Bob Seay is a writer who also teaches band, choir, and guitar classes at Lamar High School in Lamar, Colorado. He ran for Congress in 2016 and notes that “two out of three voters felt that he should continue teaching.”
SunLit: Tell us this book’s backstory. What inspired you to write it? Where did the story/theme originate?
Bob Seay: “Dad” is an unconventional coming-of-age love story. The story is probably more autobiographical than most works of fiction, although the names and details of some events were changed.
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Like Jacob, I received a 2 a.m. phone call from my brother who told me that our father, who was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, had driven off without telling anyone. We later learned that he was driving across the country because he wanted to visit me in Colorado. Dad was lost in Kansas City when the police found him. I immediately left to go pick him up. It was a long night.
The main theme is love — love within families, even when they don’t exactly agree on everything; love between strangers who are also going through hard times; and ultimately about loving yourself enough to pursue your dreams.
SunLit: Place this excerpt in context. How does it fit into the book as a whole? Why did you select it?
Seay: This excerpt is Chapter Two. I selected it because it introduces the main characters, shows Dad’s problem, and sets up the premise of the book.
SunLit: Tell us about creating this book. What influences and/or experiences informed the project before you actually sat down to write?
Seay: This is horribly unromantic and geeky, but “Dad” began as an intellectual exercise. I wanted to see if I could write a novel in first person, present tense. This was something I had not done before.
The first person narrative felt very personal, so it made sense to use a personal story as a starting point and go from there. Parts of “Dad” are exactly like what happened in real life. Other parts are completely made up. I’ll let the readers decide which is which.
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SunLit: Once you began writing, did the story take you in any unexpected directions? If so, how would you describe dealing with a narrative that seems to have a mind of its own?
Seay: Absolutely! Amelia, who ends up being a major character, did not exist in the first draft beyond a brief introduction in a restaurant. She didn’t even have a name at that point.
Jacob is another example of a character going his own way. I wanted Jacob to grow, but I wanted that growth to be consistent with his character. There were things I wanted Jacob to do or say that a guy like that simply would not say or do. I wanted him to be realistically consistent.
SunLit: What were the biggest challenges you faced, or surprises you encountered in completing this book?
Seay: The biggest challenge was writing the story of someone with Alzheimer’s without making it so depressing that no one would finish the book. How do you include humor in a story like that? How do you treat a character with respect while at the same time conveying the indignities of cognitive decline?
SunLit: Has the book raised questions or provoked strong opinions among your readers? How did you address them?
Seay: The strongest reactions have been about the treatment of religion in the book. Jacob’s experience with religion is very different from his siblings, but they ultimately share common values.
SunLit: Walk us through your writing process: Where and how do you write?
Seay: I’m a morning writer. I wake up, without the help of any alarms, around 3 or 4 every morning. Then I go to my little office and start writing.
I am also a plotter. My outlines are probably more detailed than most people’s first drafts. If it’s just not working that day, then I’ll work on the outline of the chapter or the story.
If I listen to any music, it’s Haydn string quartets. Music with lyrics is just too distracting. Haydn is perfect!
SunLit: Jacob has a rather unusual job of writing research papers for college students. Why did you choose that as the way he makes his living?
Seay: Jacob’s job is a plot device. I wanted him to be able to talk about a wide range of topics but I also wanted him to be credible. Jacob’s monologues about the Stanford Marshmallow Test or the Waffle House Index or other random topics would make no sense coming from most characters.
As a research paper writer, he can talk about almost anything. All he has to do is say, “I wrote a paper about that.” It’s his superpower.
SunLit: Is Jacob’s job also autobiographical?
Seay: I’ll answer that once the statute of limitations for that kind of thing has expired.
SunLit: Tell us about your next project.
Seay: I am currently working on book three in a series of cozy mysteries set in Boulder. Gabriella Alegré is an artist who draws caricatures on Pearl Street. She is also an accidental detective who gets pulled into solving murder mysteries.
This is very different from my other books, not nearly as introspective as “Dad” or my other book, “The Band Room.” Once I complete this trilogy, I want to get back to literary fiction.