In this weeks Author Spotlight, I chat to the very talented JR Ingrisano, author of Captain Jolly’s Do Over, a contemporary Fiction novel.
What is your book about?
To escape the failure of a marriage his wife no longer wants and a business that no longer stirs his soul, Jamie Richards runs away to a Caribbean island, where he becomes the salt-crusted, barefoot skipper of the excursion catamaran The Do Over. Along the way, he candidly questions many of the cultural and sexual truisms of his past life, finding that many are no more than myths.
JR Ingrisano’s Captain Jolly’s Do Over is a character-driven novel of redemption and relationships, with echoes of Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary, Herman Wouk’s 1965 novel, Don’t Stop the Carnival, and Hemmingway’s island stories. It is the ultimate escape fantasy, a novel of myths wrapped in hard-core truths about modern relationships.
Jolly takes up with a misfit collection of locals and other ex-patriots, who are studies in contradictions (more like Peter Pan’s lost boys than Gertrude Stein’s “Lost Generation”), yet with resumes that follow a similar story line: got married (and figuratively, if not literally, lived in a house with a white picket fence) to a spouse who forgot how to have sex in the backseat (or who discovered how to have sex in the backseat with someone else), got bored, got dumped, or just got greedy, read one too many Hemingway stories or heard one too many stupid Jimmy Buffett songs, and fled to the Caribbean to drink margaritas. Resume in full.
Like Jolly, they travel light, but with lots of baggage. However, with a monster hurricane bearing down on the island, even this barefoot, minimalist life is threatened, as Jolly heads out of safe harbor ahead of the storm and, eventually, is forced to scuttle – and then resurrect – his life and his boat.
What inspired you to write this book?
My own fantasy about running away to enjoy the Caribbean, which I actually did for two years. Plus, on a cruise to St. Maarten, I met a catamaran skipper; he had been the only one to save his boat in the face of a monster hurricane by lashing it to the roots in a stand of mangroves outside the lagoon.
Who is your favourite, and least favourite, character in the book?
I think, for favorite, it is a toss-up between Kid and Bonita, two lost souls who expect nothing from life and have chosen to be don’t-give-a-shit carefree and happy as a result. They both have terrible pain and loss in their lives, but all the world sees is their relaxed determination to go with the flow.
But wait? There is also old, easy-going Calabash, Black Mike, and Yvonne.
My least favorite? That would have to be Blah Blah Brenda, who I think is the saddest character in the book. I know too many women like her. They live in perfect, gated-lives communities and are often too afraid to even think about escaping this orgasm-free straight life. Not only do they bore those around them to death; they bore themselves, too.
What draws you to this genre? Do you write in any other genre?
Fiction, books with meat about the human condition, was always my first love. However, as I went through the usual phases of life – marriage, kids, divorce -- I wrote a lot of commercial copy. I became a marketer and business journalist because, well, that was where the money was. These days, I am back to writing the “real” stuff.
Is this a standalone book, or can we expect more?
This is a standalone book. However, certain characters and scenes appear in my next novel, a very different book called Alicia in Ruins.
Tell me about you and what drew you to writing? Are there any authors who inspired you to become a writer yourself?
I’ve always loved the power of discovering the just-right word. I see writing as an art and a craft, and I’ve always enjoyed trying to capture the human condition in such a way that makes readers see themselves and others – their very lives -- in a new and different light.
My favorite author then and now is Ernest Hemmingway. It’s not so much that he often wrote about the islands. That was a bonus. What inspired me about Hemmingway is that he wrote tight. Every word counted. Two things I tell my writing students at the University of North Georgia are “Write tight!” and “If you can say it in 100 words, you can say it better in 75.”
Other than your own book, what is your favourite novel?
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.
Have you written other books we should know about?
Alicia in Ruins is scheduled for release in 2016. It is the story of a young feral child who ends up in the hands of sex traffickers. The premise: When societies unravel, the first to suffer are women and children. And with today’s booming sex trafficking industry, well, something is quite wrong.
Alicia is not erotica; nor is it a depressing story about a lost girl. Instead, Alicia is smart and sharp – always strangely in control, even in the worst situations -- and, in the end, she beats the sex traffickers and goes on to help other girls caught in this grim life.
If you could advise aspiring writers on only one aspect of authordom, what would your advice be?
Write about subjects worth writing about – not zombies and vampires, but real life.
Master the basics of grammar and writing.
Keep on writing. Spend less time chatting with other would-be writers on author pages and more time cranking out copy.