Book Nerd Interview
I grew up outside of Philadelphia, a town I portrayed all my thoughts and feelings about in Pure Sunshine and the short story Filthadelphia. When I was eighteen, I moved to New York City where I stayed for ten years. You can read about my impressions of that city in both Tomorrow, Maybe and Thief. For the suburban experiences of my life, check out Perfect World and Dirty Liar.
Needless to say, ten years in Manhattan is more than enough. It was time to pack up and head for the peace and quiet of the middle of nowhere. Alas, I ended up in the Woodstock area of upstate New York. An area aptly portrayed in my book Zombie Blondes.
My fascination with writing started in childhood with the notion of making up stories. I loved action figures as a kid. Actually, I still do and still collect them. But as a child, I would set up my entire bedroom like the stage for one epic story that I would play out for days. I didn't know it at the time, but it was the basis for what I do now. I was also a stuffed animal kid. I had dozens and they all had names and they all personalities. Basically, they were characters. Writing isn't very different than playing. It's just a grown up way of doing it.
What part of Sabrina did you enjoy writing the most?
Without a doubt, writing the imaginary dreamlike visions of how Sabrina sees the world were the most enjoyable scenes for me to work on in Life is But a Dream. I've used extensive imagery in previous books, but with this character it was more than metaphorical. I was able to create a world which was real to her. I've always been the kind of person who wished the world were more animated and through Sabrina's eyes, I was able to create the kind of magical place that I always envisioned within my own mind. In that way, her and I are a lot of like...I simply have the benefit of knowing it to be illusion.
Do you have a favorite quote that you keep visible in your work environment to help inspire you?
There is one quote that always comes back to me, perhaps because I'd always held the same belief even before I encountered it. To see it echoed back to me by one of the most influential writers in my career made me feel as though I was on the right track and needed to stay the course.
“The true writer has nothing to say. What counts is the way he says it.” ― Alain Robbe-Grillet
I've always been a writer that holds language and literary style above plot or message because I feel books are more than a good story or lesson learned. There is a lyricism involved that has the potential to lend a transportive quality to the words. There is a rhythm and pace to which a story must unfold. Storytelling is an art form meant to be more than an abundant spilling of happenings.
Did you learn anything from writing Alec and what was it?
Alec is actually a character molded extensively after myself at that age. I once shared many of his views on the world and mental health treatments, as did a lot of people I knew. And though I still believe a lot of what his character says in the book has merit, there comes a point in life when one must realize that things are not as absolute as you often think they are as a teenager...or at least as absolute as I did as teenager.
There's this sense about Alec in the book that he has 'figured everything out' but the truth is much more complex. I think Alec is an example of the danger that comes with applying one set of understandings to an entire problem. While there does exist corruption and misuse of the mental health system such as he sees it, be it the over prescription of anti-depressants or using an 'illness' to deny responsibility for one's actions, there are also people who truly benefit from the care they receive.
Alec is not a bad person. He truly means well for those he cares about. But sometimes our confidence in our own beliefs can be harmful. This is the lesson he is forced to face within the book.
Why do you feel you had to tell this story?
Most of my books center on characters who exist on the fringes of our society, be them drug users, runaways, or just plain outcasts. They always say to write about what you know, and I guess I've always felt like an outsider looking in. But outsiders are observers and we often see the world in ways others never consider. When I started writing, I wanted to capture the sad, yet sometimes beautiful existence that comes with being on the other side of the mirror.
I didn't set out to write a book about schizophrenia when I conceived of Life is But a Dream. In my mind, Sabrina started out as simple dreamer, a girl not really wanting to live in the world. I wanted to create a character who saw the world the way she wanted to see it, rather than the way it was. As I started making notes about her character, I used those as 'symptoms' and reversed diagnosed her. Without any foreknowledge or intent, I discovered the character I'd created was a near text book case of someone suffering acute schizophrenia. From there, the story began to shape.
Having encountered mental illness many times in my life, I felt the need to express not only the danger, but also the attraction one feels to the very thing that others are trying to cure them of. I think too often people try to help others without taking the time to truly understand them. There is a comfort that comes with isolation and I was just trying to give a voice to those who may not have one in our society.
Sabrina, an artist, is diagnosed with schizophrenia, and her parents check her into the Wellness Center. There she meets Alec, who is convinced it's the world that's crazy, not the two of them. They are meant to be together; they are special. But when Alec starts to convince Sabrina that her treatment will wipe out everything that makes her creative, she worries that she'll lose hold of her dreams and herself. Should she listen to her doctor? her decision may have fatal consequences.
Brian James calls Life is But a Dream "the most intense book I've written. Bringing this unique character to life and seeing the world through her eyes, with all its beauty and confusion, was an immense challenge that I hope is just as rewarding to read as it was to write." Intense--yes. Unforgettable--definitely.
Life is but a Dream by Brian James is a beautiful story about a schizophrenic teenage girl, Sabrina, who is the middle of getting it treated. She believes that she has a special way of seeing the world but her parents disagree. When she meets Alec at the Wellness Center, they form an immediate bond and he believes all the things that Sabrina sees. But the more she spends time with Alec, things get complicated as she stops taking her medicine and decides to take control.
Sabrina is a very interesting character. The fact that she has schizophrenia, she has a different and unique view of life. This uniqueness makes her truly captivating. Although her life is complicated, author Brian provides his readers with so much detail that it helps in understanding her character. She is so likable that readers will root for her to get better. As for Alec, he displayed a series of different emotions and truly made complicated decisions.
The writing in this book is perfect. The main character suffers from schizophrenia that not a lot of people know about. However, Brian does a wonderful job of incorporating it in a book and provides a better understanding. He gives us plenty of twists and turns to keep the story unpredictable. Even with all the information at hand, as readers close in on the ending, there is still a sense of mystery of how it will end. Life is but a Dream is simply beautiful and will appeal to anyone who loves a great story with a wonderful theme.
You can purchase Life is But a Dream at the following Retailers:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
And now, The Giveaways.