Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Looking Beyond the 'Gingham Blindfold'

"I stood motionless, overcome by a surge of excitement and nerves. It felt like the first time I interviewed a big-name act for Record Shelves. I took a breath, swallowed and put a foot forward, followed by the other. I didn’t look back at the irritated old woman behind me. I didn’t look both ways when I crossed the street. I just moved before I figured out how to stop myself." -- Eric Rohr, Gingham Blindfold: A Novel

Gingham Blindfold, the debut novel from Northern California-based author Eric Rohr, is an impressive look at how idealized notions about life can sometimes lead to disappointment ... and remarkable discovery. Main character Ethan Ames is an eager twenty-something looking to have that great life upon graduating from college. We've all been there ... surely most of us can sympathize with the identity crises and personal hardships he endures while in search for that perfect job (music critic), perfect girl (who's Indira?), perfect world and perfect self. We know that perfect just doesn't exist.

Honestly, Gingham Blindfold: A Novel is incredibly funny and at times, intense. I absolutely fell in love with this book and you will too. Read on for more about Rohr's novel, his thoughts on fatherhood and where he got the inspiration for Liz's Porsche 356 Speedster.

What inspired the story of Gingham Blindfold?
It was 2001, and I had just moved out to California with my then-girlfriend (and now lovely wife) Lara. I was jobless for the first few weeks, so I spent a lot of my time driving my beloved Honda del Sol to the beach or consuming excessive amounts of freshly blended margaritas while listening to The Breeders. Both of these activities were excellent ways to contemplate life, love and the notion that I should write a novel.

The story went through a few iterations as I figured out how to do the work of writing a novel while confronting the many diversions and distractions of post-college life. (I think I labored over the first 80 pages for five years). Originally, Indira was a German model who had died in a fiery car crash two years before Ethan learned of her identity and ... well, that was just all very complicated and melodramatic. So I was stalled. But in 2003, I read P.J. Huffstutter's excellent article about California's unregulated pornography industry in the Los Angeles Times, and I knew I had the basis for Indira.

I think most everyone in their twenties and early thirties has a bit of Ethan Ames inside of us. What do you hope readers get from Ethan Ames?
Well, it's very much a coming-of-age story, classic examples of which are Catcher in the Rye and more recently, Less Than Zero. Ethan's experience in a lot of ways mirrored my own. I had been an intern at Rolling Stone, I had been published in the magazine and on its Website, and I had worked full-time at the local daily while still in school. I assumed with all of that under my belt that I was just going to land tons of great writing gigs. Of course, that wasn't nearly the case. California's a big place, and my resume didn't amount to much. It left me in a kind of limbo. I had this feeling that all I had worked for was for naught, and the feeling that I had messed up, that I should switch jobs or fields or maybe go back to school nagged me for a long time.

And I think that's the experience of a lot of twenty-somethings. They spend four or five years in college building up this dream of instant success, and with it, total life satisfaction, and when they graduate and find that everything they have ever wanted is not just waiting for them at the drive-thru, it sends them reeling. Ethan represents that experience we all had of wanting, wanting, wanting, but getting nothing. Or at least, not getting what we wanted in the way we had idealized.

Now for something a little more personal. You're a writer, a massive music fan and a dedicated family man. What makes you YOU?
But what makes me me? I do love music, though I'm consuming less of it now than when I was a wannabe rock journalist. I find myself wrestling with the eternal question of the aging hipster: is it the music nowadays, or is it me?

My wife gave birth to our first child, Jonas, last October, so hanging out with him joyfully takes up most of our spare time. He's already talking up a baby-babble storm, and I'm pretty sure he'll be outsmarting both me (easily) and my wife some day soon.

I also obsess over sports cars, which seems so un-literary until you read A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter. It's no accident that Liz drives a Porsche 356 Speedster in Gingham Blindfold. I mean, why not put your dream car in your novel? Where else can you indulge your fantasies?

Gingham Blindfold: A Novel is available via paperback and Kindle at Amazon. You can also purchase it at Target and CreateSpace.

[Book cover design: Eric Rohr]
[Cover photograph: Dylan Ellis/Corbis]

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