We’re thrilled to have John Vorhaus with us today to tell us a bit about his latest novel, Poole’s Paradise!
Q: Please describe your book in 104 words or less.
JV: POOLE’S PARADISE tells the story of earnest young Alexander Poole and his imperfect search for purpose. As a college sophomore in a small New England town in 1974, Poole craves purpose. He doesn’t know what it is or where to find it, but he’s determined to get him some. Unfortunately, his search takes him into the louche underworld of the local townie community, where college kids like Poole get messed with every day. By roundabout and utterly unexpected means he discovers his purpose and the essential truth that – spoiler alert – when you don’t know your purpose, your search for purpose is your purpose. (That’s 103 words, including “louche,” which means “disreputable or sordid in a rakish or appealing way,” and not including these ones here.)
Q: Is it autobiographical?
JV: It’s emotionally autobiographical. The things that happen to Poole never happened to me, and I couldn’t have handled them with the honesty he does. But his heart rests on mine, and what he wants I wanted, too. In fact, a big impetus for the book was my desire to create a different sort of college experience (a frankly transcendent one) from the satisfactory but not spectacular one I had. Of course, having lived through the ‘70s helped me manifest the world of my story – its idiom and culture – but so did Google, so there you go.
Q: Who is this book for?
JV: It’s for “young seekers and old geezers.” Younger readers, especially those who seek a deeper understanding of life, meaning and “the isness of it all,” will appreciate the lessons Poole learns. They will find it, I think, much like ZEN IN THE ART OF MOTORCYLE MAINTENANCE, though a good deal shorter and easier to read. Oldsters – people of my generation – will really dig the 1970s references and resonance. For those readers, I intend POOLE to be a trip back in time to when life was simpler, phones had cords, and a bag of weed cost twenty bucks an ounce.
Q: What unique challenges did this book pose for you, if any?
JV: Since the book is set in the ‘70s, I had to leave behind everything I knew about the modern world – and it’s amazing how insidiously pervasive that knowledge is. I’m not just talking about obvious things like CDs and DVDS. I’m talking about today’s mindset, where knowledge of any subject is assumed to be at our fingertips. People lived in much smaller mental spaces back then, with worldviews defined by ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITTANICA and the 6 o’clock news. The ‘70s had a special innocence – an innocence since swept away by the tidal wave of the information age. Also, the events of the book take place exactly in the fall of 1974, so I had to police my references and make sure I never talked about events that hadn’t happened yet.
Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect of having written this book?
JV: Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. For fourteen of the fifteen months I worked on it, I really kind of hated it. I just wasn’t telling the story in the lean, clean, “humble in service of the work” way that I intended. But I kept my faith in it (even when that faith seemed unfounded) and kept peeling back the layers of self-indulgence until what remained served the purpose I’d set for myself. It’s a short book – a fast read – and I doubt that the reader will see the levels of complexity which informed my earlier drafts, but ultimately had no place in the work. That’s fine. I’d rather have the reader think, “He made that look easy,” or better yet not have the reader thinking about me at all. This is Poole’s story, not mine. Once I understood that, everything fell into place.
Q: Bonus sixth question – what’s the best piece of advice you can give to new writers?
JV: Make the music you make; keep giving them you until you is what they want.
Readers, you can learn more about Poole’s Paradise HERE. Enjoy!