, green tights and green Robin Hood boots) listening to Indian Ragas and reading everything from science fiction and fantasy to Look Homeward Angel. I formed my own band of equally untalented guitarists and embarrassed myself by warbling protest songs off-key in front of the entire student body. My mother, “ironing board lady,” would probably tell you I was a handful.
Mary: Wow, I wish I’d gone to your high school. I would’ve wanted to hang out with you! So here’s another question–and feel free to skip it if you’d like–but I’d love to know if Uncle Bob (a main character in The Graduation Present) really works for the CIA. Or is that something readers need to figure out for themselves?
JT: My uncle worked for the Department of the Army Civilians which was believed by the locals to be an arm of the CIA. My uncle would just laugh off any suggestion that he was at all involved with covert affairs. To this day, I have no idea.
Mary: Oh! So you got the idea for Uncle Bob’s job from a real uncle. And yet, you say in your author notes that his personality is nothing like the personality of your actual Uncle Bob. Therefore, is the character of Uncle Bob in the novel based on someone else in your life, a combination of people, or is he totally imaginary?
JT: The Uncle Bob character is totally imaginary and not at all like my Uncle Ralph. Wink.
Mary: I see. Now did you, like Riley, spend time in Europe after college? And if so, what experience there was most memorable?
JT: Yes – I spent almost a year living in Germany and traveling around Europe. My most memorable experience was singing Ode to Joy on New Years Eve with thousands of other college age kids while watching fireworks explode over Heidelberg Castle. It was a glorious experience.
Mary: That sounds pretty amazing. Now you’ve also published another book called Flipka. What’s Flipka about, and do you think it will appeal to the same readers who enjoy The Graduation Present?
JT: Of course, I, as the writer have no idea what will appeal to readers! I know I was supposed to have studied my potential market in detail before I even wrote the darned things but alas I didn’t. Flipka, a rather wacky mystery set in Nevada, seems to appeal equally to men and women, which was a surprise. However, since The Graduation Present contains an element of romance, I don’t think it will appeal as much to men.
Mary: Well I don’t know about that. I know that when I finished reading The Graduation Present, I told my husband I thought he’d like it too. And honestly, I think it will appeal to many male readers. The male characters in the story are so well developed and interesting, especially Uncle Bob, Charlie, and Lou. I found all of them fascinating. But moving on, what can you tell us about your new book?
JT: I’ve got one book currently at the editor’s which is basically the story of a woman’s trial by fire, thus it’s a dark comedy. I’m keeping my sanity by working on Flipka 2, Return to Echoing Water. Absurd comedy is how I stay centered.
Mary: That’s really impressive, JT. Flipka is high on my to-read list, and I’ll be looking forward to the sequel, as well as the dark comedy. It’s very cool that you can write comfortably in various genres. So where can people buy your books? Do you prefer to sell through your own website? Are they available in any bookstores? On Amazon?
Mary: I understand that! People keep telling me I should sell books on my website, but I wouldn’t know where to start. So what’s something you’d like the world (or at least my blog readers) to know about JT Twissel?
JT: I don’t bite!
Also where can we find you on social media?
JT: blog: http://www.jttwissel.com
I’m not really that active on Facebook or Pinterest. I do post free reads on Wattpad http://www.wattpad.com/user/JTTwissel – poems, excerpts of stories and even a wacky musical called CodeSlingers, The Musical.
Thanks much for hosting me, Mary! Best of luck with both books!
Mary: Thank YOU, JT! This has been a really fun interview! Best of luck with all your books as well!