Fourth Grade Journey

A Fourth Grade Teacher's Journey Through the World of Books

Monday, August 29, 2016

An Inside Look #12 (The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson)

An Inside Look - With Shaun David Hutchinson
Author of The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley

*Another summer Monday, means another "inside look" with an author.

*It has been such an honor to connect with authors and "chat" with them about their novel, the characters, and their thoughts about the story.

*I have had such fun connecting with authors and "picking" their brains.

*Here are the links to my first ELEVEN interviews...

*I first learned of Shaun David Hutchinson when I read his novel We Are The Ants which I enjoyed very much.

*After reading that novel I looked into what else he had written and found this title.  I was intrigued by the title and the cover.

*You can't really compare the two stories, but they were both so wonderful, interesting, and page turning.

*While reading The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley I could not put it down and probably finished in a  day or two.

*As I tend to do when I love a novel, I reached out to the author and had a few back and forth conversations with Shaun.

*Here are his responses to my questions about the main character Andrew...

The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson (Released January 20, 2015)

How did you come to know Andrew?  
Through many, many drafts.  I started with this idea about a boy who was living in a hospital after the death of his parents.  I didn’t know much more than that when I started writing.  The first couple of drafts consisted mostly of Drew wandering around the hospital causing mischief, and it took a while before his story really came together.  With every draft, I got to know Drew and his story a little bit better as he revealed a little more to me about who he was and why he was there.  Some characters spring fully formed onto the page, but Drew was kind of shy, and it took a long time to figure him out. 

What do you think is Andrew's most admirable quality?
His compassion.  He’s dealing with the loss of his family, and not dealing with it particularly well, but he still cares about the people in the hospital and wants to take care of them even when he’s ignoring his own needs. 

Is there anything you wish Andrew would have changed or done differently in his story?
That’s tough.  I think it’s difficult to ever finish a book.  There are always things I want to change or add.  But the one thing that still bugs me is the ending.  Not the comic book ending—which I think is perfect—but the chapter that leads up to that.  I think I rushed it a little, and I’d probably do that a little diffently.

What do you think Andrew can offer to other young people that are experiencing similar situations to what he went through?  
Hope.  I write a lot about dark topics.  Depression and death and suicide, but the one thing Drew offers is the idea that no matter how bad things get, there’s still hope out there.  My early drafts of The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley were called The Walls because the hospital is something of a metaphor for being trapped by guilt and despair, but at the end Drew realizes there’s still life beyond the walls.  And I think that’s true for all of us who find ourselves trapped by darkness.  There’s always life beyond the walls. 

How did you research Andrew and the circumstances he found himself in?
I took a lot of liberties with Drew’s experiences in the hospital.  For instance, it’s highly unlikely that a remote hospital like Roanoke would have the facilities necessary to deal with Rusty’s severe burns.  But I drew on my own experiences training as an EMT.  I worked some shifts in hospitals and rode along with local paramedics.  A lot of the descriptions of patients—including the young boy who drowned—were based on real experiences I’d had during that time.

Do you and Andrew share any similarities?  
I think we both have a tendency to get trapped in our own heads and difficulty seeing beyond the pain we’re experiencing in the moment.  When bad things happen to Drew, he gets tunnel vision, and that’s something I also deal with. 

What was the hardest scene to write about Andrew? 
The scene where he has to perform CPR on the dead boy who’d drowned.  That was taken directly from my own life.  I was with paramedics who were called to a the house of a young boy who’d drowned, and he was clearly dead when we arrived.  He was on the front lawn, and his entire family was out there, screaming and crying, and we had to work on him.  The paramedic in charge had me perform CPR on the boy while they worked on him even though they knew there was no chance to save him.  It was the first time I’d really seen a dead body, and it still haunts me to this day.

Who do you think was Andrew's biggest supporter and why?
I think Drew was collecting surrogate family members in the hospital, so he had a lot of supporters, but I think his biggest supporter could have been Miss Michelle.  I took a little criticism for casting the social worker as a potential antagonist in the story (and that criticism is probably justified), but Miss Michelle is really only an antagonist in Drew’s mind.  The reality is that she, more than anyone else, wanted to help Drew.  That was her job.  And I think if he’d spoken to her sooner and let her help him, she would have.  Of course, then the story would have only been twenty pages.

Why do you think people fill up their lives by helping others when they are dealing with their own pain and/or issues?  
 I was on this panel about grief with Jason Reynolds, and we were talking about the ways in which people deal with it.  He said something really profound that stuck with me.  He said (and I’m paraphrasing here…hopefully not badly) that no one really gets over grief.  That we’re all just looking for people to share it with.  I think that’s why we help others when we’re in pain.  We’re looking for people who understand what we’re going through. We’re looking to support others in our situation while simultaneously seeking out that same support for ourselves.  When I’m going through a bad depression it helps me to make other people smile.  Doing so doesn’t always make me feel better at the time, but it helps me know that I can and will feel better eventually.

What do you think Andrew is doing as this present time?  
I’ve never quite been able to let go of Drew, so he pops up occasionally in other books.  I think he’s still out there trying to figure out his life.  He’s working on more Patient F comic books, thinking about Rusty, and living the best life he can. 

No comments:

Post a Comment