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The Unsteady Path to the Trailer Park Prince

Updated: Dec 5, 2023



This one is about a journey of sorts, a short something to say about Trailer Park Prince, my debut novel, which goes on sale December 6, 2023, for a Summer 2024 release. It’s strange to think it. It’s even stranger to write about it.

Writing in a Warzone

I sat down this evening and reread some of the first words I wrote of Trailer Park Prince, the ones I wrote back in 2011 at a dirty coffee shop in Afghanistan, and so much about it surprised me. The first thing I noticed was how unnecessarily pretentious it read. I was clearly an amateur, and I was only writing to keep up with my buddy Adam Posadas, who was back in Georgia housesitting for me while he worked on his debut novel, Cartwheels in Combat Boots. He’d gone to his friend Tessa Gratton’s book launch (Blood Magic), and I thought, I want to do that, too. I need to do that. So, I sat at my laptop on a hot, humid night and sweated out what would one day be published as Trailer Park Prince. You wouldn’t recognize the original and the final as being the same thing. You wouldn’t even confuse them as cousins. So much about it has changed over the years, just like so much of me has changed. I was 26 years old, living and working in a warzone when I started. That version of me thought it was clever to start a story with:


 

The woman did not know that, within an hour's time, she and the man who was her husband would both be dead. She should have guessed at it, though, as the rain had always brought her misfortune and, on this particular night, the rainfall was torrential. It had been this way since she was a child, and now, at the young age of twenty-six, she herself had just given birth to a child. The rain had begun moments before she showed her first signs of labor not three days ago, and it hadn't let up since.


 

Trust me, no combination of those words made it into the final draft, but I was so proud of that paragraph. I’d finally written the first words of my mental escape from the death, dirt, and depression that surrounded me. I’d created these five teens—all of whom were the type of friends I wish went to my high school—made a couple of them gay, then sent them into a world of hijinks. It was all very silly stuff, but it was a start.


Living in the Nation’s Capital

When I returned stateside, I landed in Washington, D.C., and it didn’t take long to get swept away in the swirling political undertow. I started school at the George Washington University, and even getting to class meant passing by the White House. I can’t count the number of times I was late for Econometrics because someone’s motorcade was halting traffic. Every bar had several televisions tuned to the news. I was actually at a gay sports bar on U St. when the George Zimmerman “Not Guilty” verdict came across several of the screens tuned to CNN or MSNBC.


The city changed me, or maybe, and perhaps more precisely, the city brought out parts of me I had suppressed during my time in the Army. I was no longer bound by a Uniform Code of Military Justice. I could see things and express my opinions about them. Up to this point, I’d set my manuscript aside. When I picked it back up, my five friends were no longer gallivanting across a Southern landscape. They were suffering.


Loss Along the Way

Two of my very best friends died as a consequence of military trauma and post-military adaptation. One jumped from the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, and his body was never found. The other was found lying on the side of a highway in California. Both their deaths changed me in real and meaningful ways, and the past as we had lived it was actually catching up to us. Nothing was the same after that. Time had bifurcated into “before they died” and “after they died.” A lot of me shifted. The way I viewed the world and my own interpersonal relationships was constantly reexamined, and I didn’t write for a long time.


Becoming a Diplomat

My husband and I moved to Mexico City, Mexico, on our first diplomatic mission about a month after we got married. It felt very strange to be dropped into a country and culture so different from my own. It felt weird and right. I decided in December 2019 to dust off my manuscript and give it another go. I read through my old manuscript—the same as I did this evening—and it felt as though I’d stumbled across a wormhole taking me to a time and place I’d forgotten about. It was fun to read through, but I was sure I couldn’t continue the story as written. I plucked out the best parts and moved on from there.


Becoming a Dad and Losing My Own

Adopting my son, Shai, upended my worldview as violently as a cat ransacking the Christmas tree. Experiencing fatherhood firsthand lent new dimensions to my characters, humanizing the stern King and softening the rebellious twins. When my own divisive dad died months later, the old familial wounds hemorrhaged anew, gushing emotional nuance into my book like artery juice from a slaughterhouse hose. This is to say, I felt a lot in those last few months of writing my first draft. A new dad who’d just lost his own, writing about a teen with daddy issues. It was an emotional ride I had to stay on to finish writing, and I think much of it shows in the final draft.


Art Imitates Life

My book is set during an election year as both U.S. political parties establish their own intentions that drive the actions of these alien minorities. Similarly, my book will be released in a U.S. election year where both parties will have established their intentions for us, and what we can read and watch and see and do. It’s strange to think it. It’s even stranger to write about it.






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