Interview With Clayton Trier, Author Of The Outskirts Of Redemption

Interview With Clayton Trier, Author Of The Outskirts Of Redemption

How did you come up with the title for your book, The Outskirts of Redemption?

The narrator and main character in the story, 21-year-old Buddy Torrence, is convinced that he was responsible for his best friend’s suicide when they were both twelve. He believes that his actions back then are beyond forgiveness, and he has become withdrawn, a loner who hasn’t allowed himself any meaningful relationships over the ensuing nine years. Buddy explains in Chapter 1 that he has been living for nine years in purgatory – in a place this side of Hell, but firmly outside the tall white gates of Redemption – and he’s now ready to reveal the truth.

Where can readers purchase your book?

Go to www.claytontrier.com for a link to the amazon.com page where the book can be purchased in paperback, Kindle or audiobook.

Were there challenges in producing an audio book?

My publisher, Defiance Press, was very helpful in this regard. We selected a few short passages that they posted for auditions, and we had 19 readers audition for the job. I listened to each of them, and Defiance Press was able to successfully negotiate a contract with the reader I thought was by far the best, Steve Corona. I worked on the front end with Steve to get the voices of various characters just right, and he was a true professional at this craft. I’m very pleased with Steve’s end-product.

What is the key theme and/or message of the book?

The Outskirts of Redemption vividly portrays the confusion and psychological pain that adolescent suicide inflicts on the impressionable young friends of the victim. Like all novelists, my principal goal in writing this book was to tell a rattling good story with complex and interesting characters. But I also hope that this timeless coming-of-age story will be a catalyst that stimulates discussion about the tragedy of adolescent/YA suicide and helps to further educate (and alarm, grab the attention of) parents and young people about youthful depression and mental health illness and disorders.

How big of a problem is suicide among young people in America?

The U.S. Surgeon General, in a 2021 report, called declining mental health in American youth “the defining public health crisis of our time.” Currently, according to CDC stats, an American between ages 10-24 dies by his/her own hand every 80 minutes. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death for this age group, and the lack of adequate mental health resources for young people in our schools and elsewhere must be addressed.

What was the inspiration for the story?

When my daughter was 12, a friend and classmate of hers took his life. The young boy’s sudden death came as a great shock to everyone who knew him. To help my confused daughter cope with her grief and make sense out of a senseless act, to get her to stop blaming herself for not being a better friend, I had to crawl inside her skin. I went to parent meetings at her school and listened closely to the counselors they brought in, and I tried desperately to understand my daughter’s innermost emotions, to feel her adolescent pain. That process led to this fictional story.

Can you share with us something about the book that isn’t in the blurb on the back cover?

To relieve some of the tension in dealing with this serious subject matter, the novel also lampoons in a highly satirical manner the politics, social mores, and pop culture of America during the Sixties & Seventies, a turbulent time filled with remarkable social changes. Today‚Äôs readers, especially the ever-politically-correct, will find numerous opportunities to roll their eyes, shake their heads, and wonder “What were they thinking?” Buddy Torrence, who tells the story with adolescent anxiety and oftentimes convoluted logic, faces paradoxical quandaries involving racism and school integration; the Cold War and fear of Communism; homophobia; sexist discrimination against women in the workplace; cigarette smoking not only accepted, but fashionable; AM radio and the British music invasion; Houston’s Major League Baseball team (the Colt .45s) having a gun as their team mascot, etc.

Does one of the main characters hold a special place in your heart? If so, why?

The Outskirts of Redemption is, at its heart, a father/son story. The father character was inspired by my father, a hard-working man who was a strict disciplinarian with a moral compass that never strayed from true-North. But beneath my father’s tough exterior was a caring heart as big and generous as Texas. As I grew into a man, I saw a more complex, softer side emerge… something I tried to capture within the father character in this novel.

What books or authors have most influenced your own writing?

As I wrote this story from young Buddy’s perspective, I intertwined two very different voices to develop his character and his speech and narration – Scout Finch, the innocent young girl watching and learning from her father in To Kill a Mockingbird, and Holden Caufield, the confused and irreverent teenager in The Catcher in the Rye. Buddy’s naivete as a twelve-year-old contrasted against his angst and biting sarcasm as an emotionally scarred young adult make his story of innocence-lost more poignant.

What do you hope your readers take away from this book?

In this novel, I’ve portrayed situations that can lead young people to feelings of hopelessness and suicidal acts, contrasted against the support and inner strength that can be provided by engaged and loving parents and good friends. If reading this story motivates a family member, a teacher, or friend to reach out to a young person they’re concerned for, or if it inspires an at-risk youngster to seek a caring ear or to call the 988 Lifeline, my goal in writing this book will have been fulfilled.

Excerpt from The Outskirts Of Redemption – Chapter 1

Everything came crashing down on January 11, 1965. It was the day they told me about my best friend, Daniel—that he was suddenly gone… Like me, he was 12 years old back then… No matter how I’ve tried to rationalize it over the nine years that have followed, I still reach the same inescapable conclusion: I was the one responsible for Daniel’s suicide.

          I recently broke down and spilled my guts to Allie. She’s my psychologist friend, who also happens to be the most amazing woman on this planet. I’ve been infatuated with her since I first laid eyes on her on that January day nine years ago. Now that she finally knows everything, she’s convinced me that telling this story will be a cleansing experience…

          She plays on my Catholic upbringing by saying that it will be just like going to confession… I don’t know about all that religious stuff anymore… I’m only doing this because I love her… and trust her implicitly. But If I confess… and can be forgiven, then maybe I’ll be able to forgive myself. And that’s what Allie says it’s going to take for me to escape from the little corner of purgatory where I’ve resided for the past nine years. It’s a desolate and lonely place located this side of Hell but firmly outside the tall white gates of Redemption.

          So, bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It’s the summer of 1974, and I am 21 years old. It’s been over nine years since my last confession, or at least since my last truthful confession, before I came to have a friend’s blood on my hands.

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