Memory of a Young Boy

When people talk to me about my writing, they frequently ask, “What drew you to this particular story?”  This remains difficult for me to answer in general, and that is particularly true for my third novel, Hotel Impala. The impetus for Dream Chaser, my first novel, was a newspaper story I read and filed away years before imagining the novel. It’s Not Like I Knew Her, my second novel, was largely autobiographical, set in a fictional location with entirely fictional characters.

The way Hotel Impala came about is more complicated and is perhaps better told as its own story.

Decades ago, as a graduate student and teaching assistant at Florida State University, I spent countless late-night hours at the Strozier Library. On a cold night in early February—I remember because my birthday was approaching—I left the library, exhausted and hungry because I had skipped lunch. It was a tradeoff I regularly made in the interest of more uninterrupted time at the library. I was eager for the warmth and privacy of my temporary home—a seventeen-foot travel trailer on loan from my parents—and the balance of the food from the care package my mom sent regularly to help me through the last week or so before receiving my next paycheck.

Shivering, I started up the heat in my VW Bug and drove away from the library, thinking about satisfying my hunger and getting warm. My route off campus took me to the intersection of Woodward and Tennessee Street. When I slowed and pulled to a stop beneath the glow of streetlights, I caught sight of a man and woman, my age or slightly older, and a child, maybe three or four, huddled together. The boy sat slumped on what appeared to be a cardboard suitcase, and I imagined him both cold and hungry. He leaned against the woman I took to be his mother, who had wrapped her arms about him, leaned and appeared to whisper.

The light changed, and I drove away, having done nothing. Though I felt I should have stopped, at the time I had no idea what I might have done. But the image of the boy, and trying to understand what comfort his desperate mother might have offered against the enormous weight of homelessness, has stayed with me.

Years later, when I began to hear the voices of Grace, her younger sister, Zoey, and their mom, Leah, who led me to write Hotel Impala, I believe it was an echo of that little boy to whom I failed to respond.  I want to believe that a random encounter, decades earlier, had planted a story seed; an emotional memory that has remained. Perhaps it is true that our hearts hold memories, waiting for our conscious minds to catch up.

Hotel Impala is scheduled for release on September 16, 2024

Available for pre-sale here: Pre-Order Now