For two decades Tyler Gibbons has been keeping a secret from his family. At the tender age of sixteen, Tyler embarks on a student exchange program. Sent to the Andean city of Ambato, Ecuador, he finds daily adventure as he tries to fit in at school, connect with his host family, and navigate through a world of beaches, volcanoes, and jungles. But tucked deep inside this year are events so profound, so unexpected, they forever shape the man he will become. Now, 25 years later, his mother pulls these soaring tales from her son, exposing, for the first time, the source of a deep unhappiness. While these memories contain the wounds of an unresolved past, they also possess the power to heal his painful present. Thoughtfully crafted and boldly told, Tyler’s journey takes the reader on a wild South American adventure, while illuminating a mother’s unyielding power to heal her child.
Tell us about your latest book.
Careful is the story of a man who went through some pretty rough stuff when he was on a student exchange in South America. He was 16 then. He’s 40 now. And he’s never really shared any of his experiences with his family. Now that his mother has some health issues, he unpacks these memories and discovers all the magic they contain. It’s part, travelogue, part coming-of-age, and and exploration of healing.
Where did the idea for the book come from?
I spent a year of my life in South America when I was young. I wanted to capture the wonder and adventure of that experience. So, I started with a handful of memories and began building the story from there.
Who and what inspire you to write?
You do. You and the person sitting across from me on the subway. I love looking at people and imagining their experiences in this world. It’s simultaneously endless and finite, the human experience. And trying to capture it makes me feel like a child running through a field trying to catch dandelion seeds as they float through the air. It’s exciting, whimsical, and challenging. And that’s an awesome feeling, so I keep doing it.
Each author has his or her own inspiring journey. How did you begin writing?
I’m a trained performer who’s spent his youth running a theater company in New York. So I’ve always loved telling stories. And as my interests shifted, I found myself wanting to write novels. Since I’d never attempted anything as immense as writing a novel, I took it one step at a time. The first book I wrote was a memoir of running my theater company. Write what you know, right? I followed that up with this book, Careful, which is a novel loosely based on experiences. And now I have liftoff. My writing skills are getting better with each endeavor and I’ve sort of trained myself to create rich, complex, and flawed characters.
What has been the most pleasant surprise about writing? How about an unexpected down side?
When I started writing on a regular basis a few years ago I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the act of it. I’m giddy when I’m writing. I never expected it to be so much fun. It is work, but by golly it’s really fun work. I have a blast. The biggest downside is getting the work out there. It’s so hard to get your work noticed when there are so many other great books out there. That can be a little frustrating.
Do you have any writing rituals?
I run. I run. And I run some more. Nothing unlocks my imagination better than 7 miles around the park. Even 30 minutes on the treadmill does the trick. I was on a treadmill in mid-town Manhattan when I realized the fate of one of my characters in this book. I was a mess. Practically sprinting on this band of rubber, tears falling like the sweat all around me. It was pretty magical.
Do you write your books in order?
I do for the most part. I outline the book pretty carefully so I know what’s coming, but I find that writing the book in order allows room for those unexpected twists to emerge organically. Sometimes, however, I have a scene that is just screaming to be let out. So I’ll have to stop what I’m doing, and write it.
What is on your writing playlist for this book?
Coldplay, David Gray, Imagine Dragons, Garribaldi, Juan Luis Guerra and Snow Patrol.
Any favorite writing snacks?
Almonds. I eat them raw and unsalted. By the fistful.
Write. It’s not secret that you just have to keep writing. Once you have something that you think is ready for publication, get it out there. Submitting to agents and publishers is a relentless pain in the butt. I still do it but have also taken to self-published route as I grew tired of knocking on doors. I will say, if you decide to self-publish, be prepared to build a team. You should bring in professional editors (development and copy), cover designers, and proof readers. It takes a lot of work (and many steps) to make a manuscript publish-ready. Don’t take short cuts.
Are you working on anything new right now?
I have two projects going now. One is the first in a time-travel series. It’s my first stab at genre fiction and I’m loving it. And my main project is a three part literary series that follows three brothers from their birth in the 1950’s through their deaths in the 2040. It’s a massive multi-year endeavor that I’m serializing through a combination of ebook novelas and printed novels.
Who is your favorite character in your current book?
Patricia. She’s the Ecuadorian mother. She’s feisty and determined. I love a fierce lady and Patricia’s it.
What is your favorite book of all time?
It might be a tie between The Poisonwood Bible by Barbra Kingsolver or Middlesex by Geoffry Eugenides. Both of those books left me with a sense of wonder and a thrill for being alive.
Tell us in one sentence why we should read your book.
It’s an unexpected story that will send you on a wonderful emotional roller coaster.
Randy Anderson is a novelist and playwright. His first book was published in 2011. On Making Off recounted his adventures running The Beggars Group, a downtown theater company that produced over two dozen productions at the turn of the millennium. He is also the author of several plays including; Kill the President, The Dwelling, and Yippie! Randy currently lives in Brooklyn where he writes, reasons, and reacts. You can contact him at www.onmakingoff.com, or on twitter. Find the author on: