Today, I'm pleased to introduce you to John Ames, author of "Adventures In Nowhere."
John was gracious enough to write a guest post about how his childhood experiences influenced his writing as an adult.
All authors draw from their own lives when writing fiction, but many are reluctant to go into detail on the subject, thinking it might diminish the mystery in their work. When I was asked to demonstrate how an aspect of my novel, Adventures in Nowhere, connects to my childhood, I had a moment of doubt myself, but I’ve made it no secret that a lot of material in my novel is based on personal experience. And, even though I am retired, I still have the teacher’s impulse to explain things, so I agreed.
The visions of Danny Ryan, the ten-year-old protagonist of Adventures in Nowhere, suit the task. As he sits beside the
, Danny imagines on the opposite bank a pleasant house where he might live free of the tensions in his own home. Gradually, his imaginings become more and more real to him, but at the same time the house on the other side of the river becomes more mysterious, even menacing. Danny wonders if he is losing his mind and begins to feel panic on the bank of the river that previously provided him welcome relief from his father’s frightening moods. Hillsborough River
I spent a great deal of time on the banks of the Hillsborough as a boy, though I never imagined a house on the other side of the river. What I did do was look across the water at what appeared to be a step on the opposite bank. It was probably just a flat rock, but I often wondered if that step was the first in a series of steps leading to a mysterious dwelling that I could not make out through the dense foliage. This was the beginning point of the mysterious house Danny imagines.
Danny’s increasing anxiety comes out of another of my childhood experiences. For a short period of time when I was young, I developed an irrational fear of birds circling in the sky. I remember when it started. An adult I didn’t know very well kidded me by saying something like, “Watch out, those birds might swoop down and peck you.” At the time, I thought it was a stupid thing to say. I knew very well those birds were no threat to me. However, within days I found myself terrified by the very birds I had previously laughed off. I couldn’t understand what had happened to me. I realized it was crazy, yet I remained afraid, running home in the afternoon from the school bus stop with my book bag on my head. I doubt the fear lasted more than a week, but it gave me a sense of how quickly one’s mind can move from stable to unstable, especially under pressure.
Danny Ryan’s imaginings, his apparent loss of control over his imagination, and his rising panic have their origins in the real experiences I have described. Of course, I added a great deal of context to them, and I have indulged in some wishful thinking, giving Danny a chance to triumph in a way I never did. That’s the beauty of fiction.
John Ames has a master’s degree in English from the University of Florida, where he was a Ford Fellow. After graduation, he built a rustic house and lived for several years on the edge of a spiritual community located near
He has produced and acted in numerous short films and videos, including the cable TV series the “Tub Interviews,” wherein all the interviewees were required to be in a bathtub. For ten years he reviewed movies for PBS radio station WUFT. He has appeared as a standup comedian and has designed and marketed Florida-themed lamps. He coauthored Second Serve: The Renée Richards Story (Stein and Day, 1983) and its sequel No Way Renée: The Second Half of My Notorious Life (Simon & Schuster, 2007), and Speaking of Florida (University Presses of Florida, 1993).
His recent book is a coming-of-age novel titled Adventures in Nowhere.
You can visit his website at www.johnamesauthor.com.