ULM: What led you to creating the main character, Eddy Trout?
During the summer of 2005 I experienced a harmonic convergence of life-changing events. I’d just retired from teaching high school English and, after a long hiatus, I wanted to resume writing fiction. So I journeyed to Canon Beach, Oregon, and attended a week-long Dangerous Writing workshop, taught by Tom Spanbauer, a well-known writer who lives in Portland. Tom’s teaching and my introduction to Dangerous Writing reignited my writing passions. A year later I found myself divorced, and I’d met the love of my life, Debra, a beautiful person and artist. These events changed me, opened my eyes to see the world a bit differently, and they inspired a story idea about a man’s mid-life renewal. Eddy is the character I chose to tell that story. He’s fallen out of love and he’s down on his luck, but soon enough events conspire to make his simple life very difficult, and over the course of three novels those events forge a brand new Eddy.
ULM: Did you always want to write a book?
Heck no! I grew up very poor, and we didn’t have access to many books. I remember reading a cheap set of Encyclopedia Britannica and the occasional National Geographic magazine that my grandparents had lying about their home. And I certainly was not a stellar English student in grade or high school. Straight out of high school I majored in Forestry, and my Comp I prof took notice of a story I’d written about tracking down a wounded deer. That I could string a bunch of mostly fragments and run-ons into a somewhat coherent story, and that warm feeling I got when my prof uttered a bit of praise—those revelations planted a fruitful seed in my little, non-literary brain. Wanting to see some of the world, I quit school and joined the Army. One dark, rainy night while on guard duty in Vietnam I decided I wanted to teach social studies, so after I got out of the Army I got a teaching degree in Social Science/Language Arts. I ended up teaching high school English, and teaching writing and literature began to nourish the feeling that, maybe, someday I could write a story myself. Largely self-taught, I began writing short stories in the basement of my home. A few were published. It wasn’t long before I set to work on my first novel, Perimeters, a story about an American soldier who falls in love with a Vietnamese woman. It’s unpublished, but I hope to change that someday. That seed my Comp I prof planted has, so far, grown into four novels.
ULM: How would you describe your writing?
I aim for the gritty and existential, with spare use of adjectives and adverbs. I like well-paced, noirish plots and characters with flaws. I’m a student of Dangerous Writing and a disciple of Tom Spanbauer’s. DW basically means going to a painful place in your past, dredging those images and feelings up from the past and casting them into stories, often in a first-person voice. For me, it’s therapeutic, cathartic. In the Eddy Trout Novels, Eddy is my first-person voice, and there’s a hell of a lot of his past to dredge up and deal with before he can find the new heart he seeks.
ULM: Was it difficult or easy to write Trout Run?
Easy, in the sense it’s a continuation of the Trout Kill story line, the first novel of the Eddy Trout Series. From the beginning, I had a narrative arc in mind that covered three novels: #1, Eddy kills his old heart; #2, Eddy runs after a new heart; and, #3, Eddy finds love and a new heart. The arc narrates Eddy’s transformation from ashes to resurrection. I don’t write from a pre-conceived outline, but rather by feeling my way along from scene to scene, taking notes and editing as I go, and trusting that this rather messy process will keep the story immediate and fresh.
And difficult, too, in the sense that TR took 4 years to complete. But the main difficulty for me was figuring out how to build a bridge between novels #1 and #3. I was challenged to find the right balance between keeping the plot moving forward in a hopefully interesting way, and with bringing in just the right amount of backstory from novel #1 to provide the reader with the necessary context. And then there’s the “meta-fiction” aspect, a novel within a novel, using a book Eddy’s father wrote to help Eddy understand and come to grips with his unknown past.
ULM: How many novels do you have planned for the Eddy Trout Series?
Three. Trout Kill was published in 2013, and I was very pleased with the reviews. Trout Run is just out, and so far the reviews are very positive, too. I’m currently working on the third, and last, novel, Trout Love.
ULM: What other books have you written, if any?
I’ve written a couple unpublished Vietnam novellas and, as I mentioned, the full-length novel Perimeters. After completing the Eddy Trout Series I’ll probably get to work on another Vietnam novel.
ULM: Besides writing an entertaining series, what other hobbies can you share with us, readers?
I build stuff. Right now I’m converting an above-garage storage area into a guest room. I’ve been playing poker with the same guys for over 35 years; they’re very slow learners and keep giving me their hard-earned quarters. My wife and I love attending music festivals, and our favorite thus far is The Red Ants Pants Music Festival in White Sulphur Springs, Montana. What a hoot! I fish. I walk. I read. I cook. I’m teaching a memoir-writing class this summer.
ULM: What advice would you give to other writers?
Swill good coffee. Find a mentor. Read books and join or start a book group. Build your passion however you can and nourish it. Write every day, all the while knowing you can’t. Attend workshops. Keep your day job. I’m basically a self-taught writer, and that’s worked for me mostly because I’m a fierce, ruthless self-editor and not afraid to hit the delete key a million times.
ULM: When will the third novel to the Eddy Trout Series be released?
I hope to complete Trout Love in about two years … but my wife might think this a bit optimistic.
ULM: Where can readers find you and your work online?
Printed and Kindle versions of Trout Kill and Trout Run are available at my author’s website at pauldage.com and through Amazon. Trout Kill is also available through the online bookstore at Outskirts Press, and Trout Run through the online bookstore at Inkwater Press.