Friday, March 9, 2012

The Only Thing by Michael Pineo : Excerpt, Interview

Danny's daughter lies in a coma after a terrible accident. The doctors don't have much hope, but Danny knows something they don't: The car she was driving had magic in it once.

He spends the night by her side, telling her the story of that car and the miracles it brought into his life. The tale begins in 1988, when Danny leaves his alcoholic mother behind to attend college in a small New England town. He never imagines buying a neighbor's old car will lead him to love.

Strange occurrences surrounding the car begin drawing him closer to Gwen. She is smart, beautiful and hell-bent on making every wrong choice she can. Guilt over her mother’s recent death eats away at her, fueling her behavior. Neither one of them is looking for love, but as an unseen force within the car guides their unlikely romance, Gwen begins to teach Danny how to forgive his mother, as he helps Gwen forgive herself.

But Danny is forced to return home to care for his ailing mother, leaving Gwen abandoned once again by someone she loves. When she heads back down her self-destructive path, she’ll need more than Danny’s love to bring her back; it will take the magic of a love strong enough to reach across the boundaries of life and death to save her.

Twenty-three years later, Danny hopes that magic is still there to save his daughter.

Additional Content Includes:
About the Author

I turned away from them and headed inside the house. A musty smell hit me as I walked through the door. Wallpaper hung off the walls and the floor creaked noticeably below my feet. The music pounded at my ears as I struggled past the people just inside the doorway, stumbling into what was probably the living room, although there was no furniture to indicate it was. People stood in small groups and I twisted around, trying to locate Gwen.
I didn’t see her anywhere, so I continued deeper into the house. People eyed me warily, but then turned away from me when they saw the look on my face. I ignored them, concentrating on finding Gwen.
As I looked around, I finally caught sight of her beyond an open doorway on the other side of the room. She stood in the ratty kitchen, leaning up against the counter alone with a liquor bottle in her hand. I had never seen her look so miserable. Her face was drawn and tired, her eyes red from crying. The vise around my heart tightened again as I watched her there.
As she lifted the bottle to her mouth, our eyes met and she stopped with the alcohol a few inches from her face. Her expression contorted in a look of shame and then she turned away, disappearing from view.
Shoving people out of my way, I raced across the room into the kitchen just as she stumbled out the door on the other side. I ran across the room, slamming open the door and jumping down the steps into the overgrown side yard.
“Go away!” I heard Gwen yell as thunder cracked directly overhead. I turned and saw her lurching toward the front of the house, turning to look at me and yelling again. “Go away, Danny!” But I couldn’t. Her life was my life. I wasn’t leaving without her.
I chased her around front, catching up to her as she reached the crowd still standing by the fire. Al and Tommy stood across from Gary and his friends, watching me as I caught up with Gwen and grabbed her arm.
She turned to me, her eyes burning through me as she tried to pull away. “Danny, I don’t want you here,” she said, her voice slurred by the alcohol in her system. “Please, just let me go.”
There was so much meaning in those words. She wanted me to let her go; not just let go of her arm, but let her go for good.
“You know I can’t do that, Gwen.”
“She doesn’t want you here, college boy,” Al said. Gary took a step toward him and he shut up.
“Gwen,” I said, grabbing her other arm. “I love you.” I paused for a second, fighting back my tears. Then I whispered so only she could hear. “I need you.”
“I can’t, Danny. Don’t you understand? Everything I touch is ruined. Look what I did to you.” Her voice dropped lower. “And my mom. She died because of me.”
She closed her eyes and tears spilled down her cheeks. Seeing her there, hurt and crying, standing in that awful place, I decided the time for talking was over.
I let go of one of her arms and bent down, sliding my free arm behind her knees and picking her up to carry her like a child. Her eyes popped open in surprise as I started to walk toward my car and she started to hit me in the chest with her fists. “Put me down!” she yelled drunkenly.
Somehow she wriggled free from my grasp and fell to the ground. Then she jumped up more quickly than I thought she could in her state and lurched toward my car.
I watched in surprise as she opened the driver’s door and got in, wondering what she thought she was going to do without the keys. But then a moment later, the car’s engine roared to life and the headlights came on, momentarily blinding me.
I threw my hand up in front of my face to block out the light. “Gwen!” I yelled, just as I realized the car keys weren’t in my pocket where I’d put them. I ran toward the car as she shifted into reverse and backed out of the yard, sending dirt flying.
When she hit the street, she turned the car sharply and I slammed into the passenger side, grunting in pain. While she was trying to shift the car into gear, I managed to yank the door open and jump in, and then she hit the gas, sending the car lurching forward.
“Gwen! Stop!” I yelled as she steered drunkenly down the road.
She ignored me, pressing the gas to the floor as thunder cracked again. A moment later, the rain came, pouring down hard, filling the car with a deafening racket as it pounded on the convertible roof. I stared out the windshield, frozen with fear as the trees flashed by us on both sides.
“Gwen,” I said with as much calmness as I could muster as I continued to stare with fear out the window. “You need to stop. You’re gonna get us both killed.”
I finally turned to her, but she seemed like she wasn’t even aware I was there. Tears streamed down her face and her mouth moved, the words almost too quiet for me to hear.
“I’m sorry,” she was whimpering over and over. “I’m sorry, Mom,” she said, and I realized she wasn’t talking to me.
“It’s okay, Gwen,” I said. “Everything’s going to be alright. Just pull over.”
She continued to ignore me, racing down the road, mouthing those words over and over. I watched her in fear, wondering what I could do to stop the car without getting us killed.
The tires squealed as she took a corner too fast. I felt the back end begin to swing out, but Gwen somehow got the car back under control and hurtled forward again.
I turned away from her to look out the windshield and saw we were on the road that led to my aunt’s house. Lightning flashed, lighting up the road in front of us. Before the light faded, I saw a glimpse of white up ahead in the trees.
My blood ran cold when I realized what it was. Her mother’s cross, marking the sight where she had died. Gwen must have seen it at the same time I did and pressed the gas down even harder, hurtling toward it.
I turned back to her. “Gwen. What are you doing?”
She ignored me, wiping the tears from her eyes as she leaned forward, peering at the cross through the downpour. The car seemed to go even faster, until everything around us was just a blur.
I looked forward, shocked at how much closer the cross was now. I could see it clearly in the twin beams of the headlights, seeming to glisten in the rain. The engine roared and the water on the road hissed under the tires as the rain continued to drum on the roof. All the while, Gwen stared forward as if I weren’t there, her whole body leaning toward the cross.
I turned back to her, my eyes wide with terror. I looked around for anything that might help me stop her. I glanced down, thinking of the emergency brake, but it was on the floor. That only left the shifter.
As I reached down to try and knock the transmission into neutral, the car started to turn. I looked up and saw the steering wheel spinning through Gwen’s hands. She looked at it in shock as the car seemed to steer itself.
The rear of the car swung out on the wet pavement, sending us into a spin. The headlights flashed through open air, and then illuminated the trees on the side of the road before they swung out of view again. I felt the back tire hit the curb and the other side of the car lurched into the air, as if it was about to roll over onto its roof.

Tell us about your current release.

The Only Thing is the story of Danny, an eighteen-year-old who moves to live with his aunt in a small New England town in order to get away from his alcoholic mother. When he buys an old used-car, strange things start to happen, drawing him closer to a local girl named Gwen. She is the town ‘bad-girl’, still reeling from her mother’s death the year before. The heart of the story is their romance, but the novel also deals with the effects of alcoholism, dealing with the loss of a parent, and learning to forgive, others and ourselves.

Has someone been instrumental in inspiring you as a writer?

My fiancée has been my biggest inspiration. She was the one that inspired me to finish my first novel. I had worked on it on and off for ten years and she inspired me to finish it. Her experiences losing her mother at a young age were also the inspiration for this story.

Plotter or Pantser? Why?

I’m a little of both. I usually have a loose outline, but then I just let it fly within that framework. That works for me because I am generally a very ordered person, but I’ve found that letting go a little bit leads down much more interesting paths. What I end up with is usually much different from my original idea. For example, when I first imagined this story, I saw Danny as the hero riding in on his white horse to save Gwen. But as I wrote, the story evolved to the point where it wasn’t about Danny saving Gwen. It was about them saving each other. I think the best love stories, in books, movies and real life, are the ones where both people improve each other’s lives and make each other better people.

Do you listen to music while writing? If so what?

I absolutely listen to music. I see my novels as movies in my head, and movies definitely benefit from a good soundtrack. For this particular novel, I always think of the song ‘Nobody’s Home’ by Avril Lavigne as Gwen’s theme song. The lyrics really speak to the lost feeling Gwen has after losing her mother. And I listened to the song ‘To Where You Are’ by Josh Groban a lot while I was writing one of the most emotional parts of the book. I’ve found that listening to certain songs like that while I’m writing really helps me to write with more feeling and emotion. And when I fantasize about this story being made into a movie, those two songs would definitely be part of the soundtrack.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

My first love was the guitar, so I dreamed of becoming a rock star. My first college major was Music Performance and I spent a lot of my twenties chasing that dream before I settled down and started my family.

Do you have a milestone birthday coming up? If so, how are you approaching it?

My 40th birthday is coming up this year. I haven’t really given it a lot of thought since I’ll be getting married about a month before. That’s really taking a lot of my attention right now J

When's the last time you played that musical instrument?

I still play my guitar every day. After working all day, taking care of four kids and fitting in writing on top of all that, playing the guitar is a great stress-reliever.

Michael Pineo is a thirty-something father of four who grew up in New England. After spending his formative years singing in a heavy metal band, he turned to writing as a creative outlet. His inspiration for writing is best summed up by Danny's mother in Michael's debut novel, The Only Thing:

"When you get down to it, love is the only thing that really matters..."

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Debby said...

This sounds like an emotional and intriguing tale. From the part I read, you can't help but hope for a happy ending.
debby236 at gmail dot com

Sandy said...

The Only Thing sounds like a wonderful read! Thanks for introducing this author to us and for the giveaway opportunity.


tciofani said...

Ilove this author,thank you

Debbie G. said...

Thanks for the giveaway! "The Only Thing" sounds really good!


Anonymous said...

The Only thing is being added to my TBR list. Wonderful interview. Thank you and great job!
laura thomas