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This is the part in our hero’s story where he looks back and reflects upon the man he is today, but the truth is I’m still searching for him. I am still lost. Not the guy who thought I had found my way out of the wilderness . . . not the guy I wanted to become.
When we last saw Hank Fitzpatrick in Exotic Music of the Belly Dancer, he seemed to be finally figuring things out. He had a girlfriend. He had a life. But his secrets were yet to be discovered, his demons yet to be exorcised, and soon he would have no choice but to face them both. Gone is the boy we came to love, replaced by a man we struggle to like. Welcome back to Empire Ridge. Making Out with Blowfish is fear and loathing in the suburbs as told in Brian Sweany’s uniquely uninhibited voice.
“What’s the point of loving something only for it to be taken away?”
“The point is in the loving,” Beth says. “Our willingness to endure the heartbreak and to still travel down the road together hand in hand even though we know how it’s going to end is exactly what makes life worth living and people worth loving.”
And with those words, seemingly on cue, Darius Rucker stands in front of a microphone on The Late Show. He settles into the chorus of a country song I’ve never heard: “Don’t think I don’t think about it, don’t think I don’t have regrets, don’t think it don’t get to me, between the work and the hurt and the whiskey.”
I try not to smile.
Beth stands up, pulls me out of bed with her.
“One more dance?” she says.
I take her hand in mine. “How about we keep that number a little more open-ended?”
“Forever it is,” I say.
MAKING OUT WITH BLOWFISH is about midlife crisis and tragedy. Many ask if I used my own experiences to inspire my writing. Much of my first book, EXOTIC MUSIC OF THE BELLY DANCER, was inspired and informed by my own teen hijinks. There was a shameless precociousness to my cast of characters. They were vain, self-absorbed, and melodramatic. In other words, they were teenagers. In the second book, we see these characters not as prom royalty or captains of their sports teams, but as mothers and wives, husbands and fathers. Their mistakes matter more. Their impulsiveness hurts people. Curfews are replaced by accountability. I tried to take cues from the book LITTLE CHILDREN by Tom Perotta, which in turn was inspired by Gustave Flaubert's MADAME BOVARY. Suburbia rendered as art, as a familiar but uncomfortable canvas for humanity. Not that my protagonist, Hank Fitzpatrick, doesn’t do his best to rage against the dying of the light. Rest assured he continues to struggle with a serious case of arrested development. But then again, if our 30s and 40s were so awesome, we wouldn't call it a midlife crisis.
Much like the first book, I tried to take cues from my own experiences. I'm in my early 40s now, married almost 19 years, with a beautiful wife and three great kids. That being said, my wife and I don't spend our days drinking champagne, popping bonbons in each other's mouths, and toasting to our evolved awesomeness. Couplehood, parenthood and adulthood can all be just as frustrating as childhood, if not more so. Only now, we don't have any excuses. We have all the tools, and yet we still screw up. That's what really sucks. But it's the struggle and the occasional ugliness that makes the joy and the beauty so much more fulfilling. If you can filter out all the white noise on any given day and tell yourself that there's no place you'd rather be than where you are, you and hopefully everyone around you are going to be okay.
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Since 2000, Brian Sweany has been the Director of Acquisitions for Recorded Books, one of the world’s largest audiobook publishers. Prior to that he edited cookbooks and computer manuals and claims to have saved a major pharmaceutical company from being crippled by the Y2K bug. Brian has a BS in English from Eastern Michigan University, from which he graduated magna cum laude in 1995. He's a retired semiprofessional student, with stopovers at: Wabash College, the all-male school that reputedly fired Ezra Pound from its faculty for having sex with a prostitute; Marian University, the former all-female school founded by Franciscan nuns that, if you don't count Brian's expulsion, has fired no one of consequence and is relatively prostitute-free; and Indiana University via a high school honors course he has no recollection of ever attending.
Brian has penned several articles for EverydayHealth.com about his real-life struggles to overcome sexual abuse as a young boy. Making Out with Blowfish is the sequel to his debut novel, Exotic Music of the Belly Dancer, and both books draw inspiration from this experience.
Brian has spent most of his life in the Midwest and now lives near Indianapolis with his wife, three kids, and two rescue dogs. For more details, check out the author’s website at: www.briansweany.com.
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