The Weather on the Moon
By Casey Nichols
Sometimes it takes a long time and a change of scenery to overcome a broken heart. The same can be said for piecing together a narrative.
At the age of 22, Kent State alumnus Stephen Vanderpool has published his first full-length novel, "The Weather on the Moon," with Phyllis Scott Publishing.
But he isn't stopping there — Vanderpool hopes to have his second novel finished this summer.
However, it wasn't until he moved almost 2,500 miles to San Francisco that his writing career began to take shape.
"To fulfill my own personal myth, I needed to expand the range of my experience far beyond the Midwest. So, a few weeks after graduation, it was time to head west," said Vanderpool.
The former English and electronic media production major eventually stumbled across a call for manuscripts in San Francisco.
After submitting more than 50 queries to agents and with no interested parties, Vanderpool nearly gave up.
Stringing together 80,000 words is not easy, Vanderpool said. Neither is a seemingly endless chorus of rejection from publishers.
"But if you're serious about either, understand the hardships inherent in such enterprises," said Vanderpool.
Many people fantasize about the romantic life of the nomadic writer, but Vanderpool knows the difficulties that come with doing what he loves.
"Completing my first novel and embarking on a lonesome transcontinental voyage were two of the most difficult ventures I've ever undertaken," said Vanderpool.
College helped him realize his boundless potential and that he was itching to try something new.
In San Francisco, Vanderpool landed a job as a video producer at a web start-up.
"On a professional level, my company hired me as a writer. Two weeks in, I talked them into buying a camera and some lights so I could produce videos," said Vanderpool.
Currently, his job consists mainly of writing articles and shooting video on a buffet of topics: prepaid credit cards, Occupy Wall Street, and spa packages.
"It's not thrilling, but I do get to exercise a degree of creativity, and it pays the bills. I do that eight hours a day, five days a week. Then I come home and try to write 500-1,000 words for my own project," he said.
If asked to categorize his novel, "The Weather on the Moon," Vanderpool says its genre is "literary fiction with a generous smattering of magical realism."
"Two men haunted by lost love scour the Midwest for respite, seeking release through drugs, alcohol and homebrewed mysticism. Their lives become irrevocably intertwined in a journey through grief, guilt and slipshod necromancy," said Vanderpool.
Though, like many writers, he is more concerned with inspiration than promotion.
"It's a huge, tedious time commitment. I'd rather spend that time working on my next project," he said.
In addition to The Decemberists and Tom Robbins novels, Vanderpool cites several places in Ohio as sources for inspiration.
His favorite places seem to be eerie, quiet and reflective.
Mogadore Reservoir, "a sleepy, sprawling lake governed by blue heron," downtown Kent, but "only at night when the lamps are lit and no one's out drinking," and his parent's basement, "slightly creepy, satisfyingly isolated" are all places he remembers well.
In contrast, Vanderpool attests that San Francisco's art scene dwarfs that of Kent.
He says if you have the equipment and the faculty, it doesn't take long in California to find a venture willing to make use of your talent.
"Getting involved in serious [film] projects is infinitely easier in the Bay. The area is saturated with wannabe directors who pour money into little passion projects and film crew freelancers who capitalize on that market," said Vanderpool.
But, just as quickly, he becomes nostalgic for Kent's film community.
"There's something about getting together with a bunch of buds and collaborating on a project everyone can get excited about," he said.
Vanderpool admits that while Ohio is the last place he needs to be at this point in his life, he loves his home state.
"While San Francisco appears a cultural behemoth when compared to Kent, don't underestimate the organic, artistic passion that pulsates in so many Ohio hearts," he said.
Vanderpool has dreams of supporting himself on his fiction. He has found more self-assurance in writing his second novel and is drawing heavily from personal experiences.
"I feel a lot more confident this time around. I've already written and published one novel. I know I can do it again," he said.
Vanderpool's success hasn't come without its hardships. Debt, loneliness, and self-doubt have plagued nearly every artist in history.
"Some days I get to thinking everything I've ever created is garbage," he said. "I have a vague direction of where the story is going, but I make most of it up one word at a time."
But that's the beauty of it. Whether we're conceiving film scripts, mastering a manuscript, or planning a grocery list, we're all just piecing together the perfect narrative.