Today I am pleased to welcome Angela N. Blount, author of Once Upon a Road Trip. Angela has stopped by to tell us a little more about herself and her memoir!
About Once Upon a Road Trip:
Eighteen-year-old Angeli doesn’t "fit in." She’s never been on a single date, and she lives vicariously through an online world of storytelling. With the pressures of choosing a practical future path bearing down, she needs a drastic change. Too old to run away from home, she opts instead to embark on a solo 2-month road trip. But her freedom is tempered by loneliness — and anxiety tests her resolve as she comes face-to-face with her quirky internet friends.
Aside from contracting mono and repeatedly getting herself lost, Angeli's adventure is mired by more unforeseen glitches — like being detained by Canadian authorities, and a near-death experience at the hands of an overzealous amateur wrestler. Her odyssey is complicated further when she unwittingly earns the affections of two young men. One a privileged martial artist; the other a talented techie with a colorful past.
Bewildered by the emotions they stir, Angeli spurns the idea of a doomed long-distance relationship. But she is unprepared for the determination of her hopeful suitors. In the wake of her refusal, one man will betray her, and the other will prove himself worthy of a place in her future.
Angeli sets off in search of a better understanding of herself, the world, and her place in it. What she finds is an impractical love, with the potential to restore her faith in happy endings.
A true story with an unapologetically honest outlook on life, love, faith, and adventure -- Once Upon A Road Trip is a coming-of-age memoir.
Well, as you've probably already figured out from my bio, I'm Minnesota born and reared--now fully adjusted to life in the deep South. The somewhat odd and unlikely way in which I ended up down here is really what Once Upon A Road Trip is about. Sometimes what you think is just a temporary adventure can turn your whole life down a path you'd never anticipated. :)
Once Upon A Road Trip is an account of the 8-week solo road trip I decided to venture on just a few days after my high school graduation. Adding to my poor mother's collection of ulcers, I'd also decided I would use this trip to meet a number of online friends in person for the first time...
Q. When you started out on your road trip, did you have and plans or ideas to one day turn it into a book?
None whatsoever. Oh, I wanted to write stories, certainly. But I'd more envisioned post nuclear-holocaust dystopians or maybe a paranormal/fantasy epic. At the time, I wasn't entirely convinced that real life was interesting enough to merit anything more than the occasional essay. (Outside of the lives of heroes, celebrities, and other public figures, of course.)
I did have the impression that a little more life experience would better prepare me to become a writer--which was part of my justification for going on the trip in the first place. And while I did assume I'd share my journal entries with my family one day, it took several years after the fact before I realized I might be willing to put down and share the whole story.
Q. Part One : In part of your story, you talk about on of your friends being overweight and your concern for their health and future. Have they read the book? If so, how did they feel about your concerns and what you wrote about them?
To my knowledge, he hasn't read the book. We actually fell out of touch very shortly after my trip ended. At one point, I lost a lot of my contact information. (This was all before the advent of Facebook and affordable cell phone services, please understand. I actually had a physical address book at the time. :) ) I was able to reconnect with a lot of people years later, but he wasn't one of those I was able to locate. I hope that, wherever he is, he's healthy and happy.
Q. Part Two: I think one of the hardest parts about writing a memoir is having to be more honest about your feelings towards friends and loved ones where you might not be in person in fear of hurting them. Have you had any negative responses from people that you wrote about or did they accept your writing about them?
How very right you are! I agonized over this aspect more than any other while writing the book. I knew it had to be completely honest, but I didn't want to hurt anyone. (I'm generally of a blunt and tactless nature--I hurt feelings enough as it is without ever intending to. >.<) I didn't actually start writing it until 5 years post-road trip. And in a way, I'm glad it took over a decade after the fact before the book was released. A lot changes in 10 years--people themselves can do a lot of changing in 10 years.
While about half of the people featured in the book have now read it, I've been pleasantly surprised--and relieved--by how it's been received. (It may help that I've always prefaced it as being the perspective and perception of my off kilter 18-year-old self, with all of the nativity and insecurity one might expect.) It's been an open door for a lot of "You really thought that?" and "What do you think now?" sorts of questions.
Q. A few of the friends you visited seemed to have strong feelings for you. Did this change anything between you and them once you were back home or were you able to move past it?
I suppose it would depend on which ones you're referring to. A lot of things changed quite rapidly after I got back home. I had a serious boyfriend, and after not too long, a fiance'. Most of my friends, both online and those I'd grown up with, became busy with college, jobs, and other relational pursuits. Once I was more officially "off the market," it seemed as though the majority of my guy-friends found it awkward to maintain the friendship. Most just quietly faded away.
Q. A very disturbing incident took place with one of the people you visited who also happens to be close with your best friend Elsie. When you finally told Elsie what happened, how did this affect your relationship? Are you and Elsie still friends to this day?
When I finally worked up the courage to tell her, Elsie took it better than I'd anticipated. That is...she didn't question my memory or reliability on the matter--didn't disbelieve me. She was obviously uncomfortable and regretful, but not defensive or even surprised. But I also don't know if she ever did anything with the knowledge. It was one of the only meaningful conversations I think I ever recall us having--as odd as that probably sounds. It was around that time I started to realize it takes more than a little history and a few semi-obsessive common interests to maintain a friendship--especially across long distances.
Elsie and I grew apart some years ago, though I'd say it was on amicable terms. Our lives and priorities simply went in very different directions. No hard feelings.
Q. You met most of the friends you visited on your trip in an online writing community. Are you still a part of this community?
No. The community shut down less than a year after my road trip took place. Most of it's members and administrators were moving on into another stage of life--me included. I do miss it sometimes, but I'm grateful for the time I had with it. ^_^
Q. You did a lot of sightseeing on your trip. Of all the places you visited, which was your favorite? Why?
Ottawa. (Yes, Canada. I know, I was surprised, too. ;) ) I loved that city. The landscape, the variety, the sights and architecture, the pace of life... As nebulous as this might sound, I loved the 'feel' of the place. It was as if it had a distinct personality, and for whatever reason, we got along. :)
Q. If your children come to you after high school and tell you they want to do a road trip like yours, what will you tell them? What advice would you give them, or any teenager making a trip like this?
Hoo boy...I deserve this question. As a parent now, I have all the more appreciation for my mother's sense of horror when she realized I meant to go through with it.
If one of my kids were to tell me they wanted to do an homage to my road trip, I would ask them not to. If they were still insistent, I would make sure they'd read the memoir cover-to-cover, and then begin some intensive preparations. Self-defense classes, background checks, intermediate car maintenance classes, budgeting, course plotting... I would then thank God for recent technological advances--like Google Maps and GPS tracking. (All I had was a road atlas, and a cell phone that only worked for calling 911!)
As far as advice for any teenagers considering a trip like this:
- If you absolutely MUST, start prepping months ahead of time. Figure out where you're going to stop, for how long, and how much money you'll need to have saved up. (Treat it like urban camping, and you can cut a lot of cost by bringing/preparing your own food.)
- Research every city you'll be visiting--figure out what parts you most want to see, and what you'd hate to miss. (Wiki it!)
- Know how to defend yourself, and stay vigilant. ( A little paranoia is healthy when you're out of your element. >.> Just because not everyone is an ax-murderer doesn't mean you'll never meet one.)
- Avoid gas station hotdogs at all costs.
- Bring Wet Wipes.
About Angela N. Blount:
Angela N. Blount is a Minnesota native, transplanted to the deep South--where she currently resides with her understanding husband, their two children, and a set of identity-confused cats. A Registered Nurse by trade, she is also a freelance content editor, former book reviewer for RT Book Reviews, a memoirist (though, not much a fan of referring to herself in first-person *cough*), craft blogger, sporadic poet, and webcomic artist.
Angela is a PRO member of the Romance Writers of America, and was named a finalist in the 2012 Sheila, Laurie, and Orange Rose contests. Her recent YA romance, The Agreement, took first place in the 2012 OKRWA Finally A Bride contest. It was also a finalist in the 2013 Southern Heat contest and double finalist in the Linda Howard Award of Excellence.
In her spare time, Angela enjoys reading, coffee shop loitering, and all things geeky. Her latest project is a YA sci-fi series.
Purchase Once Upon a Road Trip:
*I want to say a huge thank you to Angela for stopping by the blog today! Be sure to come back tomorrow for my review of Once Upon a Road Trip!