Today I'd like to introduce Ron Canepa, author of Norton's Ghost. Click on the link above to see the rules for entering the Amazon gift card giveaway.
Tell us about your book.
Norton's Ghost is a first-person narrative that follows the story
of Kyle Dearmond, a young college student in California. The sudden
death of his father knocks him out of his usual routine. During the
reading of his father's will, he discovers that his mother, assumed
dead since before he can remember, might not be dead after all. But
the will uncovers more questions than it answers and no one knows for
sure what happened to her. Based on some basic information from a
family friend, Kyle takes to hitchhiking to find answers and to escape
the grief that's following him.
What inspired you to write this book?
There were a few basic ideas or questions that came to mind back when
I was originally thinking about this story and what it might be. The
first and most general was the idea of what people and society expect
of us: could someone drop out of college and still be considered
successful? And what defines the bar for success in the first place?
The subsequent ideas were much more concrete and formed the backbone
of the story. I knew I wanted it to be a form of travel story--I
wanted my character to cut loose and take off. I have a huge
wanderlust myself, and so in a way I think it was a chance to have a
character do what I myself couldn't.
The hitchhiking came into play both because the style of travel is
cheap and fit in with the age of my main character, Kyle. I also
wanted to write about it because it's a whole area of differing
thoughts and perceptions. The hitchhiking culture of generations past
is now gone. It's no longer considered safe. Yet there are people
who still do it and have no problems at all. I've picked up people
myself, including an old man in a suit and hat who was on his way to
get his car from the shop.
Homelessness forms another huge part of the story and is the backdrop
against which the narrative takes place. If hitchhiking is laced with
perceptions and misconceptions, then homelessness is laden with it.
As I mention in the author's notes to the book, homelessness itself
fascinates me because everyone talks about it and has feelings about
it one way or another but no one's 100% sure how to fix it. It's a
problem with many factors and I think one of the first steps towards
resolving it will be to try to erase some of the stereotypes and
misconceptions. In the end, I wanted to pull away the curtain of
assumption and show homeless people *as* people--both the good and the
Do you have a favorite character?
Good question--I actually had to stop typing and ponder this for a
good five minutes. In the end, I can't say that any one character
sticks out above the rest. There are pieces of each character that I
like the most. I'd love to be able to discuss each one of them, but
that might lead to spoilers :)
Are any of your characters based on people you know in real life?
No. Doing that makes me far too nervous and I also feel like it's
cheating a little bit. I'll take little pieces from life, just as
every other author does, but no more than an extremely minor
percentage of any given character from any one person.
I've also had people ask if the events in the story are
autobiographical at all, and the answer to that is: "nope."
What kinds of things did you research to write your book?
Being homeless or having hitchhiked a bunch would be the obvious
sources for this story, but seeing as I have experienced neither, I
had my work cut out for me on this one. I spent a lot of time
reading. I read what homeless advocate organizations had to say, I
read what anti-homeless people and organizations had to say, I read
accounts of homeless persons themselves to learn about their troubles.
I also owe a debt to the online hitchhiking community for the same
reasons: their stories served as inspiration for my own and kept the
fire of wanderlust stoked.
I also had the benefit of a naive character in the beginning of the
story, so I had a chance to put myself in his place: what would *I*
do when trying to catch a ride for the first time? Where would I
sleep if I was in a strange city with no money? And so forth.
Beyond those aspects, I also did a lot of location research,
particularly in San Francisco, where a large portion of the story
takes place. Some of this was done as I wrote and found out that I
needed it, and some of it was done after the rough draft. As a travel
story, character of the location and a sense of place are key. I hope
I have a lot of very creative readers. Do you have other hobbies or
creative pursuits besides writing?
I write and play music. I'm self-taught on piano, guitar, and drums.
Composition-wise, I have pieces in most genres. Nothing is available
yet, but I'm hoping to change that as I work to balance the demands of
writing and music. Keep an eye out for more news on this front.
I tend to dabble, and so I've had my hands in just about everything,
from drawing and dancing (just a six-week ballroom dancing course, but
it was fun!) to martial arts and photography.
What’s on your nightstand (or kindle) right now?
Right now I have a history textbook on the middle ages for story
research for a current work in progress. Goodreads tells me that one
of the most recent books I finished was "Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in
a Desert Jail", which was also story research for a different work in
progress and an amazing read.
Do you have any upcoming titles you’re working on?
I have two short stories, codenamed "Pipes" and "Connections". The
first is a short work about college life (which is apparently a theme
of mine). The second is about four people in different parts of the
country that all witness the same event. Both of these are making the
rounds in hopes of finding a home with traditional publishers.
Codename "Morocco" is a story that finds 4 Americans in Morocco for
A novella codenamed "Stranded" that's cooling off in rough draft form
(teaser: "Good. Evil. Devils. Angels. Quirky academia.")
Last but not least, I've begun planning-stage work on an
alternate-future novel codenamed--what else?--"Future".
I should be busy for quite a while.
Where can we find your book?
It's available in e-book format in Amazon's Kindle store and in Barnes and Noble's
It's available in paperback through most online retailers. I believe
Amazon has the best price.
Any other links?
The book trailer for Norton's Ghost:
My website has links and more info on everything I've mentioned as
well as excerpts for Norton's Ghost.
Thanks for having me!
Ron is kind enough to be standing by today to answer your questions.