The underlying theme of Alex, Peanut Butter, and Me is that sometimes the most insignificant act inflict the gravest wound. Recently divorced, Phil Hayes, marries the woman of his dreams, but a year later he stands at her grave with the intellectually challenged son from her first marriage, 20-year old Alex Patterson. Phil struggles to overcome the maze separating them.
Against the advice of his grown children and of his parents, he opts not to place him in a group home and walk away. The peanut butter loving Alex consistently clashes with Phil. He balks at having his mother buried, at having Phil for a guardian, and at other women who might enter Phil’s life.
Phil must discover the underlying hurt dividing them and find a way to close the wound.
What inspired you to write this story?
Many years ago, I met and fell in love with a woman who had a 15-year old son with intellectual challenges. I knew nothing about what he faced or the problems that she had overcome. I had never interacted with any inhabitants of their world. I learned to do so. I became involved with group homes and Special Olympics, and in the process came to admire the folks who make them viable and to understand the people who are unable to face up to that world. After writing six suspense novels I decided it was time to try a family saga. With two knowledgeable guides, it seemed a natural.
How much of yourself is hidden in the characters?
To be honest, I’m really not sure. Part of me is certainly in the main character, Phil. Especially the part about how ignorant he is, at first, about the world of the intellectually challenged. When I married, my wife told me that she didn’t want to change her son’s last name, feeling that he should have some tie to his father, who was unable to face up to the fact that he had fathered a less than perfect son. She also felt that a name change might be confusing for him to handle. Over the years, I have come to regret not having adopted him, and have struggled with how to explain our relationship to strangers. The word ‘stepson’ quickly became intolerable. My character, Phil struggles with this. The struggle comes right from my soul. In this novel it is the dagger that tears them apart. On the other hand, the character of Alex bears almost no resemblance to our son, except that both are involved with Special Olympics. He and I have never had to face the problems of my fictional characters.
Who are the most unusual characters in the novel?
For me, the most unusual character is the ghost of Phil’s dead grandmother with whom the journalist carries on telepathic communication. She is usually one step ahead of him and manages to keep him in line as in the chapter where Phil is expecting female company and he and Alex have a run-in. Just as Phil is reaching for his bottle of Johnnie Walker, she stops him, she asks what the woman will think if she arrives to find him “stewed, sloshed, crapulous?” Phil responds, “Crapulous, Grandma? To which she answers, “Yes, crapulous: it’s a perfectly good word. You’re supposed to be a writer. Look it up! I got it from Noah Webster. He’s up here too.” I had a fabulous time writing their encounters. Some readers may enjoy Phil’s quarrelsome relationship with his disapproving parents or his on again off again friendship with his outwardly crusty editor.
Why will the readers relate to the characters?
The situations that arise in this novel are not fanciful. They are the same earthly problems that most of us have had to deal with in the past. Few of us can say that we’ve been immune to the upside-down housing market, the ruptured economy, car trouble; unemployment, relationships that go sour, divorce, even dating problems. And I believe that many have someone in their family, who right now, is faced with the same kinds of challenges as Alex Patterson. And yet, taken in its totality, the novel is not depressing. The characters face their situations and find solutions. I believe it is uplifting
At what age did you discover writing?
While I tried my hand at a detective story at about age 17, I believe I was about 66 or 67 when I first began outlining the story that would become Path to a Pardon. (I do not always utilize an outline but with no formal training, it was the only way I knew how to begin.) In July 1998, when I was 68-years old it was copyrighted.
What was the first story you wrote?
A lot of novelists start out as short story writers. I didn’t know that when I first began to outline my story. I had heard something on the Evening News that interested me. I couldn’t let it go. The idea intrigued me so much that I began to construct a story based on that bit of fact and the age old author’s question, “What if.” 87,000 words later the novel was finished.
When were you first published?
In 2009 The Dan River Press published my short story, The Fence, in their Anthology. Later in 2011, I electronically published two novels, Path to a Pardon about a diamond heist gone wrong and The Eindhoven Strategy, an espionage/ suspense story, with both Amazon and Barnes and Nobel. A year later, with the same two venues, I published Palm Beach Style, a story of kidnapping and an armored car robbery in Palm Beach.
How many stories are currently swirling around your head?
I hope there aren’t too many because at the moment I am revising the third volume of a fictional trilogy, Adventures of Silent Sam, set against the background of the Revolutionary war that is intended for Young Adults and New Adults. At the same time I am seeking representation from Literary Agents for my novel, The Unvarnished Truth, a family saga about a family hiding from the FBI due to the father’s role in the slaying of Martin Luther King, Jr. And while all this is transpiring, I am creating another family saga, Where There is a Will . . . There’s a Relative. Not to mention, Keeping my Blog and my website posted in order to assist in the marketing of Alex, Peanut Butter, and Me.
Do you keep pen and notebook by my bedside?
The quick answer is, no. To do so would require that I turn on a light and risk waking my wife who is a light sleeper. I have however, been known to slip out of bed and tiptoe to my office on the other side of the house where with door closed I can turn on lights and write down ideas that might otherwise vanish with the dawn. I have also been known to keep a tape recorder by my pillow so I can escape to the bathroom and record my thoughts. I sometimes carry this device with me as I walk my dog.
Where can people learn more about you and Alex, Peanut Butter and Me?
To find Alex, Peanut Butter and Me, I suggest that readers go to my author page at Second Wind Publishing: http://www.secondwindpublishing.com/#!joshua-truxton/cizf
Readers can also learn about me as well as my books by going to my website: http://www.joshswritingroom.com
To get my slant on the writing life readers may enjoy checking out my blog at: http://www.joshtruxton.blogspot.com