A chance encounter between a budding writer and a beloved comic book artist reveals one way to push the self-publishing envelope.
Your cover was done by a rather well known comic book artist. Were you aiming for the comic book crowd?
Yeah, though I didn't start reading comics until I was in my twenties. My friends would cherry pick all the best stuff, so I came to it seeing very sophisticated artwork, writing, and storytelling. One year at Comic-Con, I shared a booth with Rich Koslowski, who's been in the comic book industry for a long time—he's a licensed artist for Family Guy and The Simpsons and has done work for Marvel and Archie comics. I showed him my book and he liked it so much he wanted to publish it and do the artwork. I'd always had in mind a particular audience when I was writing Finders Keepers. I thought that people who read comic books and liked shows like Lost or Heroes would like my book.
How would you say your favorite comic books have influenced the style of Finders Keepers?
Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, two of my favorite writers, really influenced me. I wanted to write a book that works on multiple levels. On the surface, my intention with Finders Keepers is that it's just a fun, rollicking popcorn book. But there's a lot of subtext, and I spent a lot of time working on the layers, and the storyline, and the way the characters intersect. I like to ask the big questions. What does it all mean? Is it all random? Is there a grand design? It's this idea of God or whatever you want to call it, do you have faith, do you not have faith? But I don't like to preach. I like letting the characters work it out for themselves and struggle with it so it's not so heavy handed.
What prompted you to write this book?
I went on a couple crazy adventures that were very much not like me to do. It's not a stretch to say the lead character is based, loosely, on who I was 15 years ago. I hadn't traveled very much, was very naïve. I went on a backpacking trip through Europe in 1994, and it was a completely different world than what we know today. No Internet, no cell phones, no Facebook or Twitter, you couldn't Google a place to stay in Barcelona because there was no Google. If you were stuck in the middle of Romania in the middle of the night, guess what? You were actually stuck. I wanted to capture the essence of what that was like, but I wanted to update it to capture more of the current sensibility. There's that netherworld between college and a career when you're not a student anymore but you don't want to grow up, have a career, pay your bills. You're stuck in that middle zone and I wanted this book to capture that, that sense that anything is possible, but because anything is possible, it can get a little scary and overwhelming. I wanted to tell this story, but it took me a long time before I was ready as a writer to tell it. It took about six years from the first word to the printed novel.
Did you decide to mash these genres together, the "coming of age" story and sci-fi, or was it a more organic process?
It was a little more organic. Back in college I was tinkering around with a couple story ideas and one day, a line came to me: "Jason Medley had on his night stand a jar that contained the essence of the universe". And I said, okay, A) who is Jason Medley and B) what in God's green earth is the essence of the universe? And after going on these travels and collecting notes, I started to see the narrative coming together.
The relationships you've created are very different than what you see in most conventional novels. Were you trying to say something specific about love?
It's funny that you ask that. I wanted every character in the book to have their own arc, whether big or small. Characters are more interesting if they have a chance to change, and even if they don't change, to struggle. I like when characters are tested, or test themselves. I wanted each character to face a challenge, and have to make a choice. I wanted to examine loyalties. Most people don't know how they really feel about someone unless they're forced to examine the relationship, often under a stressful situation. Donald and Danielle for example. Donald may not have realized it before, but at one point he says about his wife, "She's more than my wife, she's my girl." I took that theme from Paul McCartney, of all people. I saw an interview with him right after Linda died and Paul said that he felt so fortunate because he spent his entire relationship married to his girlfriend.
What are you working on now?
I'm actually about 75% done with my second novel, Crossline. It's a Buck Rodgers/Flash Gordon type of adventure, but loaded with my usual humor, time bending, philosophical ruminations. After that, I expect that I'll write the second Finders Keepers novel. My plan is to write a trilogy, which would wrap up the entire adventure with Jason, Theo, and a couple of the other characters. As long as there's demand for the stories, I have a pretty rich roster of characters and plots to choose from and if all goes well, I could be writing Finders Keepers novels for quite a long time. My intention was always, I want the reader to have fun. My attitude was always, If I had a good time writing it, if I enjoyed it, and it makes me laugh, I'm going to trust that other people are going to like it too.
See the PW Select review of Finders Keepers here.