What's "The Sun Tea Chronicles" about?
It's about a guy named Jimmy Sparrow who drops out of the work world to do nothing. He sits in a lawn chair, making sun tea, and watching the world go by. I think we've all thought about saying to hell with everything at one time or another in our lives. Jimmy does it.
How do you make a novel out of a guy who does nothing?
Actually it flowed pretty easily. A guy who drops out challenges everything the rest of us do. Just by existing, he forces people to think about what they're doing. So everybody who meets Jimmy Sparrow has to make up his or her mind about him. To some, he's a bum. To others, he's a poet, a saint, a philosopher, a freedom guy. The story has a comic undertone and is set in the 1980s in Indiana, which poses its own contrasts.
Why did you choose the 1980s?
It's a perfect counterpoint to Jimmy Sparrow. I mean, you had the yuppies who were all on an ambition and wealth track. You had the corporate raiders who were gaming the system. But you also had the downwardly mobile, the people who were on the outside. The characters in "The Sun Tea Chronicles" are all on the fringe of society in some way. But they're well-aware of what's going on around them, what's being said in the media, and so on. They know the train left without them. It's just a question of whether they care or not.
Indiana is an interesting place, a mix of Chicago-like urban and Norman Rockwell Americana. In the northwestern part of the state, people feel more connection to Chicago than to Indianapolis. This book is set in South Bend, which has a bit of a dead-end, left-behind feel to it. No offense, I grew up there, but South Bend hit its peak in population in the Studebaker days and never really recovered. Indiana also has a history tied to the American Indian and to the South because Studebaker drew many Southerners north for work, and all these crosscurrents come into play in the novel.
If you had to sum up the book in one word, what would that word be?
Quirky. This is a novel for people who are, shall we say, a bit different. There's a chapter called, "Flunking Thoreau." Once a person gets on the path of dress for success and career as god, then they've flunked Thoreau. They never should've been let out of high school. But Thoreau was more complicated than the unconventional side, too. He didn't fit the unconventional box because his life was much different after Walden Pond. So, this novel is for the people who are the round pegs in a square-peg world.
Quinton Blue was born and raised in Indiana and recently moved from California to Texas. "The Sun Tea Chronicles" is his second novel. The first he shredded years ago. He's now recreating it, so his first novel will become his second novel sometime in 2015.