These times are kind of what Potential is about

When I wrote Potential a contemporary novel, it was to explore what it means to be an outsider in these times. I didn’t want to do the normal outsider thing, though, you know, the homeless guy, the weird teen, the vampires, etc. Instead I wanted to look at those people on the margins who are looked down upon because they don’t live up to expectations and in short are considered less than successful.

I think we’re all feeling that in today’s economy and situation with the pandemic and combating that as well as the intensity of the last few election cycles not to mention the normal pressures of balancing work and home obligations. So when I wrote about a person who isn’t quite making it in a downturn, I was thinking of larger external forces and our inner drive to succeed.

That’s where Jimmy Raynot came in. He’s a guy who was hung with the label, lots of potential, but never seemed to live up to it and he knows it. He’s tried and had brushes of success in his life. He was a star athlete in high school and a good enough student to get into college but it wasn’t for him so he left that. He found a good partner in his wife and got married. They have a good kid. He was able to start over working construction and they bought a house. But even the bad breaks kept coming and though he didn’t completely quit, he didn’t exactly respond by giving it 100 percent all the time. Jimmy is not an optimist. He’s gotten beaten down by his expectations of himself, expectations of society and some bad breaks. It’s just gets to be too much.

Now my story takes place during a downturn in the economy in a Reno that never was. By that I mean, it’s a mash up of my hometown as I knew it when I was younger in the 1990s combined with my experience on the East Coast with the Great Recession and Housing Crisis of 2008 and reports from friends who lived through it here.

Anyway, Jimmy gets one more chance to live up to expectations, but whose? In my mind, as the author, it’s his own that he needs to accept. He needs to surrender the idea of living up to others ideas of his potential. Anyway, I know this is layered and getting pretty deep, but it is all stuff that helped me write this book.

As for the other characters, well let’s start with poor Walter Samms, is a guy who nobody expects anything of, except his girlfriend. She sees him for who he is. Someone who loves her but is at times a little lost. It’s funny, Walter’s best qualities, that sense of obligation of wanting to support and help his new family are exactly what get him tangled up with a criminal and lands him in some real hot water.

Finally, Monty, my newly minted minister. He’s a guy who found religion and left behind a lucrative job in finance, came across the country to lead a church with flagging membership. He can’t help but feel that he’s somehow let his family and in some ways society down by not getting paid the big money and instead becoming a minister.

Anyway, I think these guys all reflect in some way the same pressures and tension we are all feeling right now. We’re fighting a pandemic, we’ve lost jobs, had hours cut, are scared we’re letting down our loved ones and maybe even society and we feel like we have to keep smiling and working at 150 percent capacity.

I’m not sure my book has answers for dealing with any of this. I think it does in its way, but I’ll let you be the judge. You might find more in there than I even know. Somehow, when you write things, they can reach a deeper meaning than you the creator actually understand.

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