We’re coming up on the one year anniversary of Coffee and Condolences being released into the wild, and it feels surreal to know that something I spent so much time on has been consumed by readers as far as South Africa. Ive been lucky enough to have people not only find my book, but also connect with it in ways I could only dream of and reach out to me. To commemorate this I wanted to write a blog post about the creation of this book talking about the changes it went through and answer some of the question I’ve gotten.
Is this a true story?
The quick answer to this question is no. At the time of this writing my wife and children are still alive. The premise of the story is based on a nightmare I had in which they died in a car accident. As harrowing as the dream was, I was fascinated by the idea of someone having to recover from that. Now, I know I said the quick answer was no, but the longer explanation is that some of the story was based on real events. Our third child was unexpected to say the least, and the postpartum i depicted was very real. I ended up needing to see a psychiatrist, and I happened to see a wonderful woman named Sandra Felt. She broke down years of trauma I had been carrying and the character of Dr. Felt was my way of saying thank you to mental health therapists every where. The feelings toward his father were real, and though I’m ashamed to admit it, I found the transition to being a father myself to be difficult.
If it wasn’t real, why did it feel so real?
Well, as I mentioned earlier, fatherhood was a struggle for me. We started having children while I was in college, and I spent so many nights in various coffee shops doing homework that I missed a lot of events. One night I came home and my son was laying in bed with my wife waiting for me. He asked if I was doing homework, and in that moment it hit me. As I wrote this book I thought of all the time I missed and forced myself to think of what life would look like if I woke up and they were gone. All mentions of Miles’s children were pulled directly from those thoughts, and the feelings of regret about how his time was spent came from that as well. Miles journey of recognizing how he could’ve been better was my own. Needless to say, I was ecstatic on graduation day, and it wasn’t because I had a degree. This book helped me come to terms with the kind of father I want to be, and I’d like to think I’m a better person for it. Ask my wife about that one though.
What about John?
So John is an interesting character for me. Growing up the way I did, I often find myself having conversations with different people to learn more about them. I’ve done work in homeless shelters, and I’m always angered by how homeless people are portrayed in the mainstream media. John was originally supposed to stay with Lily and Miles, but two things happened that made me switch the story up. One was a beta reader that pointed out how implausible it was for them to meet him once and then he joins their little ragged family. It planted the seed that I should scale him back, but I soldiered on anyway. The second event that forced me to downsize his role was the writing itself. I envisioned John as the wise old man that dispensed guidance to Miles and Lily. As I wrote the strip club chapter, I realized that he was displaying the same behaviors as them, so I scaled him back to where you find him in the final version.
Where did the idea for Melody/Harmony come from?
Originally they were two different characters, with Miles going back to the strip club every night to commiserate with Harmony about Melody. I was committed to that until one night I found myself watching Stanley Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut”. The party where everyone wore masks stirred something in my brain, and the next morning while standing in line for my coffee at Wawa, it hit me to make them the same person. Suddenly, everything I was struggling with in the story fell into place. Most readers picked up on it early, which I was fine with because my goal was for people to understand the theme of how we live secret lives.
How did you come up with Lily?
Of all the characters I’ve created in my writing, Lily is hands down the most fun to write. I’m often analyzing the world, and it pisses me off that promiscuous men are portrayed as heroes while women that own their sexuality are looked down upon. With Lily, I wanted a female character that that owned her sexuality with the attitude of an alpha male. I have female cousins that are members of the LGBTQ community, and Lily was a tribute to them. They say exactly what they feel, but they’re also fiercely loyal to the people they love. Having characters like Lily, ones that let you write the wildest shit you can come up with, is one of the joys of writing.
Will we see these characters again?
I write every book with the intention of it being a standalone book, but I also leave myself an opening in case a story idea that makes sense pops into my head. That being said, yes, you will be seeing these characters again because such a story has been buzzing in my brain. It’ll be awhile, but the saga of Miles Alexander is not over.