By Ophelia Rue
In the midnight hour she cried more, more, more –Billy Idol
My Summer Friend is a fast 60 page read that takes us into the life and struggles of a young man who also happens to be an introvert that is coping with the loss of his grandparent and a negligent mother.
Johnny– Hello Ophelia and thank you for taking the time to talk to me. This book covers a lot of relevant topics in the world today. What inspired you to write My Summer Friend?
Ophelia– My degrees are in Psychology and Education so I work with high school students with social/ emotional issues. I think it was a combination of that, and my own upbringing having been raised by a 19 year old single mother.
Johnny– You seem like a focused and driven individual; do you think being raised by a single mother made you a stronger person.
Ophelia– It meant a lot of time spent alone. She worked full time and earned her BA part time at night so I had a lot of time to think, to use imagination and form my own opinions. The solitude was positive in that regard but led to a pretty serious lack of social skills. We lived with my grandparents early on so she was gone before I would wake up and I was in bed before she got home. The one thing she stressed was that education was the only way to escape being poor so I was held to a pretty high standard in that regard, but once the pre-teen years hit, it become much more difficult to maintain the confidence necessary to do well in school when there are so many instabilities and inequities in your life.
Johnny– This book expresses (with what I believed to be) the misunderstanding of being an introvert. Was one of your goals to bring awareness to this personality facet?
Ophelia– Yes. I think introverts, especially young males, can struggle socially. People may assume introverts don’t like other people or are shy with poor coping mechanisms. At the same time, I think young introverts may assume extroverts are less introspective and shallow and it can be upsetting to them when extrovert’s traits are favored by society.
Johnny– How difficult was it for you to create your main character, Ed? What kind of homework did you have to do? (If any)
Ophelia– Ed came pretty naturally. I spent a few years after college working at a school for juvenile sex offenders and fire setters so he is a combination of me and some of my former students.
Johnny– Working with either of those groups sounds pretty intense. How intimidating was it to go to work there straight out of college?
Ophelia– It was pretty intense. You go through the restraint training and read their profiles as part of the orientation but nothing really prepares you. You need to just jump in and be willing to screw up and grow. It’s a lot of violence and sadness. You see the results of the cycle of abuse. It takes a toll on you. The two images that stick with me most from that time are my first restraint when this 16 year old kid was trying to injure himself by lying down and repeatedly banging his head really hard on the gym floor. We restrained him with two holding him down and another bracing his head so he couldn’t bang it while we tried to talk him down. He got so mad that he couldn’t move his head that he bit through his tongue and started spitting blood at us. I can still picture him vividly, laying on the floor laughing with all that blood in his teeth.
The other incident that sticks with me was when I was getting something out of one of the residences for the younger kids. It was empty because they were having a Christmas party in another building with the staff and a few of the parents that showed up. The rooms had no doors and I saw this little kid’s basketball trophy on his bureau and I couldn’t help but think, who did he show that to when he got it? I just stared at it for a while in this cold institutional room trying to stop crying so I could go back to work.
Johnny– Wow, that is intense. Your heart is in the right place and I praise you for that. Who is the villain in this book? When I first got into this, I was thinking his mom was a bad seed, in the end you changed my mind. Then I was thinking the rich kid, then society for always favoring the upper class, who do you consider to be the anti-hero?
Ophelia– I think if you had to choose a character to be the villain it would be Paul Wheeler because he acts purely out of self interest. The rich kid is as much a product of his environment as Ed. I see the main conflict in our society being between individuals and their own identity. People seem to establish whatever identity will result in the greatest social benefit within their peer group. This is why I think adolescence is so difficult and adults are so rigid when presented with information that challenges the basis of their identity. Any change to how you see yourself may have social implications. That is the one thing I have found that people cannot tolerate and leads to the creation of justifications that can become problematic. This is most obvious to me on the macro scale of the socio/political but starts with the establishment of individual identity within a person’s peer group. Social media exposes people to a wider variety of perspectives which may challenge beliefs and therefore identity, so I think things will be rocky on the macro before it settles down. These little shells of identity are cracking and the reaction is quite polarizing and intense.
Johnny – I totally agree with your comment of Paul Wheeler acting purely out of self-interest. It seems we see this too often unfolding out each time we turn on the news. Was this social observation done on purpose or did it just work out that way in your story?
Ophelia– It wasn’t intentional. The twist wasn’t even in the original outline. It came as I wrote it. I look for themes and layers when editing. For example, once that twist became part of the story I was able to go back and add all of the broken home imagery every time Ed went on a date with Elise, like the condemned house in the woods, broken lighthouse at the airport bar, dilapidated house in Newport, and burning house in Providence.
Johnny– On the back of your book cover, it reads: “This edgy novella is a modern American love story that offers a glimpse into the psyche of a disturbed young man.” Is he disturbed or misunderstood?
Ophelia– He is disturbed in the sense that the identity he has worked to establish when he is finally free of his past, becomes challenged when he returns home. He is misunderstood in that I don’t think he is acting in an abnormal way given the circumstances of his situation.
Johnny– You portray an attempted date rape situation on the beach. How hard was it for you to write that scene? (Good job btw, I don’t know why, but that was uncomfortable).
Ophelia– Thanks. I wrote it from a distance because I wanted to focus on Ed’s reaction to it. That part was difficult. What would it feel like to value someone so much that is taken for granted by another? I wanted to capture the sense of worthlessness and powerlessness.
Johnny– What are you wanting your readers to take away from this book?
Ophelia– Question your identity. How do your beliefs benefit you within the context of your immediate peer group? Have you established these beliefs purely for personal social benefit or because they are true? Are you willing to be vulnerable enough to change and grow? Can you incorporate that willingness to change and grow into your identity rather than live a comfortably dogmatic existence? Can you understand how identity functions in others and have the patience to help them grow rather than dismiss them entirely? Can you recognize when someone is not willing to change and disengage rather than engaging in pointless conflict to reinforce your own identity?
Johnny– Was Elise an obsession or a crush?
Ophelia– She is an obsession because she checks all the boxes for him. She is his only connection to society. She is attractive. She validates his rejection of society by crossing the lake. She also fills the void his mother left. This is why no one else compares to her in his mind.
Johnny– What advise do you have for unpublished authors who are trying to get started?
Ophelia– Write like no one will ever read it.
Johnny– Ophelia I feel as though I’ve learned a lot from and about you, professionally, throughout our conversation, what do you like to do to for fun or to unwind?
Ophelia– I unwind with exercise, music and watching Patriots games.
Johnny– Thank you Ophelia for taking the time to talk with me, I really enjoyed My Summer Friend, I’m recommending it to everyone I know. Do you have any other books in the works?
Ophelia– Thanks Johnny, these are great questions. I appreciate the opportunity. I wrote a book called Something in the Water. It’s a book of short stories about other misfits that live around the lake from My Summer Friend. The stories all intertwine in subtle ways and have twist endings. Right now, I’m working on a novella named Exuvia which is related to the Something in the Water stories. It is about a photojournalist who enters the world of a group of young rich people under the guise of doing a story on them, but he has a hidden motive. I also released book three of my sci-fi series in June. Its title is The Infinite Eye, which is a sequel to Eclipse and Typhon. It is a dark sci-fi adventure similar to the tone of the Expanse or Culture series. They are all available on Amazon in ebook and paperback. I also have some hidden prizes on my website opheliarue.com
Ophelia has penned a story that is as beautiful as it is tragic. Ed’s reality comes to him through the lens of a telescope, it’s not until he’s forced to come out of his make-believe world that he meets the object of his desires face-to-face.
As you can read from our conversation, Ophelia defiantly knows what she’s talking about, she’s lived it, and she’s not afraid to talk about it. Written with a cynical styled cleverness, Ophelia has created a character deserving of both our admiration and pity.
I love this book and highly recommend it. Coming in at 60 pages it is a fast afternoon read that will satisfy while indulging your reading desires.
I’m giving My Summer Friend five stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ on both Goodreads and Amazon. It’s gritty, raw, and it’s real. I LOVE IT!
Maybe there is a little of Ed in all of us, maybe that’s whats drawn me in, mental health is a real world issue, it’s not going away no matter how hard we try to ignore it. Thank you Ophelia, for allowing us to see the world through your MAGNIFICENT eyes.
If you haven’t read it you should. Ophelia is defiantly an author that I WANT read again.
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Be sure to check these other books by Ophelia.