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Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed author Trevor J Houser about his career, what inspires his writing, and his new book, Pacific.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I’m an advertising copywriter who lives with his family in Seattle. Other places I’ve lived: New York, San Francisco, Buenos Aires. Other jobs: wine salesman, bookseller, private investigator.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I wrote a lot of little comics and stories when I was a kid, but didn’t tackle an actual novel until the Christmas break of my Freshman year in college. I can’t recall the title, but it was about two friends driving from Portland, OR to Mexico, drinking, getting in fights and finding love. Classic first novel territory.
When did you take a step to start writing?
College is when I got serious about writing. I published stories in our literary journal and thought maybe becoming a famous novelist would be a good direction to go in. I had no idea of how hard it would be to even get published.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
I wrote and published a short story in 2017 that would be the inspiration for the book PACIFIC. I found my publisher in 2019. The book didn’t come out till November 2021.
What made you want to write Pacific?
Writing this was a way for me to act out every parent’s fantasy, who has a sick child, that they could actually do something. Parents in that situation have very little control. Your child’s future is up to doctors and machines and drugs and you’re just sort of there to bear witness. But what if a parent was actually able to save their child’s life? And what if they could even go on an adventure together to find the cure?
So this book is really about that. About showing the depth of love for a child through a melancholy comic adventure story set in the Northwest, the high seas and Central America.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Pacific?
Through those early years of navigating this new world of specialists and treatments, I was surprised by my inability to write about what was undoubtedly the most difficult, transformative period of my life. After years of uncertainty surrounding his prognosis, there was suddenly a light at the end of the tunnel, and I began writing the short story that ultimately turned into this book.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?
Chief Brody, meets Sal Paradise, meets me.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?
More than Captain Snow and Chief Bell’s wife the biggest antagonist is probably the disease itself.
What is the inciting incident of Pacific?
When the main character, Chief Bell and his wife disagree on whether to seek out more experimental options to cure their son.
What is the main conflict of Pacific?
Chief Bell vs. time and his son’s deadly disease.
Did you plot Pacific in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
I had the basic idea. Setting up the story in the PNW, the ocean journey to Central America, and then a sort of WAITING FOR GODOT situation in a Guatemalan hotel as families wait their turn to see the mysterious Dr. Haas.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Pacific need?
I did get editing support. Mostly high-level stuff. Maybe add some more to this chapter. More description here. Nothing too earth-shattering.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
Give yourself a goal of so many words or pages per week or per month. Without that it’s very easy to put things off.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
My second novel, THE PRUMONT METHOD, is in the editing phase right now and will be published in ’23 with Unsolicited Press. It’s about a math hobbyist who may have discovered a theorem that predicts when and where the next mass shooting takes place.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
I’ve wanted to publish a novel since my twenties so this was lifelong dream that finally came true.
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