“Awake in the Mad World” by Damon Ferrell Marbut, centers on frustrated young journalist Pete Rattigan and his journey to find out what he really wants out of life. A philosophical coming-of-age story told with humor and sensitivity; “Awake in the Mad World” is as much a novel about living life as examining one’s life.
Let’s hear Damon Ferrell Marbut’s thoughts on his work.
Q: A key element of “Awake in the Mad World” is self-discovery. At what stage of life do you think the average person discovers who they really are and what they really want?
A: I think it affects people at different stages in life, in terms of that realization of purpose. Or perhaps the first hint of it. When we’re young we don’t question much the “why” of what we’re doing. And a lot of the time I see adults influence the young away from their creativity without knowing they’re doing it. I think the average person discovers who they are and what they really want when they either go a long time with doing other things that mean less to them and then snap out of it to return to their original core understanding of their place in the world, or they push ahead regardless and take a moment to reflect on the decisions they’ve made and it becomes clear they’ve been driven their whole lives without interruption to achieve something vital to their happiness they never once stopped to question.
Q: What are your goals as a writer?
A: My goals are to present to readers the best expression of these characters in my imagination. I hope to convey, with appropriate affect, the humanity of them, their accessibility. It would be a success in my opinion to know people are discussing my characters because readers have been impacted by the world in which the characters were created. If I can have, on a handful of people, the same kind of influence some writers have had on me—moments where I had to stop reading, put down the book and say, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” because of how powerful the writing is—that would be rewarding.
Q: Did you set out to write a philosophical novel?
A: That’s really a great question, because no, I didn’t. But I did know, going in, that the characters were sure to be complex because they were composite sketches of myself and several other friends from that period in my life. And we were all having philosophical conversations that we felt were incredibly important. In fact, school and work were all just a collective sort of this big necessity that led us to the dialogue that fueled us. In staying true to that moment of our shared history, the novel naturally became philosophical.
Q: What genre do you enjoy working in the most?
A: Fiction and Creative Non-fiction. My fiction bravely walks that fine line as it is. Poetry is and always will be special to me, but I’ve cooled to it since graduate school, taking pleasure in still writing it, still occasionally getting pieces published, but mainly following and admiring modern poets I love so much, like Dorianne Laux and Sharon Olds.
Q: What is your main source of inspiration?
A: Not silence, but knowing I own the silence a day has afforded me. When nothing else is pulling at me, and there are no obligations or requirements to which life insists I adhere, that is when I’m most inspired. I’m happy to say it doesn’t matter where I am. It’s the same notion that home is wherever I am. That’s also my relationship with inspiration. My mind is always going, and so I need those precious micro-moments of my day, or week even, to spark the larger ideas that lead to a chapter getting finished, or a character’s tentative creation, or an essay conceived.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish with “Awake in the Mad World”?
A: If I can connect people with an ability to see again the Self of their pasts that was once only interested in the pursuit of beauty and knowledge at all costs, that will have made this entire effort to publish my novel well worth it. The characters of Awake in the Mad World are dreamers, defiantly so, and lean on each other to survive the onslaught of a different kind of world that exists after college. If this story revives a healthy idealism in the hearts of its audience, then I’m done wondering about the novel’s fate and will let it become its own light.