Interview with Tom Mahony

Environmental biologist Tom Mahony’s  fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in dozens of online and print publications, including Surfer Magazine, Flashquake, and Boston Literary Magazine. He is the author of Slow Entropy, a collection of short fiction released in 2009, and the novels Imperfect Solitude and Flooding Granite. His latest work Pacific Offering is just released…

“Thwarted at every turn by bandits, corrupt cops, a deteriorating truck, and a brutal ocean, and dead broke except for a stack of vintage skin magazines old friends Beck and Parry use for barter, they endure adversity and go south.
As Beck becomes increasingly obsessed with finding his lost love Elena rather than the big surf Parry came for, their friendship begins to crumble. Everything converges deep in the desert where the swell of the decade awaits—and Elena.”

What is the origin of Pacific Offering?
It all started when I was fourteen, the year my friend’s dad took a crew of
us on our first Baja surf trip. It completely blew my mind: the vibrant culture,
great waves, vast desert, and the occasional bizarre and/or hairy situation.
Like so many surfers, I became obsessed with traveling down there throughout
high school, college, and beyond. It seemed like a great place to set a novel.

(more interview over the leap, an excerpt in tomorrows post…)

What are the main conflicts in the story?
Fear is a big one: fear of the unknown, of failure, of change. The protagonist, Beck Richards, is a guy with a lot of potential but fear has prevented him from pursuing his dreams. During the Baja journey, he is forced to confront fear head on. There is no other option: his entire life has built up to this point of no return. Both Beck and his friend Parry Simms are afraid of change. They’ve been friends since childhood, but they’re diverging. They both need to move forward with their lives, but are unable to for different reasons. They’re in conflict with each other, and with themselves. The
deterioration of Beck’s truck, Ginger, is a metaphor for their deteriorating friendship. They need to fix it, but it may be beyond repair.

How important is setting to the story?
The setting helps establish conflict. The rugged terrain, giant (or flat) surf, and occasional lawlessness of the Baja peninsula set up obstacles to be overcome by the characters. This book is the last of a trilogy of settings—central California coast (Imperfect Solitude), Sierra Nevada mountains (Flooding Granite), and desert (Pacific Offering)—that I wanted to write about. I like the idea of placing characters in these vastly different settings to see how they deal with them. The resulting conflict forms the basis for the entire story.

When does the novel take place?
In the mid-1990s. It’s a pretty low-tech adventure. A different story would have to be told today with all the changes in technology and, unfortunately, all the current violence and unrest in Mexico.

What are your goals for Pacific Offering?
To take the reader on an adventure down the Baja peninsula, and to draw them into the joys and hardships of the journey while hopefully getting them to root for a couple of flawed but ultimately redeemable characters. And if the reader laughs a bit along the way, that’s just an added bonus.

Tom’s site