Interview with Gwydhar Gebien, Author of Opening Acts (Enfant Terrible)

What’s the story behind the story? What inspired you to write Opening Acts?

Have you ever stood on a bridge and looked over the side and had a little voice in your head go: “Hey, what if I jumped?”

For me, that voice is named Damen Warner. He first came to me when I was standing on the State Street bridge looking down into the green waters of the Chicago river.

“Hey,” he said. “What if you jumped?”

I wasn’t crazy, and I wasn’t suicidal: I was just looking down at the water and wondering how it would feel to fall into it. It was a slightly hazy day and the water actually looked… soft.

“What if you jumped,” he persisted, “but what if you never hit the water?”

My mind snagged on the idea and I couldn’t let it go: a character in free-fall who never hits the water. A character standing on the edge, looking down, thinking about jumping for no other reason than a perverse sense of curiosity. I named the voice “Damen” after one of the major streets in Chicago: Damen Avenue, and he has been a part of my life ever since.  

If you woke up in the world of Opening Acts, what is the first thing you would do?

Given that the book is written from the point of view of a rockstar, I’d definitely see what kind of shenanigans I could get away with. Maybe some malarkey on the side. Possibly a soupçon of tomfoolery. Nudity might be involved.

If you had to write a blurb for the last book you read, what would it say?

I just finished reading “Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain.” If you’ve ever wanted reassurance that most of what goes on inside your head is beyond your conscious control, this is the book for you. Three hundred pages of cleverly turned insights that show both how far we have come in understanding how the mind works and how far we have yet to go.

Where did you write Opening Acts?

Most of “Enfant Terrible: Opening Acts” was written on the 788 Line of the LA Metro Public Transit system. This is an express bus that drives a stretch of highway that is especially cursed with traffic congestion. The ride consisted of a long, slow climb through stop-and-go traffic up one side of the hills which divide The Valley from Los Angeles proper followed by a long, slow descent through stop-and-go traffic down the far side. Through wind and rain, and on one memorable occasion, blazing wildfires. And that was my daily commute for the better part of three years. Forty minutes of writing in the morning. Forty minutes of writing in the evening. I managed to write three feature film screenplays, one television pilot, and most of this novel while sitting in rush hour traffic.

Pretend you qualified for the Olympics this year. What sport would you compete in?

I don’t mean to brag, but if Trash Picking were an Olympic sport I would probably metal. The Roadside Market is pretty much my own, personal Room of Requirement. A solid third of the furniture in my house was picked up off the curb. I’ve come home with gilded mirrors and glass teapots and brass candlesticks and marble tiles. I’ve picked up baskets and stickers and spools of ribbons and Christmas ornaments. Professional filmmaking camera gear. A brass giraffe. A porcelain statue of a bride and groom. A book of classic Country Western songs arranged for ukelele… Anyway… I am clearly a very classy lady and definitely not five raccoons in an overcoat

Gwydhar Gebien is the author of the new book Opening Acts (Enfant Terrible Book 1)

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