Q&A with author Terry Trafton
Former Eastridge High School English teacher and author Terry Trafton, originally from Evansville, Ind., and now living in coastal North Carolina, is a great example of “better late than never.”
Trafton, who was honorably discharged from the military in 1967, later went on to teach at Eastridge and ended his teaching career at Kankakee High School in 1994, has written five other books in the past, but his debut novel, “Spider Lines,” was just published this past Summer.
Trafton spoke with the Daily Journal about “Spider Lines,” character flaws, teaching in District 111 and his new projects that are in the works.
What made you want to become an English teacher?
After I came back from the military, I went home to southern Indiana, and I was offered a job in Kankakee. During the time of my interview at Eastridge, the teachers were on strike, so I had to cross their picket lines. After they reorganized District 111, I taught communications at Kankakee High School.
I thoroughly enjoyed my tenure. I really had some extraordinary students. I was largely influenced to become a teacher from my dad. He taught for 25 years in McCutchanville, Ind., and he was a basketball coach. I had him as a teacher, and I loved his sincerity and watching him interact with his students.
What led you to write “Spider Lines”?
I wrote five novels before this, and this is the first one I ever got published. This book has a lot of stringer characters that come off of the main plotline, but they all come together. We all go on journeys, and they’re not always neat and orderly. And paranormal-romance is very hot right now.
I never submitted my other books for publication. I didn’t feel comfortable with my work. Using the stream-of-consciousness narrative style allows for the development and expression of thoughts and impressions characters experience.
“Spider Lines” is your debut novel, and it already has received an award (second place in the Mill City Press Author Awards in the romance category). Did you expect success to come so quickly?
I have to be honest: No, I didn’t. I know there are a lot of good, unknown writers, but that doesn’t take away from quality. I got the book in the contest a day before the submission deadline.
Where did the character of Ben Manning come from?
Ben Manning wasn’t drafted after anyone in particular. He’s a stock character. I might have picked up characteristics from friends or just something I’ve observed from someone. As for a downfall, he’s too easily attracted and infatuated with the character of Anna Atwood. He finds out he can’t paint her portrait because he doesn’t understand who she is, so he gets wrapped up in that.
Two-thirds into the book, he finally sees what he’s been missing — but that is his character flaw. He’s a romantic and extremely impressionable. His infatuation with Anna Atwood, during the course of the novel, begins to border on obsession, which he confuses with love.
Who are your biggest literary influences?
Tom Hardy and Ray Bradbury.
Why set the novel in southern Indiana?
I’m very familiar with that area. I grew up there. I wanted to use a setting I was comfortable with, and one that wasn’t used too often. The other novels I’ve written also are set in southern Indiana.
What were your inspirations while writing this novel?
When you start writing something such as this, you’re just staring at a blank computer screen. You start, and the inspiration might come from my past experiences, and I’ll fictionalize and embellish them. It just happens — that’s the imagination working overtime to pull ideas together. And some of the most inventive writing [in the book], comes from surrealistic episodes that a character might have.
How long did it take you to complete “Spider Lines?”
It took eight months of sustained writing everyday. Sometimes, I would be away from it for a day or two, and I would forget what day and time of day it was or who was talking in the book. The publisher (Gatekeeper Press, Columbus, Ohio) went through three sets of proofs, and I’ve read the book eight times. I eliminated 5,000 to 6,000 words. That took another eight months.
You already have two more novels (“Yellow Wood” and “Catchfly”) in the works. What can you tell us about those?
Those already are written. I am proofing “Yellow Wood,” and that should be out by Christmas. That’s about a materialistic physician who falls in love with an Amish girl. He starts to get a guilty conscious because he realizes he wants her to make a choice between him and her faith.
“Catchfly” is the first book I ever wrote in the late ’80s. It deals with a 6-year-old girl who has gone through child abuse and a protagonist who wants to rehabilitate her. I actually did a case study for this at the Kankakee County Courthouse. It’s a very sensitive, social commentary, with twists and turns.