I had the wildly disconcerting/exciting/kind-
Stuck In Neutral , as is discussed in an author’s note at the back of the novel is based in large part on my being a parent of a kid who looks like the protagonist of the novel Shawn McDaniel, my real life son Sheehan Trueman. Sheehan, the real human is now 34 years old. Still wears diapers, can’t walk/talk/communicate in any way, just like Shawn in the book. Writing Stuck In Neutral was like re-living that part of my life where I was coming to terms with my son’s profound disability, and thus a very personal, powerful emotional time for me.
Every story an author writes is, in some ways, like recounting a dream. In part because every novel and story IS a dream of how things could be, maybe should be, certainly of how the author, okay ME, wants them to be. Thus Stuck In Neutral tells an imaginary version of what my son Sheehan’s life COULD be like; it’s a dream but a nice one. People have asked me many times if writing the novel was ‘theraputic’ and I ususally anwer that it wasn’t especially so because as I was writing it I was dedicated to making it the most powerful and best novel I could and that my ‘feelings’ didn’t matter as much as the books ability to touch hearts and minds. That still feels true to me but . . .
Now to the matter of the play; watching it was like having someone else bring to life the dream I had the night before. You know how when you try to explain a dream to someone else, it’s kind of embarrassing because parts are screwy and make no sense, and kind of intense because, well, you dreamt it so it MUST mean something, right? Watching actors interpret characters invented in my own mind and speak words, some the actual words I wrote in the novel, other words written by Allison Cameron Gray and her writing partner Matt Choperning, and watching these characters move through their world with the intervention of the director, the actor’s intentions, and the audience’s presence limiting the action was flat out odd.
The play is wonderful. Quite different than the novel in some critical ways. For example, the father character (based to some degree on myself) is less sympathetic in the play, not really ‘the bad guy’ but closer to it than I wrote him in my novel. This change makes for more powerful drama but changes the thematic intent of my story. That’s not a complaint. Allison and Matt had total freedom to write the play as they wanted, to tell the story as they chose. Their writing, the director’s directing and the actors’ acting, all added layers of depth, thoughtfulness and meaning to the story.
After the show I signed books, copies of the novel for audience and cast members alike. I admit, though, I was in a bit of a daze–trying to sort out my feelings about my story, their story, dreams or nightmares, reality versus . . .something else.