Mr. Pickering stopped by My Reading Nook to give us the inside scoop…Enjoy!
Marshall yearns for Audrey but she sees a future with James. When her personal and professional plans veer off course, their relationships are shuffled. Can it work out with Marshall after he provides support at a critical juncture? Or is it doomed to fail when paths cross with James, secrets are revealed, and commitments are put to the test? Matters of Convenience examines the repercussions of unpredictable timing and rash solutions, asking if happiness results from choice, fate or serendipity.
A man is the choices that he makes. The rest is window dressing and accidents of chance. He does not get to decide if he is destined for greatness. At best, he may have the opportunity to decide his degree of happiness. But how does one know if he has made a right choice without experiencing what the alternative would have brought? No comparison can be made without a dual existence. A man cannot follow both paths when the road presents a fork. He can only choose which life he is going to lead and which one he will abandon. In so doing he defines himself, allowing others to say ‘here is the man who went this way when he might have gone another’.
With his mind’s eye a man may on occasion visit his unlived life. Such moments of introspection and imagination will be undetectable time traveling. It will not be to the future that he ventures, or to the past, but to an alternate concurrent reality that never came to be. A man is what he chooses to hold on to, and what he lets slip away.
James looked upon his wife and child, both of them sound asleep and seemingly without a care. These were his choices. The two of them were his mirror. They were the decision he made to go left instead of right. Was this happiness? If so, they were its cause. Was it regret? If so, then regret was what he embraced with the totality of his being, and maybe even accepted.
He was unable to recall the exact moment he first fell in love with his wife, for he had not been sufficiently observant. Examining emotions closely creates distance from them. Standing apart from the experience would have been required, coming at the expense of immersion. We recognize in hindsight that a miracle has transpired. As it occurs we are swept away by a preponderance of miniscule details too fleeting for analysis. This is how it had been the first time.
The second time he fell in love with her the event was not gradual, but a big bang that was impossible to miss. It was then that he made the choice giving him all he had, and banishing all that was lost.
His gaze zeroed in on their son. Loving him was inescapable. The boy was a mirror for different reasons than choices made and bridges burned and allegiances established. There was nothing complicated about the feeling. But that did not mean arrival at the present had been a simple matter. Secrets and lies first needed to be buried alive, and on that foundation, this life was established. As he watched his family in slumber, he marveled at the tranquility and fragility of the moment they inhabited. It would take little more than the ringing of a phone or knock at the door to shatter what he possessed. Or it might be weakness on his part that brought about its ruin. Rather than worrying him, this made him cherish his allotment of fortune even more. This was love, although love is also what had been lost.
Others were quick to tell James that he led a charmed life. His days had the grace of a butterfly in flight. Did a butterfly consider itself to be blessed? Was it ever wistful? If not for its earliest days as a caterpillar than perhaps for the time in between when cocooned from peril, when all was comfort and peace and security? No, a butterfly was probably smart enough to know that even if the cocoon was preferable to a less predictable world beyond, there was no way to return. It could not fit again into what had been cast aside. Reflecting on those days would diminish the sweetness of nectar and add weight to wings that required lightness for flight. It was best to flutter into the future.
Humans, because they are subject to the whims of love, sometimes failed to grasp what butterflies understood instinctively. Not that love by its nature was especially complex. In essence it operated according to garden variety physics. Gravity dictated that falling, whether in or out of it, was the easy part. It is the consequences of love that can get tricky.
Perhaps all love stories no matter how varied were essentially the same. Accidents of fate. We search for the person put here specifically for us and play guessing games with whoever comes along. One of them will be the one that was waited for. In the midst of uncertainties this inarguable truth sustains us, even if it is not true.
How far shall we backtrack to begin this particular love story? Many places could be described as the starting line. If James was to pick a catalyst for what took place, perhaps it would be the arbitrary act of his gym closing, which led to recommendation of a new one, which in an incremental series of steps brought about what came to be.
As for its end, that was not yet written. If he remained statue still while watching the chests of his wife and son rise and fall with the breaths they took, perhaps the calm of this moment would stop the hands of clocks. But for better and for worse, time never halted. And so they were inevitably headed towards an unknown that for wondrous now lay just beyond reach.
Describe Matters of Convenience in 3 words.
Passion, Compromise, Regret
What was the best thing about writing this book?
Finishing it was pretty awesome. Other than that, writing such a large percentage from a woman’s point of view was a trying and ultimately rewarding experience. Authors aim to get under the skin of their characters and this is easier to do with some than others. Obviously the more like yourself a character happens to be, the less challenging it is to develop him/her. Matters of Convenience is as much Audrey’s story as it is Marshall’s and James’. So I needed to understand what makes Audrey tick. When I initially conceived the plot I was concerned about being able to make her authentic, not strictly because I am a male writer, but also due to how she deals with circumstances throughout the narrative. It’s natural for me to write love stories because pursuing someone whom you desire makes perfect sense. Going to lengths no matter how extreme to be with someone you’ve decided you cannot live without strikes me as rational, as one of the characteristics that define us as human. The heart wants what it wants and can lead us recklessly, cause us to ignore instincts and sage advice and common sense. Writing characters who are driven by love, lust or a combination of the two flows relatively easily. But Audrey is motivated by more than romantic notions. Over the course of the story she makes tactical and practical decisions some of the time, follows her heart no matter the cost on other occasions. She loves as deeply as James and Marshall, but is able to distance herself from emotion to choose self-serving courses of action as deemed necessary. This does not mean she is cold or mercilessly calculating. But I recognized she might come off that way if I did not write her with care, especially in comparison to Gwen who is the least agenda driven character. The greater the challenge when shaping a complex character, the greater the reward if able to pull it off. I am fond of all of the characters in Matters of Convenience. Yet I realize the plot will cause sides to be taken, and as result empathy will be felt for certain characters whereas another may rub the wrong way. Different people will choose different characters and outcomes to root for based on their personalities and life experiences. A book written with nuance is one that will be translated in multiple ways from reader to reader. My goal was not to paint heroes and villains in broad strokes. It was my hope to make each characters’ strengths as well as their flaws and sins relatable.
Who is your favorite character from this book and why?
I cannot say I have a favorite. That’s sort of like picking a favorite from among your children. The one I most strongly relate to is probably Marshall, which isn’t to say that he is especially noble. His single minded pursuit of Audrey reminds me of my quest for literary greatness. No matter how glaring the writing on the wall that he should abandon happily ever after daydreams, he stays the course with blinders on. So long as he feels there is a sliver of a chance, he is willing to wait for the moment to grasp it. Where there is hope, there is potential for anything and everything. I think it’s fair to call his feelings for Audrey an addiction, and fate is rarely kind to addicts unless they are able to find an alternate, less abusive high. As for me, surely there are easier ways these days to obtain fame and fortune (if not immortality) than by being a writer (which Marshall also happens to be). But some habits are essential to contentment of soul and therefore just about impossible to quit.
Where did the inspiration for this book come from?
I can’t pinpoint a source. When I embark on writing a novel it is not based tightly or loosely on real life events, although during the course of writing various personal experiences in altered forms tend to flavor the narrative. Inspiration comes instead in the form of hypothetical dilemmas. Many of our choices are based on us going with what is most convenient. It’s reasonable to choose the least arduous path rather than seeking unnecessary struggle. But when it comes to love, we are not necessarily drawn to someone who is the best fit or most likely to return our affections. We simply want what we want. We want who we want. It doesn’t have to be easy, it just has to be.
What next can we expect from you?
After years of writing exclusively for adults (two novels, one novella and scores of short stories to date) I have decided to take a shot at writing some children’s books. It is very much a family affair as the main character of The Absolutely Amazing Adventures of Ava Appelsawse draws from my daughter for inspiration, and the illustrations are being done by my extremely talented wife. Shifting gears from writing for grown folk to stories for kids has been a tricky art to master. Reading to my daughter on a nightly basis turned out to be preparation from long before I realized I was preparing to make a writing transition. I’m currently writing the second book in the series while working towards putting out the first installment later this year. But I expect to return to more mature writing soon enough. All it takes is a whisper of the muse in my ears.
Roy Pickering was born on the idyllic island of St. Thomas and currently resides in New Jersey with his wife and daughter. His debut novel Patches of Grey is published by M.U.D. House Books. It was named a 2012 B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree. His second novel is Matters of Convenience.
Find Roy L. Pickering Jr. on the interwebs
I hope you’ve found your next favorite book!