A brief word about ON THE FREE, my new YA survival thriller.

I'm so excited to share a little bit of background about ON THE FREE, my new novel about the three survivors of a Colorado wilderness therapy trip gone wrong.

ON THE FREE was inspired in part by a school visit I made years ago to a juvenile detention center in Oklahoma, where I had an incredible conversation with one of the detainees. He liked to read magazines on birding. He loved origami, and he gave me a tiny paper box he had made. He was also about to turn 18 and age out of the system, and he was nervous about having to leave. He had nowhere to go once he got out, he said. Nowhere to go once he was, as he put it: "on the free."

I added to that brief encounter a simple premise: three people are stranded in the middle of the remote wilderness, at least four days from any civilization. One of them has a knife, one has a map, one has the food, and they don't trust each other.

What came next is a story about survival of all kinds: family circumstances, self-doubt, thirst, hunger, and mountain lions.

If you're interested, you may buy it from Amazon, Houston's Brazos Bookstore, or wherever fine books are sold.

Of course, a gripping wilderness survival story might not be everyone's cup of tea, so I don't expect you to buy the book. Luckily for both of us, there are other ways you can lend a hand, any of which would be tremendously helpful:

·       Share it on Facebook

·       Tweet about it

·       Post a review on Goodreads or Amazon

You can also read the first chapter here or listen to me read it below. Thanks so much for anything you can do to spread the word! 

About that title

One of the most common questions I've received lately has to do with the title, LUCKY FOOLS. As a reader, I love hearing about how authors come up with titles for their work, espcecially because, as a writer, I really suck at that part. (When I presented my editor a list of possible titles for the book that would become THE BROTHERS TORRES, her response was, "Is this a list of menu items at a Chili's?") So, here's an attempt to address the question. 

Perhaps my favorite part of writing this book was including a stage adaptation of THE GREAT GATSBY. The book's narrator, David, plays Nick Carraway, the narrator of GATSBY, and there are a lot of references to GATSBY hidden throught the book. Like Nick, David finds himself at times set apart, emotionally detached from the people around him. 

As I said above, I am horrible at titles. I hate them.  So when it came time to settle on a title for this book, I went back to GATSBY for inspiration. (At least I'm not the only one who has had toruble with titles. As you may already know, Fitzgerald himself struggled with an appropriate title for THE GREAT GATSBY, with some early suggestions being GOLD-HATTED GATSBY, THE HIGH-BOUNCING LOVER, AMONG THE ASH HEAPS AND MILLIONAIRES, and TRIMALCHIO IN WEST EGG.) I found my inspiration in Chapter 1, when Daisy Buchanan says of her daughter, "I hope she'll be a fool--that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool."

There was a lot that resonated with me about that line. Many of the kids in the book are born into privelege with a strong sense of entitlement, but I don't think a sense of entitlement can exist without an enabler. The helicopter parent--the mother who won't let her kid experience failure and learn from it, the father who plans out his child's future because obviously he knows best--plays the role of the enabler here. If we don't respect our kids enough to let them fail, to let them discover who they really are, then we're treating them exactly like Daisy's beautiful little fool.

Given that, my initial suggestion for a title was BEAUTIFUL FOOLS, but it wasn't quite right. My wife suggested LUCKY FOOLS, and that was that. LUCKY FOOLS captures, to me, the sense of people being born into a privelege that they don't prove themselves worthy of.

One of my favorite lines in the book comes from Big Pro, the Drama teacher and director of the GATSBY adaptation. "I’m supposed to tell you that you can change the world," he says to David at one point, "but wouldn’t you rather I tell you the truth?” 

Green Oaks Detention Center

Last year I had the honor of visiting the Green Oaks Detention Center in Monroe, LA as part of the American Library Association's Great Stories CLUB. I had a great visit with the kids in the center, talked with some of the center's extraordinarily dedicated educators, and then had a tour of the facility. My blog post about that experience is now on Programming Librarian, the website of the ALA's Public Programming Office.

Obligatory Apologetic Blog Post

Lucky Fools comes out in a couple of weeks, so this is an opportunity for me to post something to the blog that was written within the last two years. I feel pretty good about this entry. 

I am hopeful that I will be able to post other things, too.

Long Distance Book Club

Today I had my first ever long distance school visit, with Becky Proctor's 9th grade Book Club at West Junior High School in Boise, Idaho. Talking about the book with people who connect with it? That never gets old. Ever. What an awesome conversation. Ms. Proctor was kind enough to send along some photos of the guys.

I'm told that some of the students also put together a few trailers of the book. I'll post them as soon as I can.

Big Day

Today I sent off the draft of my new novel, THE ARTIST (for now) to my editor. I don't really know what to do with myself. It's a good thing I'm going back to New Mexico for a week of Isotopes baseball, Sadies stuffed sopaipillas, and sunset walks along the ditches of Corrales.

A Kepler's Review. It all comes full circle.

As many of you know, I spent six years in the SF Bay area before moving to Houston. I lived within walking distance from a wonderful outdoor cafe called Cafe Borrone, and most days after coming home from my teaching job, I hung out at Borrone and wrote the book that became The Brothers Torres.

Well, Borrone is right next door to Kepler's Books, one of the best indie bookstores in the country, and Kepler's is responsible for at least half the books I had to lug from Menlo to Houston.

All of this is to say that this review on The Book Bind, Kepler's teen blog, pretty much made my week.

Thanks to Breakthrough Houston!

I spent a wonderful morning a couple weeks ago with the ninth graders from Breakthrough Houston, a summer enrichment program for incoming 6th-9th graders in Houston's schools. Their mission statement: "Breakthrough aims to prepare students who possess high academic potential, but limited educational resources for competitive high-school programs and college admission. In addition, we encourage talented high-school and college students to consider careers in education."

I was so impressed with Mr. Solis's students. Thanks so much for all the great questions.


@ Coert Voorhees 2015