Hey hey, readers! I’ve been on hiatus here at Roads Lesser Traveled as I have devoted my writing time to the completion of a first draft of a new novel tentatively titled “Revolution Calling.” As you can see by the 2018 vintage bottle of Bordeaux I saved for this moment, I was confident I would be celebrating something special. This thing wrote itself, honestly. I hardly needed the vino to feel intoxicated (and occasionally mortified) by the whole writing process. I am blessed to have so much recall of the events, the dialect, the people, the setting and things relevant to the times in which I tell my story. I was called to write “Revolution Calling” while I still have vivid memories and the 1980s are still “hot” with contemporary pop culture. As inevitable as with generations past, the timeframe I came of age in will soon become its own road lesser traveled.
If I had to give a quick pitch of my project on the spot, I would say this, kind of a like a tagline upon the top of a movie poster from the Eighties: “Non-conformity always comes with a price, especially in 1988…”
My story is largely based on my teenage life, so I would consider it a period piece semi-autobiography. I lived most of these events telling a tale of turbulence, alienation, persecution, parental abuse, violence, love, heartbreak and ultimate redemption through my four central characters in their senior year of high school. Primarily, it is told through the POV of two teenage metalhead friends, Rob and Jason–me split into two lead characters. Not so much tomfoolery as Wayne’s World, not quite as grotesque and avant garde as The River’s Edge. This is somewhere in-between with a kiss of both The Outsiders and Kobra Kai, which fine-tuned the direction I was looking for.
Despite the deep, personal nature of “Revolution Calling” that had me reopening old wounds and confronting dark times to the point I shook myself up in spots, this is nonetheless a body of fiction. The events told were compressed from my years in high school (and some tough, brutal days I slugged through in middle school), or from people I knew back then. I would say as a disclaimer much of my high school life was quite good, wonderful at times. When it was bad, though, it was bad. I’m adult enough to say it all served a greater purpose, which was to assemble what I hope is a sociological look back at human nature and subdivisions of the high school caste system that can translate for future generations.
My original intention to this novel was to leave a document for my tribe of headbangers with whom I interacted, drank, shared music, had memorable concert outings and later wrote to and for as a journalist in the the punk and metal scenes. Rob in my story represents my evolution into a writer, which was sparked by my Creative Writing teacher, Paul Day, whom I get to tribute in fiction form. Jason is my darker half which remained mostly silent during the 80s, since I learned to project confidence, empathy and kindness, allowing me to cultivate friendships from all walks of life in school, even while staying outwardly true as a “grit.”
Jason absorbs the harshness and brutality of the story, as he also inherits the comeuppance I grabbed for myself back then amongst my peers. Rob and Jason’s unexpected and improbable love interests at different spots in the story drive their evolution, considering the hell I put them through–Jason especially. Through gnashed teeth and misty eyes at times, I decided there was a much bigger, all-encompassing point to be made in translating my story; it needed to be for everyone. I can only hope I’ve succeeded in painting a broad view of life in my fictitious, rural-placed Merriweather High circa 1988.
I will have more material here at Roads Lesser Traveled in the near future, but I am already in the rewriting and pitching stages for this project as I have a clear vision with what I want to achieve with it. I look forward to seeing you all here shortly.
–Ray Van Horn, Jr.