Friday, June 15, 2012

The Sun Tea Chronicles by Quinton Blue: Interview & Excerpt

 The Sun Tea Chronicles," a novel set in Indiana in the yuppie-oriented 1980s, is about a young man named Jimmy Sparrow who drops out of the work world and decides never to seek a job again. What makes Jimmy Sparrow so uninterested in joining the money chase? Is he a bum, a saint, a philosopher, a freedom lover or is he insane? said: "Hilarious! This book has reflective moments, but it's also really funny!"

The situation: The landlord Winslow Pupp is drunk and sitting at his kitchen table, showing renter Jordan Bass his M1911 handgun.

He leaned over and laid his head on his arms. His hand was still wrapped around the M1911 with his finger resting on the trigger, but the barrel was pointed at the refrigerator.

“Listen, son, let me tell you something. You’re still young. People talk about Jimmy Sparrow.”

He stopped, looking confused. He closed his eyes.

“I’ve forgotten what I was going to say.”

“People talk about Jimmy Sparrow.”

He opened his eyes.

“That’s right. Jimmy Sparrow. Have you heard what the people around here say about him?”

“No, I haven’t.”

“Some say he’s a bum. Others are convinced he’s crazy. They’re thrown by those shirts. But Jimmy Sparrow isn’t crazy. He is entirely sane. They’re the fools.”

Winslow still had his head resting on his arms. He was not looking at me as he spoke. I thought he might fall asleep.

“Do you know what Jimmy Sparrow is?”

I waited.

“He’s rich.”

I laughed.

Winslow sat up in his chair. It took some effort, but he did it.

“Laugh if you want, Bass, but it’s true. He’s got the only thing that really counts. He’s got time.”


“Yes, time! He’s not spending his time for anything but what he chooses. How many people can say that?”

“Not many.”

“That’s right, not many. They’ve loaned out their time to employers and corporations and get next to nothing in return, except for maybe a few possessions. Maybe next year they’ll take time. Maybe someday they’ll retire and have time. And yet the world calls Jimmy Sparrow a fool.”

Winslow tried to get up from his chair. Unsteady as he was, it still looked like he might succeed. Suddenly, he fell to the floor, knocking the chair over. The gun went off, with a blast that startled both of us. Pupp was on the floor, holding the gun, and there was a hole in the refrigerator.

Today our guest is novelist Quinton Blue. He joins us to discuss his recent novel, “The Sun Tea Chronicles.”

When was the first time you made money as a writer?

I was just out of college and was holed up in a $120 a month apartment in Indiana. I had no furniture and no pictures on the wall, just a typewriter that sat on the floor because I didn’t have a desk. I didn’t have a computer. I wrote two humorous poems and sent them to a literary magazine in New York. One was called “The Motorola Faith Healer” and was about a guy who repaired TVs and small appliances by faith alone. The other was a parody of Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing,” only it was about Americans continually complaining. The magazine accepted both and sent me a check for $20. I was thrilled. What I didn’t know was that it would be a long time before I ever again saw any money from writing fiction.

So, what’s “The Sun Tea Chronicles” about?

It’s an offbeat literary novel about a young man named Jimmy Sparrow who drops out of the work world to do nothing, except make sun tea and watch the clouds cross the sky. He lives in a small apartment building, and the other tenants are an odd mix of misfits themselves. It’s set in the 1980s in northern Indiana.

Why the 1980s?

The 1980s were fascinating because they were a complete reversal of the late 1960s mind-set. You had the yuppies glorifying materialism, but you also had a shrinking blue-collar world, and that hit the blue-collar kids particularly hard. They didn’t have the good-paying factory jobs their parents had rode to retirement. The characters in “The Sun Tea Chronicles” are people that got left behind, either by choice or by chance.

Why did you choose Indiana?

It’s the place I know best, even though I now live in California. California has never really grabbed my imagination. “The Sun Tea Chronicles” has a comic undertone. The idea of bohemian youths in Indiana works better as a quirky comedy than it would if it were set in San Francisco or Los Angeles.

Are there any writers that influenced or inspired you?

Well, when I was a kid in high school, I wanted to be like John Steinbeck, and later, I went through a period in college when I wanted to be deep, like the Russians. But that’s not me. I don’t feel a pull toward any other writer anymore. It’s like this: If you go to a place of silence, no thoughts, no worries, just pure silence, then what emerges is the natural you. That’s who you want to get in touch with when you’re writing. And the natural Quinton Blue doesn’t take things too seriously. I write about the little odd moments. I like writing about the things that make me laugh.

You self-published “The Sun Tea Chronicles.” Why did you choose that path?

The traditional publisher can add some value. I won’t argue that point. You’ll get a better cover design. You’ll get the respectability associated with an established publisher. You’ll get reviews, though newspapers have cut back on that. You might get a better edit, or you might not. But you have to remember that “The Sun Tea Chronicles” is about a guy who rejected the establishment. He wanted nothing to do with “making it.” It’s not a good idea for a novel like this to go through the homogenization process. It would lose its outsider quality. On top of that, I’m at a point in my life where I don’t want to get into a success chase – begging for an agent, begging for a publisher. I want to go solo, and technology has opened doors for the indie writer that never existed before. I can put something out there via print on demand or Kindle, and let luck show up or not. I love what’s happening in publishing with Lulu, CreateSpace and wonderful websites like this. You don’t have to play the game the old way.

Who do you see as your audience for “The Sun Tea Chronicles”?

I’m not good at predicting that sort of thing because I’m not a marketing guy. My 16-year-old son read it straight through and laughed as he read it, and, to a lesser extent, so did my wife. But humor is subjective. What one person thinks is hilarious, another thinks is merely amusing, and a third thinks is lame or just plain dumb. My guess is “The Sun Tea Chronicles” will get all those reactions. In a way, though, I suspect the book will generate the same reaction in readers or potential readers that Jimmy Sparrow does from the other characters in the book. Is he a bum, a lunatic, a poet, a nonconformist, a saint, or a lazy fake? How you answer that question will ultimately define how you react to the book. To appreciate “The Sun Tea Chronicles,” I think you have to be a bit of a nonconformist.

Quinton Blue was born and raised in Indiana but has lived in California for the past dozen years. He plans to move to Texas in the fall with his wife and five children. Quinton graduated from Indiana University South Bend as an English major and has worked as a copy editor at several publications. His first love, though, is writing fiction. You can read his blog at, which offers a quote from a different writer every day, a link to Quinton Blue’s book reviews on Amazon, Google links to stories on novelists and links to fiction forums. “The Sun Tea Chronicles” will be available for free Kindle downloads on June 15 and 16.

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