Philip Scott Wikel is the author of the novel Ticket to Ride (CreateSpace 2010), a work of great creative and artistic merit, in which different styles of narration have been blended together flexibly and with perfect literary ease. Following is my interview with the author.
Ernest: Philip, your book is really exciting and I’d first like to ask about the travel element that is central to its story. How does it relate to your own travels?
Philip: I’ve traveled to most of the locales mentioned in the book. I find travel exciting as it removes you from your comfort zone and places you in situations where the world is brand new again. However, as I quote in the book, travel should be a reflection of the inner journey, not an avoidance of it.
Ernest: Before we proceed to further discussion, let me ask you if you think your book is a novel of a different sort, not the usual arrangement of fiction, you see, with quotes and song lines, and references notes included in the text. Were you experimenting with writing styles?
Philip: I have employed several non-traditional literary devices in order to connect in the best way possible with the reader. There are things that I wanted to say that I didn’t feel could be expressed in the traditional manner of straight prose.
Ernest: So tell me what made you choose to set the story in the 70s, and in Hawaii?
Philip: It’s funny you should ask this. My original intention was to try to make Ticket to Ride a timeless piece. I didn’t want to ground it in a specific time period as I felt this would present all sorts of limitations on understanding the character’s struggles. I finally realized though that the book would have been far too esoteric and distant had I tried to avoid anchoring it in time. I do believe that, at least, the themes in Ticket to Ride are timeless.
Philip: I chose the late 60s and the decade of the 70s because, to my mind, that generation seems to me to be the last one in America to take on the challenges of the time. There was a great sense of idealism back then and my characters are very idealistic. Since then, the successive generations seem to have lost interest in engaging themselves with the issues of freedom, democracy, equality and universal struggle. As I said, it “seems” as such. Perhaps these generations have yet to find their way into the discussion.
Ernest: Your main characters Livy and Morgan, but Psalm too, feel somewhat restless to me, though not frustrated. Why do Livy and Morgan have to travel to explore more life instead of accepting that which is at hand?
Philip: As I said previously, travel to me is exciting and I enjoy reading travel magazines and such as well. My hope is that the reader might experience, at least vicariously, a trip around the world. I also find people more interesting who have removed themselves from the comfort of their daily lives and struck out on a journey, both internally and external, in search of the highest version of themselves.
Restlessness to me is part and parcel of being a teenager and a young adult. If you’re not restless at that age I suppose you might have missed something.
Ernest: Psalm’s vivid imagination is a feature of great interest. What inspired the near-delusional character and why did he have to meet such a tragic end?
Philip: I struggle with the ideas of faith and belief in the Christian religion. At times I feel that blind faith and unquestionable belief border on delusion. There are just too many unanswered questions in the Bible and those that believe devotionally in spite of this seem to me a bit extreme. No one really knows if God exists, and if he does, no one really knows what he has to say. Religious extremists to me are the scariest sort of people I know of.
Ernest: In almost every element of the story, we feel this nostalgia emanating positive vibes. How do you see resorting to past as it relates to sanity in stormy times as the 60s and 70s?
Philip: I’m not sure I understand your question; however, as I said previously the late 60s and 70s were a time of considerable idealism. We should have a sense of nostalgia for a time that some say was “the last great flowering of the youth of America.” As crazy as the time period was it also gave birth to civil rights, environmentalism, political activism and women’s liberation, among other things.
Ernest: Critical readers may lightly accuse you of not allowing Morgan the success at writing enjoyed by Livy in the story. What would you say? (given that Morgan too had intellectual pursuits.)
Philip: I disagree with your assertion that Morgan wasn’t successful. He was given the position of editor at a magazine in the end and was poised to do great things as such.
Ernest: To be honest Philip, really, I feared Morgan the same fate as Psalm while I was reading his conversation with Herman Melville. Can we assume that, unlike Psalm, our hero’s delusions are healthy?
Philip: You might have misread this passage. Morgan doesn’t believe he’s actually met Melville. He merely conjures a fictional Melville for the purpose of writing his editorial. It’s funny really because I published that “Introduction” in my own real magazine and some people believed I had actually met with the ghost of Herman Melville. I was merely tapping into the spirit of a man who is considered by many to be one of our greatest seafarers, American or otherwise. It was either him or Joseph Conrad.
Ernest: Here’s a question I toss with a bit of unease: did you choose to, or did you have to, let Morgan and Livy meet coincidentally and immediately accept each other in a fairytale-like fashion?
Philip: Chance meetings are exciting to me. I disagree that they both had a fairytale perception of their meeting. Livy was quite a bit more realistic about this occurrence. These are young adults falling in love for probably the first time. First loves are heavenly, for lack of a better word. I don’t know about you but I was a hopeless romantic in my teens and early twenties. And again, these are idealistic characters who believe in the possibility of perfect love. Aren’t we all just a bit too cynical these days?
Ernest: The final scene of the story is indeed touching and, I’d say, assuring of peace and belongingness, as we see the young couple carrying their newborn child. What values of family and tradition do you appeal to in real life?
Philip: I come from a loving family, not a perfect one mind you, but one that strives to love each other unconditionally.
Ernest: So there is also a sequel to Ticket to Ride in the making? You mind telling a little about it?
Philip: Here We Are Now, the sequel to Ticket to Ride, chronicles the life of Dylan Blake, the son of Morgan and Livy Blake, the two protagonists from Ticket to Ride. Here We Are Now is quite a bit different than Ticket to Ride in that Dylan comes from a generation that is much harder to define. He’s part of the “grunge generation” or “Generation Y.” Although Dylan was raised with high ideals, he struggles with his peers whom he feels are quite shallow and lacking conviction.
Ernest: In closing this session, please tell us about your magazine Salt and how you weigh editing versus creative writing.
Philip: Salt is essentially a hobby of mine that I pick up and publish from time to time. I have an innate need to express myself and share with others. I enjoy sharing information and heartfelt feelings with people, and publishing, in its many forms, is a great way to do so.
I have even recently formed a band, The Julian Day, and am recording music to be released as an EP in April, with a full-length album to be released, at least tentatively, in November. I’m very excited about this new adventure. Here’s a link: http://www.reverbnation.com/thejulianday
Ernest: Thank you so much Philip for taking time for this conversation! I really look forward to reading your next book.
Philip: You’re welcome. Thank you for requesting this interview. It’s nice to know there are folks who are interested enough in what I write and publish to want more information.