Saturday 24 November 2018

White Smoke Times Young Adult Interviews Part 1 - Theresa Linden

Warning: if you have not read the earlier books in the West Brothers series, this interview may contain spoilers! Note: The following is a transcription of interviews with 4 young adults that are part of the St. Michael's Parish. Normally the interviews are reworded into a flowing article. But author Theresa Linden did such an intriguing job capturing the session we are sharing it in the entirety. 

Per Steven R. McEvoy's request, the West brothers and Peter Brandt have been called to meet at the Wests' castle-like house for an interview. Peter hasn't arrived yet and Keefe and Jarret are playing a game of pool, so Roland gets to go first.

Due to Roland's shy personality, author Theresa Linden is having to spend an incredible amount of time explaining that this interview is important and might even help others. At long last, finally convincing him, she leaves him alone-sweating and pale-at the little kitchen table. Steven R. McEvoy soon joins him and after a few polite introductions, Mr. McEvoy asks his first question. 

1. For a quiet kid you seem to have a knack for ending up mixed up with controversy. 

"Uh, yeah. I-I don't know why that is. If you figure it out, tell me." Roland shifts in his seat and glances at the doorway to the hall. "I really like to avoid making a scene, stay under the radar, as my friend Peter would say…. But trouble seems to follow me. So, where are you posting this interview?"

2. Your faith seems to mean a lot to you. What does being a part of the 'Fire Starters' mean to you? Why is it important?

"Yeah, my faith does mean a lot to me. Now anyway. Since last fall. Things happened that kind of changed me, jumpstarted my faith. But I'm still new at this, so I like to hear what Father Carston has to say to the Fire Starters. And I like being around kids that share my faith. Everyone's pretty nice and I don't feel compelled to hide in the shadows so much."

3. What is it like having two older twin brothers that seem to have all the success in school?

Roland shifts in his seat again and slides the salt and pepper shakers to the center of the table. "Yeah, they're pretty popular, outgoing, confident . . . Kids are always talking about them; not all of it's true. But I think people admire them, and when they realize I'm their younger brother, they wonder why I'm so . . . quiet. So, I get a lot of unwanted attention over that. It's hard when people start comparing us. I'm definitely not like my brothers."

4. What was the hardest part of the transition from working with private tutors to going to public school?

"I'm a private person, very happy doing things on my own. And I liked doing schoolwork at home and on the road. Our father travels to interesting places, and we used to go with him most of the time. So, I miss that adventure. But public school is hard-the worst part-because of the gossip and the bullies. Some kids can be cruel. Not just to me but to any of us outcasts. If you don't look like them, think like them, talk like them . . . you become a target. I don't want to deal with any of that. I just want to do my schoolwork."

5. You typically wear all dark colors. What is up with that? 

Roland tugs at the hem of his shirt and then combs a hand through his wavy dark hair as he straightens up. He shrugs. "What's wrong with dark colors? I guess, I kind of identify with them. Shadows are dark and largely unnoticed. Some people like the spotlight. I just want to go through life unnoticed." 

6. If you could only recommend 3 books for our readers what books would you recommend?

"I like mysteries. I think one day I'll be a detective. So, I'd recommend G. K. Chesterton's Amazing Adventures of Father Brown, Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and I like Leslea Wahl's mysteries. She's a contemporary author, got a new one out, Where You Lead." 

7. You gave an amazing speech about a saint. What other saints did you consider? And why?

A hint of pink colors Roland's face and he shifts in his chair again, making the chair legs squeak on the tiled floor. "Uh, thanks. The Fire Starters decided on the martyr theme, so I was looking for a martyr. But I really like Franciscan saints now, because of Saint Conrad of Parzham, I guess. Thomas More was a Third Order Franciscan. I considered talking about him. As the chancellor of England, he was called upon to support King Henry VIII's divorce and to acknowledge him as the head of the Church. Of course, Saint Thomas wouldn't do that. So, they put him on trial, where he had to state his faith before everybody. He didn't want to cause trouble, but he couldn't deny his faith, so they sentenced him to death. I've struggled with saying what I need to say at times. So, I admire saints that speak out, especially when it's the hardest. I mean, I've never been threatened with death over my faith, but many saints have."  

Once Mr. McEvoy sets his notebook down, Roland seems to assume the interview is over. He jumps up and speed-walks from the kitchen mumbling, "I'll get Jarret or Keefe." A few minutes later, Jarret West struts into the kitchen. He greets Mr. McEvoy with a nod on his way to the refrigerator. Then he carries back two cans of Coke and sits across the table from him. Mr. McEvoy says, "Thank you," but he doesn't open the can.

1. It has been said that you have a hard time letting go. There is a rumour that has gone around school about your car and cheese. Very stinky cheese. Care to tell us your side of the story?

After taking a swig of Coke, Jarret huffs and narrows his eyes. "A rumor, huh? Probably started by my ex-girlfriend. I didn't think she noticed the smell." He shakes his head, teeth gritted, and then bursts out with, "Okay, yeah, I'll tell you what happened. Do you know Peter the Brat, uh, Brandt? That kid really gets under my skin. He's just asking for a fight. Especially when he's around me. It's best if we don't ever cross paths. I've gotten in enough trouble at school." He leans back in his chair, taking his attitude down a notch. "Peter's a jerk, that's all. It's not the first prank he's pulled on me, but it sure the . . . the heck better be the last." 

2. There was a time not so long in the past when you would have been the first to pick on your brother Roland. And yet you were suspended from school for fighting with friends because of what they did to him. What is up with that?

Jarret's leg starts bouncing and his eyes narrow again as if simply remembering the event irritates him. "He's my brother. No one messes with my family." Jarret points at Mr. McEvoy, his interviewer, but then he slouches back and folds his arms across his chest, looking a bit sulky. "Messing with a member of my family is the same as messing with me. And, yeah, I haven't been the best brother to Roland. But I'm trying to change that. He's a good kid. No matter how I've treated him, he's always been . . ." He shuts his mouth for a second, a wave of emotion visible on his face. "He deserves better. And even before I felt that way, I don't like people messing with my family."

3. Jarret, you are known as the bad boy both in the family and at school. But people have started noticing some differences. To what do you attribute the changes?

Jarret stares at Mr. McEvoy for a full second, as if deciding how much to share. "Well, God. I . . . was selfish. A real jerk sometimes. I'm workin' on that. But that's personal." Jarret quirks a grin. "And Roland. He sorta changed me. Treated him like crap and he . . . forgave me." Jarret's gaze turns distant.

4. You seem to do well academically without much effort. How was the transition from private tutors to being in public school?

Taking a breath, Jarret sits forward and focuses on his interviewer. "Huh? Oh, yeah, school is a breeze for me. We had it tough with the tutors. I mean they just had us to worry about, not a whole classful of kids, so they pushed us as hard and fast as we could go. We were way ahead when we got to public school. I'm sure it's like that with other homeschoolers too. One day those kids will rule the world." Jarret gives another crooked grin.

5. What was the biggest hurdle with the switch to public school?

He laughs, his crooked grin growing. "Girls. You know, so many hot girls. What's a guy to do? I mean, at home, there's no real distraction from school. When we're traveling, it's a different story. I've always found a few distractions. But nothing like a whole school full of hot girls."

6. If you could only recommend 3 books for our readers what books would you recommend?

"Oh, books, huh?" He rubs his stubbly jaw. "Roland and Keefe are more into reading. I'm more into physical things like weightlifting, archery, fencing, that kinda stuff. But if you really press me, I guess . . . I started reading the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. It's kind of creepy, like it's all from some devil's perspective, but it's probably not far from the truth. People should read that book; might change the way they look at things. And I hear there's a Faith and Kung Fu series by T. M. Gaouette. I might try that."

7. All people live with regret to some extent. But based upon all the rumours that swirl around you, what one thing would you change if you could go back and change something?

Jarret's expression falls. He slumps forward and sinks his hand in his hair, a dark curl escaping his ponytail. "Only one thing?" He sits thinking for a moment. "I ain't gonna talk about it. It's personal." He scrubs a hand over his face. "Maybe someday. For now, I'm just thankful God doesn't give up on me."
He gets up without making eye contact. "Nice to meet you, Mr. McEvoy, but I gotta go." 

Mr. McEvoy flips to the next page in his notebook, and a few seconds later Keefe West strolls into the room. Keefe's gaze snaps to the unopened can of Coke, and he offers Mr. McEvoy his choice of something to drink. After bringing two mugs of steaming coffee to the table, Keefe sits down.

1. Keefe, ever since you were dressed as a monk at the fall costume party there has been a marked difference in you. What inspired the costume?

"A difference in me? Since then?" He smiles, a gleam in his eyes. "You're probably right. I could tell you I just wanted to try something different-Jarret wanted me to be a musketeer like him-or I could say that Halloween is really All Hallows Eve, you know, the night before All Saints Day, and so a saint costume works, but you can probably see right through me." He turns his gaze to the steam rolling off his coffee. "My reason was more personal. Ever since that trip with my father to Italy, I've felt different. I was a bit of a follower before that, so I never really knew who I was. But after that, well . . . I'm kind of finding out. And, bottom line, the life of a monk kind of appeals to me." 

2. Rumour has it you went on a discernment retreat. What was the highlight of that time?

"That was a profound experience. Even the trip there was like part of a pilgrimage. I mean, I didn't think that way at the time. It was pouring down rain and I stopped to help this girl, arrived at the retreat way late, wasn't even sure if I was at the right place. I kept thinking I was making a mistake and should've stayed home. Even on the retreat, I kept reading things the wrong way. But it all worked out, like that verse in Romans: All things work together for good for those who love God. And the best moment for me, the highlight, was when I played a game of archery and my arrow hit the target dead center. That probably doesn't make sense to anyone, but it was the moment I let go of a lot of false ideas and I trusted God with what He's given me and what He's calling me to." 

3. Your faith seems to mean a lot to you. What does being a part of the 'Fire Starters' mean to you? Why is it important?

"I really like our Catholic youth group. Everyone there shares my faith or at least they don't have a problem with anyone expressing it. I'm going through so much right now, facing a lot of crossroads, and I really rely on having friends to share it with. It's nice to have support. I haven't been able to talk Jarret into joining. But I think he'd like it too." 

4. Describe one event in your life that really challenged you and prompted personal change?

Keefe takes a breath and stares at his coffee again. "My biggest challenges came when I decided I wanted to change some things in my life. I didn't want to go along with things that were wrong. But everyone was used to me going along with things, especially Jarret, and some people had a hard time seeing me any other way." Keefe twists his coffee mug. "It was really hard this one day, er, night . . . I took a girl to a party at Jarret's girlfriend's house, thinking her parents would be there. But they weren't. And I knew I should take the girl home, but Jarret talked me into staying. And it only got worse from there. We finally left, but I hated myself for not doing it right away." He looks Mr. McEvoy in the eyes. "That night made it clear to me. I can't serve both God and . . . well, Jarret."
5. What is it like being Jarret's younger twin brother?

"How'd you know I was younger? He used to rub it in that he came first." Keefe glances toward the hallway, perhaps checking that no one is eavesdropping. "A year ago, I would've avoided answering this question or given a vague answer that cast a good light. But honestly, I like being his twin. We have a strong connection that maybe only twins can have. Ever since I can remember, I could practically read his mind. And he might've been born a minute earlier, but I've always felt like the older twin. Always felt protective of Jarret and tried to get him on the right path. I've steered him away from some bad ideas, but I wasn't really successful in helping him because I needed a lot of help myself." 

A contemplative look overcomes him. "Then things changed between us. We went through a rocky period where he pretty much hated my guts, but we got through that. There's a bit of distance between us now, and I'm not his follower anymore, but in other ways our relationship is better than it was before." He took a breath. "I believe that's because now I'm following the One I should've been following all along."

6. If you could only recommend 3 books for our readers what books would you recommend?

"Hmm, only three?" He rubbed the hint of scruff on his chin. "One, the Bible. Everyone should read at least a line or two of that a day. I mean, it's God's love letters to us, right? For the second book, I'd recommend the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which, to be honest, I've just picked up myself. There's a lot about my faith that I never knew, and maybe some people would think it's boring but it's not. It speaks to your soul. And then, three, The Little Flowers of St. Francis. It's amazing to read about the stories of Saint Francis and the other brothers. I know my three books are all about faith, but that's what I'm reading right now."

7. What saints do you have a particular devotion to? Or what is one of your favorite prayers to pray?

"My favorite prayer lately is a simple one. I kneel before the San Damiano Crucifix and I say the 'Anima Christi' and then I rest there a moment and think about how many others before me, sinners and saints, have knelt before this same crucifix and said this same prayer. But those words say it all because it's only in Jesus that we can finally be who we're meant to be."

Before Mr. McEvoy can ask another question, hurried footfalls sound in the hall and Peter Brandt-pink faced and winded-bursts onto the scene. "Sorry I'm late." 
Jarret's voice, low and grumbling, comes from the hallway. Peter turns to look. Before he can respond to Jarret, Keefe jumps up and offers his seat to Peter. Mr. McEvoy greets Peter and flips a page in his notebook.

1. Peter, you have been known to pull a prank or two in your day. And apparently there is a story about stinky cheese. Can you tell us your side of the story?

"The cheese?" A slow grin stretches across Peter's ruddy face. "Oh, you mean the Limburger-wait. Is Jarret still lurking about?" He leans to get a look past Mr. McEvoy, at the open doorway to the hall. "No? Okay, so look, between you and me, he totally deserved that. Me and Roland were fencing out in the front yard." He swings an arm out. "They've got really cool swords, you know? And Roland was giving me lessons. Anyway, Jarret shows up and acts like he's gonna show me some moves, but then he gets all Zorro on me, knocks me over, and kicks my butt. With his boot. I landed right on my face. But he's always doing things like that. And not just to me. So, he totally deserved the cheese prank. But . . . I-I didn't know the smell would stay in his car for so long. I maybe should've used something else or not put it in his car. He loves that thing." 

2. Your faith seems to mean a lot to you. What does being a part of the 'Fire Starters' mean to you? Why is it important?

"Uh, yeah. I guess it does. I mean, of course it does. You know. It's fun hanging out with kids that share your faith. So, like, if you've got a problem, you know they're gonna point you in the right direction. And you can do fun things together like working on a neighbor's house and not getting paid. Or praying together in the middle of summer instead of just goofing off all day. Or trying to organize a camping trip when nobody knows what they're doing. Or . . . Am I making this sound not fun? But it is. Trust me. Or you didn't really ask me if it was fun, did you? What was your question?"

3. Tell us the story of the relic you came across. And about how it healed your friend?

"Oh yeah, that. So that was . . . like nothing I've ever experienced before. My grandpa died and left me this old locked box as sort of an inheritance. Took forever to get the key and find out what was inside. And we weren't the only ones interested in it. But that's probably a whole 'nuther story. Anyway, inside was an old book with all this writing in another language-German, we found out later-and an old rosary was in the box, and a piece of cloth. Turns out these were Saint Conrad's things, so, you know, like, second-class relics. And the old book listed all these miracles from Saint Conrad's intercession, so we decided to pray for my friend's healing. And . . . well, I still get kinda choked up over it. We were praying really hard and touched the cloth to his legs and, well, God healed him. It was like nothing I've ever experienced, and it changed the way I look at prayer and the saints' intercession, I guess."

4. You have a reputation of being able to fix anything electronic. What started this obsession? 

With a smug look on his face, Peter polishes his nails on his lemon-yellow Sioux Falls Canaries jersey. "I've always been curious about things. I guess I like to know what makes things work. So as soon as I could use my hands as a baby, I started taking things apart. And as I got older, Dad realized I wasn't just destructive-I mean, I was that too-but he bought me some building toys and electronic kits. It's my thing now." 

5. What is your greatest invention, and what inspired it?

"It's hard to rate my inventions. I say with profound humility: they're all great. And they all serve a purpose. The ones I like the best are the ones that I can use to help other people. Like when Roland was trying to spy on Jarret, and I modified a tracking device-okay, maybe that one didn't have the best reach. But I also made a transmitter and receiver, which came in handy when our History teacher showed us he had a few screws loose . . . up here, you know?" Peter points to his head. "But I've made all kinds of things. What are you looking for?"

6. If you could only recommend 3 books for our readers what books would you recommend?

"Eh . . ." Peter scrunches his face. "I mean, I do like to read. When I have the time, but then we've got to read all this boring stuff for school. So, I don't find myself picking up a book for leisure, if you know what I mean. But I like to watch movies. How about I give you my favorite movies that came from books?" He nods and waggles his brows. "So like Star Wars, the first three, which were actually the second three . . . an interesting marketing concept, right? And then The Last Jedi; that was pretty good. Did Star Wars movies come from books? Maybe those don't count. Let's see . . . The Lord of the Rings, Narnia . . . I guess I did read that book." His gaze returns to Mr. McEvoy. "How am I doing? That count as three?"

7. Which saints do you have specific devotion to and why?

"Well, obviously, Saint Conrad of Parzham. Because of my family's history with him. He's been a family favorite, you could say. But I also like Saint Philip Neri, the patron saint of practical jokers. There are quite a few humorous saints. Did you know that? Who's your favorite saint?" 

Peter sits back and waits for Mr. McEvoy's answer.

I would say my devotion to saints has changed over the years. If you had to nail me down to one I would say Saint Damien the Leper, every time I read another book about him, I am challenged again. Being of Irish descent I love the Celtic saints, and lately Saint Brigid of Ireland, my oldest picked her as a confirmation saint, and it is great learning about Brigit with my daughter. And finally I would say Saint Josemaria Escriva, I started studying him and Opus Dei for a school paper, and it has now been a part of my life for almost 20 years.  

And Join us in our next issues for the interview with Father Carston and how he discerned his call to the priesthood.

Note: This interview is the final stop on the Roland West Outcast Blog Tour follow the tour over the rest of the month.

Saturday, November 17 
The Lounge
Check out the Author Interview and look for the 1st GIVEAWAY! 
Sunday, November 18 
Franciscan Mom
Monday, November 19 
Book Reviews & More 
Tuesday, November 20
Monthly Book Review 
Wednesday, November 21
Faith, Inspiration, and a Cup of Tea 
Thursday, November 22
My Scribbler’s Heart Blog 
Friday, November 23
T.M. Gaouette Writer, Blogger, and Author of Catholic Fiction
Saturday, November 24 
Book Reviews & More - Interview with 4 characters from the series.

Books by Theresa Linden:
Tortured Soul

Chasing Liberty Series:
01 Chasing Liberty
02 Testing Liberty
03 Fight For Liberty
Bound to find Freedom - Short Story


West brothers Series:
Roland West Loner
Life-Changing Love
Battle for His Soul

Standing Strong
Roland West Outcast
Fire Starters

Armour of God Series:
Belt of Truth
Breastplate of Righteousness
Boot of Peace
Shield of Faith
Helmet of Salvation
Sword of the Spirit

Armor of God Series Second Edition:

Other Books:
A Symbol of Hope - Short Story
A Battle for the Faith (with John Paul Wohlscheid)


Books contributed to:
Image and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body
Secrets: Visible & Invisible 7 Amazing Stories - Catholic Teen Books
Gifts Visible & Invisible 8 Christmas Stories for Teens
Treasures: Visible & Invisible 8 Stories for Teens

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