I had a chat with Craig Rodgers about his new book that we released that I thought was pretty fun and provided interesting insight into the thought process behind this amazing novel.
Where did the inspiration for Shaw as a character come from? There are hints from a past life he once held before he exiles himself but not many details, did you originally come up with Shaw as a full fledged character and use that as a starting ground or did you just throw Shaw into the wild and feel it out from there?
Everybody has those thoughts about just being done, leaving everything and moving off to the woods, or here it’s a ghost town. But the world comes right along behind, you’re never really leaving it. Everybody’s lost things or had some straw dropped on them and they just feel done with it.
What events in your life, our lives you’ve witnessed, made you want to tell this story? How does “The Ghost of Mile 43” reflect reality as you’ve witnessed it?
A few years ago my identity was stolen, and going through the process of trying to wrangle that, all the calls about debt that wasn’t mine, the idea of up and literally walking away seemed appealing. This is probably too literal an answer.
From both your perspective and from the perspective of Shaw, do you feel he is better off at the end of the novel? Why or why not?
I don’t want to tell anybody what they should or shouldn’t take away from the ending or the story as a whole, but if I were to answer in the most general fashion I would say he is not better off at the end, no.
There are a lot of characters that tend to meddle in Shaw’s isolation. The two teenagers, for example, refuse to give up on helping him. What do you think motivates these characters to get involved with Shaw?
Misguided energy. Misguided optimism or the intention to do good. Their motives are pure enough, but the way they go about it misses the mark. This man’s a complete stranger. They don’t have the tools or the perspective to be the help they want to be.
The ghost car is certainly a rather vague abstraction that readers can apply meaning to as they see fit, but what does it mean to you? Why is it haunting Shaw?
Oh I definitely won’t be answering that.
There is a running theme of survival and resilience in the book that I found particularly alluring. Despite wanting to escape from society as a whole, Shaw still wants very much so to live. He fishes, poisons himself with a frog, and scavenges to supply himself with nourishment. He maintains human form and principles despite not being a part of the collective whole of humanity, what do you feel that means for us as a species, as animals?
There’s something appealing in this visceral way about surviving in circumstances that are miles outside your norm. This guy is not an outdoorsman, he has no idea what he’s doing, but he’s doing what he can with what’s there. There’s a satisfaction in that.
What do you do to clear your head when writing gets to be too much for the day? Are there any hobbies or little moments you like to soak up in order to unwind?
The boring things. Cliche things. Drink too much coffee. Buy office supplies. You feel like you’re doing something when you buy office supplies. Someday that spiral notebook’s gonna be full of stories. And you can never have too many notebooks or pens.
As for as artistic inspirations go, whether it be painter, musician, or writer, who has influenced you and how? What artists have you been drawn to throughout your own endeavors?
Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, Donald Ray Pollock. Who else. Shirley Jackson. Robert Aickman. I’ve been going through a Dashiell Hammett phase lately. I’m spacing the names of painters. Shit. You know Genieve Figgis? I like her stuff.
Oh tons of stuff. I’ve been working on a series of short stories that take place in a lake town. They share some faces here and there and some locations, but they’re each their own thing. At first I wanted to write it for screen as each one being a few episodes in an anthology, a sort of shared universe thing, but that’s all well outside my wheelhouse. I’ve also been showing around another book, so maybe that’ll pop up soon. And other things. Always other things. But a lot of that I’ll need to pair with an artist for. That’s down the road stuff.
Any final words, shout outs, or random snippets of information you’d like to share with the readers?
Yeah, just enjoy the story, tell a friend, you know? Enjoy the next one too.