An Interview with Theresa Linden, Author of Roland West, Loner

 

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A few questions for Theresa Linden:

  1. In Roland West, Loner and several of your other books, I’ve noticed that you have developed a palate of rich characters. I’m curious as to where you come up with these ideas and how long have you been writing fiction.

 

Ideas for story lines and characters come to me from life, books, TV shows, and my imagination. My father was in the Coast Guard so we moved every few years. I’ve lived in California, Guam, Oahu, and Arizona. I’ve experienced different cultures and situations, like surviving Typhoon Pamela on Guam and seeing the sights in Hawaii. The constant change gave me the impression that life was an adventure. I’m sure it’s the same with all writers; you store up details from people you meet and places you go. And your imagination takes you farther.

I started writing in grade school with my sister. We stole characters from TV shows and movies and wrote them into adventure stories. We took turns writing chapters, ending with a cliffhanger that the other one had to write their way out of. We stopped writing together sometime in high school. At that time my father retired here in Ohio. Having lived in California, Guam, and Hawaii, I found it hard to adjust to the cold. Life got hard, and the adventure seemed to end.

At some point in my adult life, I realized how I could reclaim the adventure. I had to write! I loved my Catholic faith, so I wanted to write fun faith-filled stories for teens. Roland West, Loner was actually the first full story I wrote. That was years ago, and it’s seen many changes, including the title. The final book is much different from the original, but I hope it accomplishes my original goal: to bring to life a little of the richness, depth, and mystery of the Catholic faith and to arouse the imagination to the invisible realities and the power of faith and grace.

 

  1. In Roland West, Loner Roland’s older twin brothers create a lot of conflict in this story. However, for being twins, they are nothing alike. How do you think a pair of identical twins can produce two totally different personalities?

 

I’ve always been fascinated by twins. They share a bond that is unique in sibling relationships. Identical twins have a pair of exactly the same genes, and they often have a similar upbringing, nurturing, and life experiences. So it might be natural to assume that they share personality traits. This, however, is not always the case. Even in situations where identical twins have been treated as two versions of one person, their distinct personalities emerge. This especially becomes obvious in teenage years when a person has more freedom to choose what to wear or to eat, and what to do with their time.

I think the phenomena brings to light the uniqueness of the individual that God has created. We are more than our genes and appearances. Each of us is a unique child of God. Our points of view and motivations, our choices and ways of responding to the good and bad in life are our own.

In Roland West, Loner, Jarret and Keefe are identical twins yet their personalities are vastly different. Jarret has grown into a leader, Keefe the follower. Keefe has developed a sense of right and wrong while Jarret tends to think selfishly. Their personalities complement each other to a degree. They know what the other thinks in a situation, and they rely on each other. But they both have room to grow.

 

  1. Not to give anything away, but one character seems particularly mean. What do you believe makes a person into a bully?

 

I am certainly no expert in what causes behaviors, good or bad, in a person. But a writer should do their research so they can present reasonable situations and believable characters. I think several underlying causes could result in creating a bully or a “control freak.” Perhaps a person had a difficult childhood with a controlling parent, or they experienced a deep hurt in the past that led to feelings of helplessness. Maybe they had unmet needs as a child or didn’t get the attention they wanted and so seek now make life revolve around them.

Each of the West boys experienced a significant loss in their life, during their childhood, and they’ve each handled it in their own way. This loss and their coping methods form a big part of who they are and what hurdles they need to overcome to grow in God’s grace. Mr. West has also been affected by the loss, as future stories in this series will reveal. While sufferings and tragedy affect everyone, the good news is, God can turn the loss into something wonderful if we let Him.

 

  1. This story begins early in the school year. The West boys, who have previously been tutored, must now attend public school. What are your thoughts about public education vs. home schooling and tutoring?

 

Growing up, we moved a lot, so I attended various public and Catholic schools, but I always wished we were home schooled. As a child, I wanted to remain close to home, but I learned to enjoy being with children my age at school. As a pre-teen and teen, I faced bullying, peer pressure, and other issues not related to learning. It is certainly not the case for everyone, but my education suffered because of it.

 

As a mother, I love home schooling my three boys. They get to learn in a safe and comfortable environment. Yes, we sometimes keep our pajamas on all day! They also receive a full education imbued with Christian values. The teaching of the faith isn’t isolated to a particular day. It’s weaved throughout the curriculum and taught in daily life. The boys can learn at their own pace without pressure. And I get to relearn all those things I’ve forgotten from school.

If you were to ask the West boys this question, they would each give a different answer. Jarret loves attending school. He’s extremely social and confident, so this is an opportunity to make friends and feed his ego. Keefe notices the work is easier. He’s been working at his own pace all these years, so he’s a lot farther ahead than the average 10th grader. But to Roland . . . “Every day at River Run High pushed him farther into the nightmare. He had no friends. He heard his name all the time, but not from kids wanting to talk to him. They were talking about him.” No, Roland does not like public school. And I’m sure he represents a group of students that just don’t feel like they’ll ever fit in.

  1. In this story, Peter often finds the behavior of his younger autistic brother a trial. What are the benefits and challenges of autism or Asperger’s Syndrome in a child?

 

I mentioned that life has felt like an adventure. Having a son with autism has become a big part of this adventure. Unable to have children, we adopted and now have three boys (all teenagers now). We felt called to adopt special needs children but had no idea our first baby had autism. We knew something was wrong because he always seemed uncomfortable.

Most parents of special needs children can relate to our story. We raced from one specialist to the next, researched everything we could, tried diets and supplements and various therapies. And some of these things helped. Most didn’t.

The hardest part has been the self-doubt, loneliness, and feelings of failure. Other moms gave me advice, but nothing seemed to help. As a new mom, I often felt like I wasn’t doing it right, and that maybe I wasn’t cut out for motherhood. But after a while, I stopped listening to the “baby advice” and worked on trusting God with this challenge. It was then that I learned to relax and enjoy our son for who he was without expecting him to act like others. I’ve come to accept that he will always have autism—unless God wants to change that via miracle—but it’s okay. While I continue to encourage behavior that will help him in life, I no longer worry about squelching all of his unique behaviors and personality quirks. They are a wonderful part of him.

It is easy for parents of special needs children to feel alone in their journey as they try to address the unique needs of their child. But God has chosen us to be their parents. He trusts us to raise these children to know, love and serve Him in their unique way. As soon as my son could walk, he wouldn’t sit still in church until the Eucharistic payers. Then he wanted to stand on the pews and watch. I let him, even when his size and age made it seem unreasonable. He hasn’t always been able to hold his body still, but he’s always been drawn to the Mass. And now as a teenager, he is the proudest altar boy at our church. He would serve every Mass if he could. And he does a fantastic job. I know he makes Our Lord very happy. And isn’t that all we really want for our children?

 

  1. Since Roland West, Loner is the first in a series, what comes next for these characters?

 

The second book in this series picks up where this one leaves off. The focus shifts from Roland to Caitlyn. Caitlyn has a crush on someone, but her parents have just announced that they expect her to practice old-fashioned courtship! To make matters worse, she’s got competition from a cute, bubbly girl with no restrictions. We’ll still get to see what the West boys are up to, but I can’t tell you now or I’d spoil the surprise! I can tell you that the characters face questions every young person faces as they come of age. Who am I? Where am I headed? How am I going to get there? And what’s love got to do with it? Facets of Theology of the Body, especially that human love is an expression of the eternal love to which God calls us, come to life through the choices and discoveries of these teenage characters.

Feel free to ask questions about Roland West, Loner. While you’re composing a question, try your luck in a raffle for an autographed copy of the book. Click on LONER  or West and travel to the raffle site. Good luck.

Please enter the rafflecopter for your chance to win an autographed copy! Entry form on several of the blog stops.

Tuesday, Dec. 1        Don Mulcare: Peace to all who enter here!

Check out the author interview and the book cover wrap.

Wednesday, Dec. 2  Erin McCole Cupp: Faith, Fiction and Love No Matter What 

Top 10 Reasons You Will Love Catholic Teen Fiction

Amy J Cattapan, Author & Speaker, Stories with Heart & Hope 

Book Review of Roland West, Loner

Thursday, Dec. 3     Barb Grady Szyszkiewicz at CatholicMom.com

Book Review of Roland West, Loner

Friday, Dec. 4          Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur: Spiritual Woman

Book cover, blurb and review blurb

Saturday, Dec. 5      Cynthia Toney

Book cover, blurb and quote from book

Sunday, Dec. 6        Karl Bjorn Erickson, Author

Behind the Scenes and First Chapter

Monday, Dec. 7        Carolyn Astfalk, Relevant Fiction for Body & Soul

Character interview-you won’t want to miss this one!

 

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Roland West, Loner, by Theresa Linden

Theresa Linden excels as a storyteller. She assembles her characters from complex webs of conflict and mystery. Her penchant for plot shifts and action commands the reader’s attention. Her proclivity toward trilogies reflects her dedication to the writing craft and her desire to please her readers with a magnificent literary landscape.

Roland West, Loner, the first volume in her West Brothers trilogy, introduces the pageant’s cast. Roland, the loner has two special reasons to avoid company, his older brothers. Jarret, handsome, intelligent and powerful, but also narcissistic, manipulative and amoral. Keefe, Jarret’s twin and puppet, collaborates as Jarret bullies Roland. Jarret believes that Roland is his father’s favorite. He mercilessly schemes to destroy Roland’s reputation in their father’s eyes so that he and not Roland would accompany Mr. West on a business trip to Italy. Although adult caretakers run the West’s mansion in absence of the boys’ traveling father, Jarret controls the lives of his brothers, easily circumventing and even subverting the authority of the adults. Roland remains hopelessly trapped in the West’s castle of a house.

Roland’s freedom comes from the most unlikely of liberators. Once on the loose he hides out with a classmate, Peter Brandt, whose bedroom is so messy, he could easily conceal Roland in the clutter. Roland’s existence as a loner has not prepared him for life on the run. He’s not sure if he can trust Peter. He meets and is attracted to the red-headed, emerald-eyed Caitlyn Summer, who causes him to rethink his loner status.

The struggle rages between the dominant Jarret who will use violence, intimidation and lies to compromise his brother, and Roland, the innocent and vulnerable who hopes that their father detects Jarret’s ploys. The melee plays out to the last sentence of the novel and vibrates through the subsequent volumes of the trilogy.

Although a young-adult novel, Roland West, Loner offers a compelling read to a wide audience.

 

 

The Rosie Effect, by Graeme Simsion

NY bridge

Don Tillman’s loyalty, self-sacrifice, and problem solving genius, make him welcome as a friend. We first met Don in the “Rosie Project,” the story of a high functioning Asperger’s individual in search of a “mate.” Don exhibits marvelous STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) skills, a phenomenal memory, but he woefully lacks social skills. He holds to an extraordinary rigid moral-ethical code, based on logic and conventional norms rather than religion. Among his virtues or symptoms, Don could not tell a lie. Paul Levine, who also includes Asperger’s spectrum characters in his novels, subscribes to the same truth-telling characteristic. However, in “The Rosie Effect, Don, the compulsive truth-teller and honest man, learns to spare the feelings of others by shielding them from the truth. Unfortunately, he hopelessly tangles himself in the thickest web of deceit. His growing cohort of friends risk all to assist him extricate himself before the authorities and Rosie catch up with him.

In his first two and extremely successful novels, author, Graeme Simsion brings moments of genuine hilarity as well as deep pathos. His intense research allows his characters the freedom to walk, jog and subway about New York City, Columbia University, genetics, nutrition, human development, psychology and the pub scene. Ask Don to make you a cocktail sometime.

The devious Simsion snaps snares, large and small, catching his readers off guard. Just when Don seems to have escaped one threat, the trapdoor drops Don, and often his friends, into a deeper quandary. Through the Rosie Effect, Simsion takes the reader for a ride to a most unpredictable destination. Getting there is more than half the fun. Looking forward to the further exploits of Don Tillman and company.

 

Review (© 2015 Donald J. Mulcare)

Brooklyn Bridge, Nancy Ann Mulcare, Alcohol ink on yupo (© 2015 Nancy Ann Mulcare)

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

File:53rd and Lexington Avenue station 2.jpg

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

A nerd geneticist went looking for a wife using the latest scientific advances. Yes, the story involved DNA analysis. The Rosie Project skulked through the dark recesses of the human mind where behavioral genetics loomed even more fantastic than sci-fi. The protagonist, Donald Tillman, PhD reminded me of Spock and Data from Star Trek, and Christopher Lloyd’s portrayal of Doc Brown in Back to the Future, but with less empathy. Don projected innocence with his strict adherence to data based, rationalistic ethics and morals, his health and environmental consciousness, and his constant avoidance of behavioral “objectification” of other humans, especially persons of the opposite gender. Unfortunately, many of Don’s close associates lacked his moral compass, leading Don into conflicts.

Don came into sharp focus when he delivered a seminar on the genetics of Asperger’s Syndrome to a group of parents in the company of their Asperger’s Syndrome children. The facilitator complained that Don’s presentation was too technical, meanwhile the children understood and probed with sophisticated questions. The facilitator described Asperger’s Syndrome as a “fault,” prompting Don to respond (in the voice of Christopher Lloyd), “Fault! Asperger’s isn’t a fault. It’s a variant. It’s potentially a major advantage.” The seminar ended with the children standing on the chairs and tables with raised fists, shouting “Aspies rule!” Don became their hero. The parents were less enthralled.

Admit it! Deep down inside, you know you’re not normal. Really, no one wants the “average” label. Don was neither normal, nor average nor conventional.  He and we all have something that makes us different from the norm and therefore uniquely valuable. Thank God!

The bulk of the novel described Don’s hunt for a suitable life partner, using the best scientific tools available. This may sound far fetched, but several recent statistical analyses have described successful approaches to maximizing the predictive value of on-line matchmaking services. Don’s adventure flew him the equivalent of twice around the world and he literally climbed a wall in quest of his “impossible dream.”

The author, Graeme Simsion earned tremendous credit for his faithful description of the university environment and the complicated skill sets the author had first to master to a degree where he could convince his readers of Don’ performance levels. Simsion bids us to reflect on ourselves and our idea of “normalcy and convention,” inviting us to appreciate the vast diversity within ourselves and other Homo sapiens. In the Rosie Project, he reminded his readers that they each have something special to offer and that they can work with their uniqueness, including their quirks to contribute to society, while maintaining their identity. Simsion extolled the value of good friends to whom Don was both a blessing and a burden. In particular, Simsion raised awareness of Asperger’s Syndrome: especially that this form of autism, although a variation from the norm, is neither a disease nor a defect. Actually it has tremendous benefit to society if it is understood and maximized.

A brief scene from the novel was set in the subway station depicted above.

Simsion, Graeme. The Rosie Project. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2013.