Stephen Metcalfe’s debut novel The Tragic Age is set to release from St. Martin’s Griffin on March 3rd, 2015 and I’m happy to have had the opportunity to interview the main character, Billy Kinsey. He’s a unique character with a unique story. Enjoy!
Summary (From Goodreads):
This is the story of Billy Kinsey, heir to a lottery fortune, part genius, part philosopher and social critic, full time insomniac and closeted rock drummer. Billy has decided that the best way to deal with an absurd world is to stay away from it. Do not volunteer. Do not join in. Billy will be the first to tell you it doesn’t always work— not when your twin sister, Dorie, has died, not when your unhappy parents are at war with one another, not when frazzled soccer moms in two ton SUVs are more dangerous than atom bombs, and not when your guidance counselor keeps asking why you haven’t applied to college.
Billy’s life changes when two people enter his life. Twom Twomey is a charismatic renegade who believes that truly living means going a little outlaw. Twom and Billy become one another’s mutual benefactor and friend. At the same time, Billy is reintroduced to Gretchen Quinn, an old and adored friend of Dorie’s. It is Gretchen who suggests to Billy that the world can be transformed by creative acts of the soul.
With Twom, Billy visits the dark side. And with Gretchen, Billy experiences possibilities.Billy knows that one path is leading him toward disaster and the other toward happiness. The problem is—Billy doesn’t trust happiness. It’s the age he’s at. The tragic age.
Stephen Metcalfe’s brilliant, debut coming-of-age novel, The Tragic Age, will teach you to learn to love, trust and truly be alive in an absurd world.
You’ve brought up the absurd and that you’ve read some works by Albert Camus. Have you read The Stranger as well? If so, what do you think of Meursault’s attitude and way of life?
It’s been awhile. In retrospect, I’m not so thrilled about old Meursault. He’s kind of a dick. I mean, trying to go through life feeling indifferent to the universe because you think it’s indifferent to you is pretty stupid and boring actually. Also it’s pretty much impossible (I failed at it miserably). I mean, all you do is compartmentalize. Feelings and emotions don’t just go away. They’re still there, boiling and brewing underneath, waiting to burst out. And for Meursault they finally did. And let’s face it, he goes to the guilotine feeling pretty meaningless. Which frankly, would suck. I’d like to be a little more proactive with my life than settling for getting my head chopped off.
There are moments in the story when you think one thing and say or do another, or don’t act at all. What’s holding you back?
I actually think I’m doing the best I can in the given moment. My problem is I’ve seen all these stupid movies and lame TV shows and so my brain keeps flashing on all these idiotic things that I could be doing or should be saying in certain situations – “cool” or “dramatic”or “witty” things – but don’t. Maybe I just have an over active imagination.
Do you have any advice for other teens who are dealing with loss?
Maybe embrace it so as to understand it? It’s sort of part of life, isn’t it. To paraphrase, Frank Herbert in his semi-interesting novel, Dune – I will face my loss. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the loss has gone there will be healing” This comes under “the do as I say, not what I do” heading of teenage advice.
You’ve mentioned that you spend quite a bit of time in the library. What’s your favorite book?
Usually the one I’m currently involved with. At the moment I’m totally smitten with Michael Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White.
Interesting facts are prevalent in your story. How have you accumulated so much knowledge about such intriguing trivia?
I wish I knew. I’m just curious about things. Something interests me and I want to know about it. And so I look it up and I read about it. (That’s one thing the internet is good for.) And reading about it usually suggest other things that sound interesting and so I read about them. But when it comes to really knowing something, I’m a jack of all trades, master of none. I should probably go into politics but I still have this crazy idea I might do something meaningful with my life. Also I’m not so good at lying with a straight face.