Welcome to September’s version of - First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day. In this monthly series, we ask five simple questions about a debut novel that will hopefully entice anyone reading this post to pick up the novel and read it themselves, and/or give them at a glance some insight into the author's writing style and voice as well as how some of the characters might think or act. We do this by presenting, first, answers to our Five Favorite Things, followed by the author's answers in a follow-up post.
This month we're pleased to highlight debut novelist, Kelly Loy Gilbert and her novel, Conviction. When Braden’s dad gets arrested for murder, he struggles through difficult times and must rely on his faith to make a life changing decision.
1) What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?
Dave – Maybe it’s because of what I have going on in my life right now, but this particular line struck me.
Faith always makes more sense when you can look back later on, but when you’re in a bad place you don’t know that’s not where your story ends.
Marcy – Maddie, who Braden is beginning to like more than a friend, confides in Braden that she doesn’t think he’s at all like his dad. This is a turning point when Braden realizes people see him differently than he sees himself.
“You know, I don’t really think you look like your dad.”
“My parents listened to him sometimes before we moved here, and I remember being really surprised the first time I met you because I thought you’d be more like him. I didn’t expect you to be like you were.”
“And what was that?”
“Quieter. More private. I can’t imagine you talking on a public broadcast every day.” She hesitates.
“And…nicer. I remember when we were picking lab partners in Science and you asked Austin O’Connor when you saw he was all by himself.” She unfurls herself – I can trace the line of her calves in the low-lit dusk – lies down on the sand, too. “And I remember when my younger sister spilled grape juice on you at church when we were doing Communion and you were really nice about it. Your dad’s … more intimidating.”
2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?
Dave - This ending comes from earlier in the novel.
It’s not particularly great, as jokes go, but it makes her laugh anyway. And it’s funny about that laugh - it makes me feel a kind of calm I haven’t felt much these days, like something twisting and then settling inside me. I smile back at her. I wish more things felt like this.
Marcy – Braden is at the field punishing himself for going soft during a baseball game by running up and down the bleachers 100 times. His buddies try to convince him to go hang out and asks how many sets he’s done already.
He sighs and shoves his cap back. “God Braden, you’re such a drama queen sometimes. How many have you done so far?”
I mutter that I’ve done thirty.
“Okay,” he says. “Well, seventy over five is…crap. Fifteen? That’s not right, is it?
Fourteen, moron,” Chase says. “What did you fail fourth grade?”
"All right, fourteen, Mister Mental Math.” Colin motions with his head, and the four of them come and line up on the bottom step of the bleachers, flanking me.
"We’ll split them with you, Raynor. Fourteen each. Let’s go.”
3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?
Dave – Just like Marcy has indicated below. Trey. He’s an in-depth character, and although it doesn’t always show, he cares about his brother.
Marcy – Braden’s brother, Trey is my favorite character. He cares deeply about his brother but expresses how he feels subtly, like in the below paragraph.
“So how did you know I don’t throw cutters?”
“I read when you told that woman from the Stockton Record you don’t have much use for them. I” – he pauses like he’s embarrassed, then makes an expression like, Eh, screw it –“ I get it sent to me in New York.”
“You what?” You don’t have papers there you like, or what?”
“I don’t have time to read the paper. I just read about your games.”
4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?
Dave - Braden’s father ran over a police officer with this car and is in jail, ready to go on trial for murder. I think this captures well how Braden feels when someone finally approaches the subject around him.
It has been all over the news, but so far everyone’s at least had the decency to not say stuff like that around me, and this is how it feels when you hear that said aloud for the first time: like someone’s pouring acid down your throat.
Marcy - This paragraph hit home and concisely describes how Braden feels in that particular moment, how anyone would feel in his situation.
This is why I hate when people tell me I don’t know how you’re surviving – because that implies you get a choice. What do they think, you’re actually going to die? Because that’s not how it works. You don’t get an escape into nothing; you get a brother who half the time acts like he can’t stand you anymore and you get a seashell-themed bathroom in your pastor’s house to escape to because a nice dinner with people who believe what you wish you could about God is more than you can take.
5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?
Dave - I think this line shows what a caring kid Braden is. He is talking to one of the younger kids on his baseball team who is nervous about facing a pitcher in one of the first baseball games his father has attended.
“Everyone gets nervous. You’re supposed to. I’m still a wreck before each pitch. If you don’t feel that way, because you don’t care. Okay? You’re in a good place.”
Marcy – The day Braden’s mom dropped him off to his dad when he was only a baby. This was Braden’s dad’s reaction of disbelief.
“You want to leave your kid with me?”