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'August': Callan Wink’s Complex Coming-Of-Age Novel

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In Callan Wink’s novel, August, we follow the title character, August, from ages 12 to 19.  His parents divorce. He observes the many ways their union was illogical. He is quiet and unassuming like his father, but he has a natural curiosity and hunger to learn like his mother. He lives with one parent in Michigan and then the other in Montana.  Eventually, a dramatic and violent situation makes him strike out on his own where he continues to discover that people in small, quiet spaces live complicated lives.  The experiences lead him to conclusions about his own parents and his own future.

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Highlights from the Interview with Callan Wink

On creating the experience of September 11, 2001 for his young protagonist

The timeline of the novel is very much the timeline of my own life in terms of geography and also just the years that it spans. September 11 is a big part of my sort of formative years. I grew up in a small town in Michigan — very, very rural. Most of the boys that I went to high school with did not go on to college. I did, but many of them went into the military and, you know, some of them did not come back, you know? So that was a big part of my, kind of my coming-of-age story… For a person like [August], it was kind of the first moment where things seemed pretty real… And it's just his awareness of mortality more than anything else.

On the short story “The Breatharians” and the new novel

After I wrote that story, I wrote a couple other stories with August… I'd written a different novel that just ended up kind of being unsuccessful and I didn't end up publishing it. And I was still writing these stories. And then I kind of slowly thought, well…maybe what I'm doing here is actually a novel. The novel does have a sort of collection of stories feel to it, you know, which probably just shows the underpinnings of how I wrote it and that it did start as a few stories that I sort of linked together. I just had more stories with the character. And then I kind of just snuck up on the fact that I was writing a novel, which for me as someone who's still very much trying to figure out how to write novels, I feel like if I can get going on a novel before it knows I'm writing it, I'm less likely to get away from it.

On the visceral football scenes in the novel

I really did love playing football. It's quite true. I had two sisters and growing up and I always wanted a brother, I think…I love football quite honestly. Now that I'm in my mid-to-late 30s, I don't love some of the injuries. I sustained playing high school football, but I did love it for sure.

On the memorable character of Bonnie, August’s mother

She’s sort of long suffering in some ways, you know, dealing with her husband… I think her worries are that August is in some ways going to go that same route.  She's a bit of an outsider, which is why I think August himself always feels a little bit like he's on the outside of things.

On the protagonist, August, and his quiet introspection

There's a certain opaqueness to August’s character… I think he wouldn't be able to put into words how he feels about a lot of things, and I kind of wanted the novel to reflect that… He doesn't know himself well and he's not prone to putting voice to things that aren't directly tied to, like concrete actions at work, especially. These are like safe areas for talking. He's definitely staying away from the other areas that aren't directly linked to the physical world basically, and whether that's something that he’ll grow out of at some point, it’s hard to say, but it is part of his makeup.

Yvette Benavides can be reached at bookpublic@tpr.org.

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