Why did you write this novel?
Memories grow on us. I doubt anyone forgets the bad moments, much as they try, and we cling dearly to the good ones. Growing older means distilling all those memories into a pattern of rational understanding and acceptance. We call it wisdom and it works for most people. If you had a lousy childhood, leave it behind if you can. Life’s a long road with plenty of new scenery ahead. If you had a blessed childhood, celebrate it. Most of us remember something in between. I thought a lot about being a kid and decided to put those thoughts into words and the words became Summer of the Black Chevy.
Why does the novel take place in your hometown of Deer Lodge, Montana?
Given that I wrote about teenage influences, why make up a town? I wanted a setting with personality and a place I knew well. Deer Lodge was both. Besides that, what a great name for a town. Have you heard of a better one?
Who will want to read Summer of the Black Chevy?
Who won’t, right? But yes, I know what you mean. In the simplest context, this is a novel about teenage angst. Remember when it was a crisis if some kid said your hair looked funny? Nostalgia isn’t always pretty. That said, I wrote this novel to take a look into deeper themes like betrayal and grief. Life is a rough ride. Our black Chevy is a good metaphor for driving on the edge. I think my novel would appeal to anyone who looks back on those teenage years and says, “What was that all about?”
How about your protagonist, Paul Morrison. Is he you, Kevin S. Giles?
Nice try. Paul shares some similarities with his literary creator, true. Deer Lodge was home to both of us. We shared much the same house, although mine was on College Avenue and the fictional Paul lived east of town in an old farmhouse. He’s more of a composite of people I knew, dosed with some imagination. He’s not any one person. You knew that, right?
Was this novel easy to write?
At times, yes. At times, no. I write quickly when the mood moves me. When it feels like work I write anyway because often the most meaningful words spill onto the page under protest. I started writing Summer of the Black Chevy years ago. I just wasn’t in any hurry to finish it. When I sat down to write, the story felt like an old friend. It was both comforting and painful at the same time. Some of the original words stayed. Others disappeared in a storm of revisions. I love to rewrite, but that too is painful.
I’ve thought about writing a book. What should I do?
Many people who think about becoming writers never put a word on a page. Writing is hard. There’s no substitute for doing it. Spending time seeking everybody’s advice about how to write helps serious writers, but it won’t do the work for the timid ones. You don’t need credentials, by the way. Just write. Writing is a lonely exploration of your deepest thoughts, unforgiving at times, much like walking down a long country road in the dark with a barking dog somewhere behind that barbed wire fence. It’s work, yes, but a naked expression of your creative self. In the end it’s yours.
Kevin S. Giles is an American journalist and author whose books are set in his native western Montana. Two of his books take place in his hometown of Deer Lodge: a novel, “Summer of the Black Chevy” (2015) and the nonfiction work, “Jerry’s Riot: The True Story of Montana’s 1959 Prison Disturbance.” (2005)