Welcome to TRB’s Author Interview Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome, Patrick A. Roland, author of Unpacked Sparkle.
About the author:
Hello, Patrick. Thank you for being here today.
Can you please tell my readers about your ambitions for your writing career?
I’ve been a writer for my entire career, more than 20 years now. I think I probably always wanted to be an author, but I’m not sure I ever thought I would actually do it. I’m glad I did. The whole experience has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. I wrote myself out of pain and made it my power. My whole being shifted as a result of this experience.
Which writers inspire you?
I’ve always been inspired by female African-American writers like Maya Angelou, Alice Williams and Toni Morrison. In fact, Morrison inspired the time-jumping, kind of jumbled narrative in my book because that’s truly what grief is like – it’s all over the place – one day you are lamenting one thing and the next you are fixated on another. But as I was looking at it afterward, it all fit together like a puzzle that I had to put together to heal. Morrison often does that too. I also like authors who are really bold like Augusten Burroughs. I feel like he and I probably have a lot in common.
Tell us about your book?
It’s mostly about the two year period following the sudden death of my partner, Pack. It’s about what happens at the intersection of grief and addiction; but then it’s about what can happen afterward once you overcome it and become sober. It’s about finding the beauty even amid the most horrible thing that ever happened to you. It’s about taking pain and making it power. It’s about loving yourself as you are and letting your inner light – your sparkle – shine the brightest it possibly can do that you can live a beautiful life of joy and purpose despite what your past may have dealt you. It’s about experience, strength and hope. I’m showing readers what I got through in the hope that they realize they can get through things too. You just have to love yourself and believe that you can.
How long did it take you to write it?
I wrote the majority of it in about 12 days. It poured out of me. I was never more inspired. But I was only about 100 days sober at the time and I felt like I needed more sobriety for it to have impact. So, about a year later I wrote some chapters to flesh out my first six months of sobriety since that’s when it ends. I also wanted to redeem my mother more, because at the time I wrote the book we were not getting along. As a matter of fact, the earlier drafts of the chapters about the difficulty of that relationship were much harsher before the editing process, which took about six months.
Are you working on any other project(s) right now? If yes, what are they?
I wrote a children’s book that needs to be illustrated and I am hoping to turn Unpacked Sparkle into a screenplay. I think this could be a movie. I want this to be a movie!
Why have you chosen this genre?
It was the most honest. I felt like I had been through something that was really hard that I also felt could help other people. That’s what this is about: sharing my story so the next person doesn’t have to hurt as much as I did.
When did you decide to become a writer?
Ironically I wrote a poem about my dog dying in the sixth grade that won a pretty major award and now 30 years later I’ve written a book about grief. Maybe this subject matter chose me. I think I have something inspiring and moving to say about a subject that might seem grim on the surface.
Why do you write?
I think I needed to write this book to work through the grieving process. I started it as one person, and emerged a whole different one by the time I was completed. Even if I never released it, the result was already a major success for me. But I felt like what I had survived could offer others hope. So I wrote this for others like me who are struggling. It’s for the beautifully broken. I hope they unpack their own sparkle and learn to love themselves as they are.
Where do your ideas come from?
For this project, I made a list of all the things I wanted to write about and checked them off as I went along. I had a lot of chapter titles in my head already (many are song titles that pertain to or are an homage to the events that transpired within the chapter). Like I said before, when this was finished it didn’t feel “done” until I wrote those later chapters, one of which – “Safe and Sound” – is the most beloved of the whole book by audiences.
How do you prefer to write? On computer/laptop, typewriter, dictation or longhand with a pen?
I actually wrote this whole book in the notes section of my iPhone. I later put it all together in Word and it was edited that way, but I usually get ideas very quickly so I just grab my phone and get going.
What are your 5 favorite books and 5 favorite authors?
- Waiting to Exhale – Terry McMillan
- Dry – Augusten Burroughs
- Song of Solomon – Toni Morrison
- The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
- The Color Purple – Alice Williams
I’d say those are my favorite authors too, but I’d add Maya Angelou in the mix.
How do you deal with Writer’s Block?
I meditate or try to center myself with relaxation or positive self-talk. If you reframe the situation, you can usually power through anything and make the situation bear fruit.
What advice would you give to new aspiring authors?
Keep going and don’t give up. You can do and be anything if you believe in and love yourself. It all starts with you!
Thank you, Patrick, for all your exciting answers!
About The Book:
Over a year ago, I left a Mariah Carey concert in Las Vegas after six songs. I had gone on the trip as a present to myself for turning forty. But I couldn’t enjoy it. I was high on multiple drugs, but mostly crystal meth, and extremely drunk. I had been this way the majority of the year and a half since my partner Pack had suddenly passed away.
I found him dead on the bathroom floor one January morning while I was getting ready for work. The police told me I had no rights in my own home and asked me to leave. This was before gay marriage became legal. Life as I knew it changed instantly.
His family pretended I didn’t exist. They mauled our home the day he died, leaving it a ravaged mess. I was kicked out of that home. I was also disinvited to his funeral. In eight days I lost everything that mattered. Not even the law protected me from this.
So I got high in an effort to shoulder the pain. It didn’t work. I carried the heavy weight of unresolved complicated grief and addiction on my back. It was like an elephant. A large, unwieldy elephant that wanted me to die.
No longer able to participate in anything that mattered and unwilling to bear this burden anymore, I went back to my hotel room on the twenty-sixth floor of a casino and looked out on the sparkly lights below. I wanted to be in the light. So I opened the window and decided to jump.
But God intervened. My mother had somehow found me. Help came and I surrendered to the powerlessness of my situation. I asked God to help me. I stayed and I fought and I learned how to love myself. I put on a pair of sparkly shoes I had bought for that barely attended concert and I walked in to the rooms of Crystal Meth Anonymous. I had bought the sparkly shoes hoping Mariah would see me in the audience. Though she didn’t get the chance, you did. You all embraced me and my sparkly shoes. They have become my calling card of experience, strength, and hope.
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