Hey guys! Just this Sunday (August 9), I had the utmost privilege of getting to interview Bryant A. Loney, the author of To Hear The Ocean Sigh. Verona Booksellers published the said young adult novel just April 21st of this year. I had the honor of being asked by the publisher to conduct a book review to promote Bryant Loney’s new novel and I was amazed by how amazing and deep the book was especially for the fact that Bryant is only 22 days older than me! He just turned 18 years old last July 4 and he had already contributed a great literary piece that is up for everyone to read, to enjoy, and to learn a lot from. That’s why I did not let the opportunity of having this small interview with Bryant pass me by. Thank you so much, Bryant, for entrusting me with this!
The interview is spoiler-free as per request by the author. 🙂
Bookstore Bug: Hi Bryant! I’m Feather, going under the name Bookstore Bug for my blog 🙂 Thank you for having this chat with me! I’m going to ask you some questions regarding your novel, To Hear The Ocean Sigh. Would that be all right? 🙂
Bryant Loney: But of course. Ask away!
BB: When did you start writing To Hear The Ocean Sigh?
Bryant: I started writing the novel on a sleepless night while on vacation in June of 2012. My family and I had visited Myrtle Beach in South Carolina that day, but it was raining, and the water was ridiculously cold. Despite this, we got out of the car and ran around in those waves. We probably looked like a bunch of crazy people to the lifeguard on duty! Anyway, we had a lot of fun, which made me think of how perspective shapes the way we value experiences. And so the story was born!
BB: What an inspiration! So I’m curious, why revolve this type of story to young adults?
Bryant: I think the easiest answer is because I was fourteen at the time, and writing guides and websites always tell you to write what you know. YA is one of my favorite genres, but because technology is changing so rapidly, I’ve noticed authors struggling to keep up. I wanted to revolve this story around the impact technology has on teenage friendships because we (the teens of the 2010s) are essentially the guinea pigs of any new apps, phones, and social media sites. And because I was a young adult, I felt I could tell that kind of story honestly.
BB: Yeah, I agree. I’m majoring in Literature and it was easier for me when my subject course was Young Adult Literature because that’s what I know most about. 🙂 How about any other stories or works that you’ve written? Are those young adult novels too? I would love to hear about it!
Bryant: In between drafts of To Hear The Ocean Sigh, I wrote a novella titled Exodus in Confluence, which is available exclusively on Amazon and is essentially a zombie story. In reality, it was me working out my feelings toward senseless school shootings and gun control regulation in the United States (the zombies, referred to as “hollows” in the narrative, are a metaphor, you see). That was in late 2013. It, too, is YA!
BB: Wow, you do love metaphors, don’t you? And scenarios and people that symbolizes deeper values about life!
Bryant: I like to write about what bothers me, so I guess you could say that. (That was such an author answer, haha!)
BB: Hahaha oh you are an author! So… authors usually insert bits and pieces of themselves in the characters that they are creating, right? Can you say the same for yourself besides that you write about the things that bothers you?
Bryant: Bits of myself definitely do slip in. Anecdotes, too. I once had a conversation with my cousin Natalie—she loves this—about baseball, which I know very little about, and basically, I ended up asking how Mickey Mantle was doing that year. She stared at me for a while, then informed me that Mantle had died in 1995. Somehow, that ended up in THTOS (To Hear The Ocean Sigh). Speaking of baseball, I did play t-ball when I was younger, which becomes a joke about a character in the novel, as well. So like I said, pieces of me are in there, yes, but Jay Murchison (the protagonist in THTOS) is largely separate from myself. Like, I was actually popular in high school! People liked me, I swear!
BB: That scene about Mickey Mantle was hilarious by the way! Haha! I’m sure you were popular, don’t worry!!! But if you are not Jay, are you more of like the other characters in To Hear The Ocean Sigh?
Bryant: My favorite character is probably Megan, who plays a minor but important role in the story. I see her as sort of Jay’s female counterpart in that she’s in the main friend group, but still occasionally out of the loop. I know I felt that way sometimes in high school. Megan also says my favorite line in the book: “God, where did freshman year go?” I think that’s so raw and honest in the sense that she’s thinking about an earlier time when things were simpler, and she’s wondering how everything changed so suddenly. We’re both out of high school; we know the friends we start out with in ninth grade aren’t always the ones we end up with senior year. So I guess I have a similar mindset as Megan, if that makes sense. Saphnie, too. All of the characters, probably, in some form or another. I think that’s important in creating a story. You as the writer have to put parts of yourself in your characters to make them genuine. If not, what’s the point?
BB: I agree. And you have to put real occurrences that really happened to make the scene truer, right? Like what you did with the Mickey Mantle scene. So how about the “wrong sent message/wrong number” scheme? Was it purely based on your imagination or was it inspired by something that really happened?
Bryant: I would say that stemmed from those times in real life when you get a new phone and suddenly receive texts from strangers meant for the previous owner of that phone number. In middle school, I would every now and then get texts from someone saying they were in town and wanted to catch up or that so-and-so was getting married—”Can you believe it?!” And then you check the timestamp, and it’s, like, “3:23 A.M.” So those experiences may have subconsciously fueled the start of the story, but other than that, it’s fictional.
BB: Okay so now let’s talk about I think, was my favorite part of the book. The Rudderless at Sea—where did that story came from? Tell me all about it!
Bryant: Rudderless at Sea! By my alter ego! I’m a firm believer that the discussion of good writing can bring people together, and not just because my career as a novelist depends on readers. Rudderless was my attempt at a tale-within-a-tale, but while it needed to be predominantly in the background, I also wanted it to share common thematic elements with the story of THTOS. There are a lot of parallels between the characters and events of both Rudderless and THTOS, and I thought it would be interesting to have certain characters’ opinions over Rudderless reflect their own views on the very same situations Jay faces… As for where the story came from, I think high schoolers are a lot like island castaways, struggling to coexist in a territory unfamiliar to them. Plus I thought it’d be cool, but that’s not a very author answer, is it?
BB: Oh no, it is a very author answer. And I really am amazed by the ideas in Rudderless at Sea. Especially the theories! A lot of it popped out along the story, coming from different characters with such different personalities. And I cannot help but wonder, which character’s theory do you agree the most and why?
Bryant: Oh, it doesn’t matter what I think! ‘Cept that might defeat the purpose of this interview. I’ll say that when the characters are talking about Rudderless and their views on guilt, redemption, and lost hope, a lot of that is probably my own thinking. When writers create stories with realistic topics in mind, I think it’s only natural for them to use the novel to work out their own views on the matter, as well. Saphnie teaches us to view people as complicated individuals rather than whatever we might initially assume about them, and I find myself constantly thinking back to that whenever I come across a politician, Hollywood star, or even a peer I don’t like. It’s important, you know? So I’m glad that even after months of not touching the story, her advice still helps me along in my daily life, even if she’s only a character in a novel I wrote. I just hope readers feel the same!
BB: I actually do feel the same!
“Even if all someone ever reads is fanfiction, any form of writing is a beautiful thing, and we must not waste precious time trying to understand the intentions of the author. Rather, we should decide what the story means to us.”
So this is one of my favorite lines from To Hear The Ocean Sigh and from our talk, this is one of the loads of things you want to put an emphasis on as an author, right?
Bryant: Totally! I love talking with readers and hearing their own interpretations of events in the novel—it’s their way of viewing the words I’ve provided, and who am I to say otherwise? That’s so special. I love it!
BB: Yeah, and hearing their own perspectives and theories really do prove that the readers have given so much thought on what you’ve worked so hard on 🙂 So Bryant, any chance for a sequel? 😉
Bryant: I spent a lot of summer days and weeknights with those characters. Now that the novel’s out there and people are enjoying it, I’m ready to move on. But who knows! I’ve always said that I’m just a storyteller, and if there’s a new one, I’ll be sure to pass it along to my readers.
BB: I’ll be one of the first to read it, I promise!
Bryant: I appreciate it!
BB: For my last question… What tips or message can you give to the people out there who want to write their own novel?
Bryant: Start now while you’re young. I always knew I wanted to be an author, and I figured, you know, why wait until after x when I can do it now? I think this is especially true with YA in the sense that I wanted to write my story while I was still just that, a young adult, to at the very least ensure the voices of my characters were authentic for the time (it’s a contemporary, after all). So begin the writing process today, and make sure to treat your manuscript with respect. Write and edit each day until you’re satisfied. Then go back and edit some more.
BB: Thank you so much for the lovely advice and surely you have set such an amazing example since you already have an amazing book published months before you even turned 18! Congratulations to that and I know you deserve it and more. 🙂
Bryant: You’re too kind. Thanks for the interview. It’s been fun!
BB: Thank you so so much for your time and for giving me such wonderful answers! I wish all the best for you and your amazing novel. I look forward to more chats with you and I most certainly look forward to reading more of your novels! Have a great night, I had fun as well! 🙂
Get to know more about Bryant Loney!
Follow him on Twitter: @BALoney
Follow him on Instagram: @bryantloney
Visit his site: BryantLoney.com
About To Hear The Ocean Sigh
*No. of pages: 276
*Average Rating on Goodreads: 4.82/5
*My Rating on Goodreads: 4/5
*Date of Published: April 21st, 2015 by Verona Booksellers
Synopsis via Goodreads:
Jay Murchison believes he is a nobody at his high school in Oklahoma. Coming from a conservative family of affordable luxury, Jay has an overwhelming desire to become something great. After a mysterious girl named Saphnie in North Carolina mistakenly texts him, an unlikely relationship develops that affects Jay’s self-perception and influences the rest of his sophomore year. This correspondence leads him to a group of thrill-seekers who provide a grand departure from the quiet life Jay is familiar with and eye-opening experiences to witness first-hand the truth behind the loose morals his fellow classmates have come to know.
In a story filled with injustice, hope, hatred, love, grief, and understanding, readers will ask themselves what it truly means to hear the ocean sigh and learn of the dire consequences that come with its responsibilities
Check out my Book Review of To Hear The Ocean Sigh by Bryant A. Loney!