Recently I’ve been reading novels by newer, largely unknown indie writers. By way of helping them along, I’ll be introducing some of them here. These authors are up-and-coming, at varying stages in their development as writers. They may not all have the polish of traditionally published authors, but I think they all have potential and deserve encouragement.
Pen, Please is an intense coming-of-age novel set in Oklahoma. We meet protagonist Andre Young at age sixteen when he returns home from a summer leadership program in Texas to find his father hospitalized with a blood clot in his lung. The first of many trials Andre faces in the novel, it’s far from the first in his life. Through flashbacks and present-day narrative, this young black man’s journey is exposed as a chronicle of heartbreak, tragedy, and headlong rushes down blind alleys, some imposed upon him and some of his own making.
Andre is fundamentally a decent guy struggling to make sense out of a life in which every joy is followed by a dozen sorrows. But he’s also headstrong and easily tempted to take the easy way out. His troubled relationship with his father and his distance from his absent mother haunt him throughout life. He can’t sort out his relationship with women, nor can he hang onto a job in spite of being an excellent worker. He even briefly descends into selling drugs. But through it all, he valiantly struggles towards something for which he has no good role models: how to be a man.
This is indie writer George Mayes’ first novel, and as such it has its ups and downs. The story is solid and engaging, while the key characters are drawn well and generally intriguing. Mayes has definite potential. He can turn a good phrase, and one or two particular witticisms made me laugh. But the narrative passages read like he’s trying too hard, and the dialogue needs work. Somewhere about mid-story the novel seemed to become a rush of scenes separated by time gaps of indeterminate length. A number of events alluded to should have been shown .
I don’t fault Mayes for these shortcomings. Most writers start this way. I expect that as he develops his craft, some really good things will come from his pen.
I recently asked George Mayes about his writing. Here’s what he said:
What inspired you to write Pen, Please?
I believe that each person is born with a unique purpose. Some are born to become doctors, others are blessed with speaking talents. For me, transferring my thoughts to paper always felt better than anything else. So I decided to tell a story: my story. Hence the title Pen, Please.
That’s interesting, because toward the end I did wonder if the novel was autobiographical. How heavily does it draw upon your own experience?
So much that if I changed one story about Marcus I would have a real-life story to match the rest of the novel.
I was interested to see the positive role religion played as protagonist Andre Young faced various trials. Outside of specifically religious fiction, that isn’t often found in novels these days. Can you comment a bit on how that comes into play in Andre’s life?
There are traces of a higher being throughout the novel, whether it’s Andre seeing his dad in angelic form, his brother having the right girlfriend at the right time, or being arrested by his cousin. This is important because Andre could have gone even further down the wrong path without this “spiritual realignment”.
Had you written or published anything prior to Pen, Please?
No, Pen, Please is my introduction inside the world of writing.
What advice do you have for writers, or for that matter readers?
I just want to say that I truly believe in everyone aspiring to reach their goals. They say, “It’s the start that stops most people.” Don’t let that be you. Don’t let fear talk you out of what you were born to do. Will the journey be hard? Yes. Will there be times you want to quit? Yes. Just keep pushing each day until you arrive. Once you’re there, you’ll realize it was all worth it! Thank you for your time.
Where can readers find you?