Character Interview & Book Giveaway: My Vacation in Hell by Gene Twaronite

John Boggle

Welcome to Author Gene Twaronite

Gene Twaronite is an Arizona author whose fiction has been published in numerous magazines, journals and anthologies, including Avatar Review, Fast Forward Press, Highlights for Children, Heinemann, and Read (Weekly Reader). He is also the author of the middle grade novel The Family That Wasn’t—the prequel to My Vacation in Hell. The author first introduced the theme of sexual abuse in his previous novel. “I felt compelled,” he explains, “to help my character John resolve his issues. I tried to imagine as best I could the horror experienced by a sexual abuse victim and how he might deal with it. It is my hope that in some small way my novel helps to address the needs of all who seek to find their own way out of hell.”

My Vacation in Hell:
The Family That Wasn’t:
Twitter John Boggle at:

Character Interview with John Boggle

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Since this second novel has come out, I feel more alive now than ever before. In a sense I’ve been born again. Since most of you reading this are probably not characters, it’s hard for me to explain. Each time an author writes a sequel about a character, that literary person becomes a little more real. My author tries to hog all the glory for creating a believable character and never gives me credit for all the work at my end. But as the saying goes, it takes two to tango. He claims that it was his brain that first came up with me. But I am the idea itself—just waiting for him or someone else to seize upon my potential. Without me he’s a nothing but a writer without a story.

Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book.
If just one sexual abuse victim finds hope and inspiration from reading about how I dealt with my own abuse and found a way out of hell, that’s reason enough for me.

What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?
I remember back in my first novel The Family That Wasn’t how my grandmother taught me, just before she died, “that we’re all a little crazy in one way or another—that’s what makes us human. The trick is in recognizing these little quirks or flaws in ourselves and in others, and finding ways to make them work for you.” It helped to get me through some rough times and better understand my whole crazy family.

How do you react to a bad review?
I don’t think anyone so far has actually come out and said they hated me personally, though some readers have told me that they prefer my sister Venus or my girlfriend Beth. As for the book itself, I don’t think it’s had any bad reviews, though there have been a couple that have been lukewarm at best. My author tends to take this personally, but I tell him not to worry. Readers’ tastes are as vast and varied as the oceans, and just as unfathomable.

What is your guilty pleasure?
I sometimes find myself thinking that it was the other way around and I created my author. I’ve even sent him personal messages, just to freak him out—you know, little notes on his desk or recordings on his voicemail. I love messin’ with his head!

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Though I usually come across as pretty wacky and always seem to be making fun of stuff, I do have a more serious side. Certain stuff really gets under my skin, and sometimes no matter how hard I try I can’t joke my way past it (as I tried to do in hell). I’ve even started writing poetry to help sort it out.

Is there a song you could list as the theme song for your book or any of your characters?
In Chapter 5 of My Vacation in Hell, as Virgil and I are riding our motorcycle on the road to hell, the Steppenwolf rock song “Born to be Wild” suddenly comes blaring out of the radio. I think that song pretty much sums up how the two of us felt there, wild and free, “lookin’ for adventure,” though the adventures turned out to be not all that much fun. It was hell, after all.

If you could be one of the Greek Gods, which would it be and why?
That’s easy. I’d be Apollo. It’s not just because he was the god of music, poetry, archery and stuff like that. But just look at his statues. He was considered the perfection of young manhood. Yup, that’s me all right.

What’s the craziest writing idea you’ve had?
It had to be that time back in my first novel when I started writing about a new and more perfect family. I really got carried away with it, and this imaginary family became so convincing to me that I actually started living in it. Talk about crazy. I ended up making a real mess of things and …well, readers will just have to find out for themselves what happened.

Can you see any of yourself in your author?
Yes, there are a few things, though we’re really quite different. We’re both real wiseasses, for instance, which often gets us into trouble. And we’re always questioning authority and pushing the envelope. And we both love rock music, though I do question his taste for certain rock groups (What’s with this AC/DC thing of his? I don’t get it).

If a movie was made about your life, who would you want to play the lead role and why?
I think James Dean would have been perfect (this is the 1960’s, remember)—too bad he had to go and die. A younger Paul Newman would be great, too.

If you were a superhero what would your name be?
Boggleman! Able to leap tall tales and overwhelm the senses with his super imagination.

My Vacation in Hell

My Vacation in Hell is a humorous young adult fantasy. Set in the mid-1960s, it is a first person narrative by a 15-year-old writer named John Boggle. A troubled nerdy misfit and a frequent flyer of his imagination, John is inspired by a book report reading of Dante Alighieri’s the Inferno. In the eternity of the five minutes before summer vacation, he embarks on a pilgrimage based upon his own free-wheeling interpretation of the work. Following Dante’s lead, John populates his hell with all the people who have wronged him over the years, inventing deliciously cruel punishments for each of them in his teenage version of cosmic retribution. Aided by his best friend Virgil, a trusty guide in this shared imagination, John also struggles to come to terms with the world’s many evils. And as he descends further into this realm, he constructs his own hierarchy of evildoers, assigning them to the levels he believes they deserve. But it is the evil perpetrated upon John, a victim of sexual abuse, which poses the most difficult challenge. The deeper he goes, the more he encounters obstacles, some of whom in the guise of colorful demon characters try their best to keep him there. But the worst obstacle of all is his own self-image, forged out of guilt and shame. He will not leave this hell of his own making, Virgil tells him, until he learns how to deal with the evil inflicted upon him and finds the true center of his being. Fortunately, he has other help besides the ever wise Virgil, who it turns out has a few problems of his own to deal with. John needs more than reason to get him through this, and divinely beautiful aid arrives in the form of Beth, an idealized version of his secret love. Rescuing the pair from the evil that threatens to consume them, she will guide John in the last stage of his spiritual odyssey. She shows him that there are even some good places in hell, just as there is always some good, however slight, that comes from our worst experiences. Though disturbing at times due to its mature theme, My Vacation in Hell delivers a message of hope with a large dose of humor.

Giveaway Details
1 Paperback copy open to US only
1 Kindle or Nook ebook copy
Ends 4/20/12

Lisa – Print
Cassandra – Ebook

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