Check out a sample of Filtered here! For more information and to purchase a copy, visit HeroHousePublishing.com
Tell us about yourself
I have always wanted to tell stories. From a very early age I began exploring different avenues to tell those stories. Drawing, acting, filmmaking, music. But above all other forms of storytelling, writing is my favorite. Sitting down to write, I become totally engrossed in the sights, smells, sounds, and emotions of other worlds. In many ways I think this early love of stories came from my family. My parents are both veracious readers and would share those stories with me daily through bedtime stories or books-on-tape in the car. My two older sisters are also highly creative and have an insatiable yearning for adventure. Growing up there was always another hill to climb, cave to explore, or obstacle to overcome. I grew up in rural Arizona between Sonoita and Vail south east of Tucson. Fifty miles from anywhere, making my own entertainment and finding wonder and adventure in the world around me was a necessity. I love to learn, travel, and explore the world because every new thing I experience fuels my imagination.
What was your inspiration for Filtered?
I think the germ of the idea for Filtered came from my study of history. I have a bachelor’s and master’s degree in history and I spent most of my time studying the atrocities of the twentieth century. I wrote Filtered while I was in school, and I think in many ways, the Great Society was my attempt to understand the totalitarian and fascist regimes that inflicted so much pain and violence on the world. The world of the Great Society is dark. It takes an emotional toll on me to walk the streets with Evelyn, to witness the atrocities, and wither under the glare of propaganda. However, it is not simply a reconstruction of the past more of a warped projection of the past onto the present and future. From the first page of Filtered, advertisements are constantly bombarding the people of the Great Society. I’ve found that when I watch TV, go outside, read a magazine or what have you, that I am being hounded by messages. Often those messages are benign, but often they are not. “Join today!” “See something say something!” “Buy this!” “May cause cancer.” I exaggerated them for Filtered, but that constant hounding, and the way TV News operates, creates a world around us that is paranoid and hyper commercialized. “Peace of mind for only $19.95.” Filtered is also my own personal reacting to the xenophobia and warmongering that gripped the world after 9/11 and, sadly, continues to be rampant in the world today. The world in which we live is abuzz with terror and I wanted to explore that, stretch it. Additionally, I wanted to explore the environmental damage inflicted upon the world since the industrial revolution. I may have exaggerated it a little, but not by much I think.
Did you have any personal experiences that shaped the character of Evelyn or the themes in the book?
Failure was the biggest motivator for Filtered. All my life I had been torn between a future as a writer or a soldier. Throughout my childhood, my imagination ran wild with stories of knights in shining armor, noble paladins, and all manner of romanticized war. This had been tempered by the books I read and the reality of growing up in a post 9/11 world. But the desire to become something through military service proved too strong an allure. When I was twenty years old I spent one hot, humid South Carolina summer in the Army. That experience opened my eyes and shattered me to pieces. As part of the “tearing down” process, our Drill Sergeants played a little practical joke on us (For context, the day I arrived for training North Korea had just test fired a nuclear missile and there was talk of a brewing conflict on the news.)
It must have been around 4am in the morning-the sun had yet to rise-when my platoon was shouted awake by a Drill Sergeant. “Get up and get all of your gear on!” The command went through us like lightning, and in the groggy pre-dawn light we rushed to formation. When we arrived, we saw the rest of the company in formation; helmets, Kevlar vests, and M16s. We stood in silence for what felt like an eternity as the sun began to creep its way up over the horizon.
Eventually, trucks pulled up and the Drill Sergeant that had woken us up addressed the company. His exact words have faded from my mind, but his message has not. “North Korea has launched a nuclear attack on the West Coast. The death toll is already in the millions. Congress and the president have declared war on the DPRK and because all of you are still in basic training and don’t have your job yet, you will be assigned to the infantry divisions carrying out the first wave of the invasion of North Korea. Our company has been tasked with clearing the labyrinth of tunnels. They are determined, dug-in, and well-armed. We are expecting 50% casualties. Stand by for further orders.”
For the first time in my life, the reality of what it means to be a soldier, to be the one who pulls the trigger, snapped into focus. I envisioned crawling through a tunnel and being confronted with a DPRK soldier. He was sixteen or seventeen, a forced conscript, determined to live, to see his family again. And there I was looking down the sights of my rifle with the power to take his life to save my own. I couldn’t pull the trigger. In that imaginary tunnel against that imaginary foe, Irealized that I cannot, and will not, place myself in a situation where I have the power to determine who should live and who should die. No one should have that power. For the first time our collective humanity, our shared destiny on this little blue dot we call home, our shared dreams, hopes, loves, and fears took solid form.
I knew then that I couldn’t, and wouldn’t, be a soldier.
But coming home wasn’t easy. I had wrapped so much of my identity into being a soldier that I felt hollow. I tried to get a regular job and simply work and be happy, but I had a deep aching feeling that I couldn’t shake.
So I turned to what I had always known: Story. With great earnest I began to write short stories. Story after story, I confronted a different aspect of myself, of my faults, and tried to imagine who I wanted to be. As a collective, the stories began to reveal how I truly felt about and understood the world but there was still something missing, there was no character I could latch onto. Not until I met Evelyn.
In a dream or day-dream one day, I saw a young woman venture into a mysterious machine. She was determined and resolute, inquisitive to a fault. I wrote down this encounter and walked away. But my thoughts kept coming back to it. Who was she? Why would she risk going into that machine?
I had never met her, but I desperately wanted to know her. So I began to tell Evelyn’s story and it lit a fire inside me. In the course of a week of furious typing, I penned the majority of the story. I found in Evelyn the person I want to be. She never stops seeking the truth, she questions everything, and she has a deep commitment to nonviolence.
Writing Evelyn’s story has helped me rediscover my own identity and purpose. She has given me the confidence to become the person I am today. That is why I am so excited to share Filtered with the world; I want everyone to get to know Evelyn’s story. It’s my hope that others find it as compelling as I do and perhaps one day, we won’t need to wear our masks any longer.
What was the hardest part about writing this book for you?
The hardest part of writing Filtered was stepping outside of Evelyn’s eyes. The story is told through her experiences and is deeply influenced by how she perceives others and the world around her. It took considerable effort to step out of her perspective and examine the other characters and the world of the Great Society on its own terms. There are some characters that are not what they appear through Evelyn’s eyes, and it often takes Evelyn too long to see them as they really are, and in some cases, she never sees. Carol for example. Carol (Evelyn’s mother) is seen harshly through Evelyn’s eyes. She has very little sympathy for her mother and does not understand her perspective on the world. In my first draft I was blinded by Evelyn’s interpretation of Carol. But during my revisions, I looked at Carol again, not through Evelyn’s eyes, but through her own. What I discovered was a far richer character than Evelyn makes her out to be. Given the limits of Evelyn’s perspective, trying to hint at Carol’s true nature proved to be a challenge and something that will, in time, reveal itself. As you read you become intimately aware of Evelyn’s search for the truth. But remember, she may not always tell it.
What do you hope this book stirs in the reader emotionally?
Filtered is about many things, but most fundamentally it is about questioning the world around you. Evelyn enjoys a very privileged place in the Great Society and would never need to question or challenge the world around her to have a safe and comfortable life. But being alive is about more than existing-accepting the status quo. Furthermore, I hope that Filtered speaks to those who feel trapped and isolated and lets them know that they are not alone in the vastness of the world. I hope people will resonate with Evelyn’s journey to discover the truth and construct her identity. At some point we all wear masks, we hide behind them, we conform to them, but maybe we can take Evelyn’s example and dare to take them off.
Do you see this story continuing? Are you planning to write a sequel?
Yes! Filtered is part one of the Great Society trilogy. I had initially wanted to keep it to one or two books, but as I kept writing the story grew and expanded in ways I never expected! Filtered can stand on its own, but I have grown very attached to Evelyn and the Great Society. I think once you read Filtered you will too, and I think we all deserve to see how Evelyn’s story unfolds. I am currently working on the next two installments and, hopefully, there will not be a Game of Thrones level wait for them to be finished.