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Christopher M. Lawson

Frequently Asked Questions about Hello...and Goodbye

Hello...and Goodbye

Questions and Answers 

Where did the idea come from for Hello...and Goodbye?

The original idea came to me when I was waiting to go to work [at Turley Publications]. I was thinking of one of my co-workers, who happened to graduate five years before I did, but was at the same school as me, since the eighth grade (as of this writing) was in the same building as 9-12. The idea was to come up with some memories that we could share, and even though there was an age difference, I thought she might remember the general memories, as I called them (i.e. what affected the school). Then I thought, this would make a great novel. A young man who meets up with a woman from his past and tries to remember memories they could share together, despite their age differences. I also was taking a General Psychology course at Springfield Technical Community College and I was fascinated by the concept of "true versus false/manipulated memories." I wanted to explore that in the medium of a novel.

It wasn't originally supposed to be a love story. I read The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks, and this was what inspired me to move onto writing more than just memories, but have romantic interest between the characters.

Where did the name Dudley Gerstenberger come from?

I love this question. Dudley Gerstenberger came from two sources. Dudley was from Dudley, Massachusetts, and Gerstenberger came from a student who was associated with Nichols College, which happens to be in Dudley, MA. Incidentally, I was attending Springfield Technical Community College at the time I started writing, and along the way to the college, there is a street named Dudley Street. I took that to be some sort of message to me that Dudley was a good character name.

Who were your influences while writing this novel?

Aside from Nicholas Sparks, though I really hadn't heard of him before that, the biggest influence I suppose was Judy Blume. For years, I'd been a fan of hers and wanted to write a book that was loosely modeled after hers. In a lot of ways, I think Then Again, Maybe I Won't was my biggest inspiration. I will admit, I have tried writing my own version of this novel before, and the effort was not to my liking. I think Hello...and Goodbye closely resembles a Judy Blume novel (albeit written by a male author) than any other novel I previously attempted.

How long did it take you to write?

The first draft only took three months. I wrote every single day, even if it wasn't a full chapter. This draft was only fifty pages long. My good friend David Hale, a published novelist in his own right, critiqued it and told me it was too short. I admit that it was too short, but I didn't know what else to write. After hanging up with him on the phone, somehow the idea of including a second "love interest" crawled into my brain and thus, Tina Scott was born. This draft, with her included, took another three months. So in total, it took me six months from that initial fifty page draft to the final version, even though it was not published until seven months later, and I included another chapter in the eleventh hour, as they say.

I've read the back of the book. It says you are very similar to Dudley. Can you give some examples?

Another question I love. I wrote Hello...and Goodbye in the beginning of November of 2001, when I was 19. By the time the book was published, which was November of 2002, I was 20. So, in a lot of ways, our ages were similar, though that was (admittedly) an error I made in describing the book. He was 18 and not 19. We also share similar habits, awkwardness, and insecurities. His "voice" is also very much like my own and therefore made it very easy to write. Some have told me that he was just an extension of me and that because they know me, they could see where Dudley was coming from.

On a personal note, I also had the unfortunate experience of getting involved in two unusually awkward love triangles. Both during my senior year of high school and the first semester of college. None of them worked out, which was okay. Yet I didn't think the readers would have liked Dudley if his romantic interests failed him. I recall that at one point, I did want to throw in a third character as a surprise to the reader, but I scrapped the idea because I didn't want the novel to be too long and I already knew that some were going to be disappointed in the outcome. The pace was very important in this novel and I wanted it to be a good short novel, one that didn't require a lot of thought and needed less time to read, but be enjoyable all the same. I hope I'd achieved both.

Will there be a sequel to Hello...and Goodbye?

As of this moment, my answer is no. I did attempt writing one, which was titled (interestingly enough) "No More Lonely Days". I wrote it in three weeks from start to finish and I was not satisfied with the result. Someday, maybe, I will return back to that world and write about Dudley, Tina, and Jackie [Goodwyn], but there are no plans to any time soon.

Where does the novel take place?

I never specified because I didn't know. In my mind, I imagined it as a fictional version of the town I live in now, and have for the past 17 and a half years. Yet, I wasn't exactly sure of what name the town would be. I was influenced by the idea Mel Stuart and his production team came up with the "any town" for the movie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. That being said, you can be assured that Hello...and Goodbye took place in a small town in western Massachusetts.

What happens to Jackie Goodwyn by the novel's end? I wasn't very satisfied with that.

To tell you the truth, I wasn't either. I came to love Jackie Goodwyn, as odd as that might sound. She was flawed, insecure, and yet lovely. She sort of disappears after Chapter Twenty-Three and is only referred to fleetingly in Chapter Twenty-Six. I'd like to hope that she found love and lived as close to "happily ever after" as possible, but I guess it's up to the reader to decide. Unless of course, I decide to visit with her in a future novel, but I'm not making any promises yet.

Have you ever built your own birdhouses?

No. That was just my imagination running wild. My dad had my great-grandfather's bird feeder in the mudroom for a while and that inspired me to create the birdhouse chapters. I have always loved seeing birdhouses; I just never had the patience to build one of my own, even with instructions.

The birdhouse came to represent both a metaphor for Dudley and Jackie's friendship and foreshadowing, both of which came while writing and was not expected. I am proud that it was original; even though the one Jackie Goodwyn had held in the beginning was shattered to smithereens.

A quick note about the birdhouse that Dudley built. In the first draft, he wrote Hello on the entrance side, then Goodbye on the exit. I deleted this from the final draft because it was not the kind of allusion to the title I wanted. I figured that the readers should decide for themselves what the title referred to.

"A writer's job is to always entertain in the best sense of the word."
Sue Grafton
The Armchair Detective
(C) 2007-2008 - Christopher M. Lawson