The Tragic Age is a brilliant coming of age novel–one that has been likened to both The Catcher in the Rye and The Outsiders–that follows Billy Kinsey as he navigates his way through what many consider to be one of the most difficult times of our lives– high school. Billy is equal parts smart and cynical and his story is an emotional one that touches on some of the tough issues that teenagers deal with.
Today I was given the chance to interview Stephen Metcalfe, so check that out below and don’t forget to pick up a copy of ‘The Tragic Life’ on March 3rd!
This is your first novel and I’m curious, what made you decide to write a young adult coming of age novel?
It never occurred to me I was writing YA. It was St. Martin’s Press that suggested that The Tragic Age would be best released as Young Adult and after discussing it and thinking about it, I agreed with them. Billy is seventeen. He is dealing with the issues and challenges that we all deal with, especially when we are young – friendship, sexuality, family, isolation, competition, friendship – the future. What exactly is YA? Would Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn be considered YA today? You tell me.
What novels and writers would you say have influenced your writing?
That’s a long list. I have always loved mythology – Greek, Roman, Norse. Other books off the top of my head: Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 and Something Happened. William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice. Jim Harrison’s Legends of the Fall. Roddy Doyle’s Barrytown Trilogy. The plays of David Mamet and Sam Shepard. The stark beauty of Annie Proulx. The insanity of James Elroy. Lately I am enamored of Michael Faber.
What do you think of all of the comparisons The Tragic Age has received to Catcher in the Rye?
Catcher in the Rye was a seminal reading experience for me as a young person. It stays with me to this day. Any such comparison is tremendous compliment (and completely unwarranted).
Are there any similarities between the main character Billy Kinsey and your younger self?
Uh…. not really. I certainly wasn’t as smart as Billy. I don’t think I had his veneer of cynicism. I wasn’t exactly popular but I had potential. Like Billy, I took things very seriously. And I did play the drums.
What do you hope for Teenagers to get from Billy’s story?
I like where Billy ends up. He faces adversity and loss and heartbreak – as we all do at one time or another in our lives – and he comes out the other side in a stronger place. Life is learning. Life is change. Billy both learns and changes.
STEPHEN METCALFE wrote the production drafts for Pretty Woman, Dangerous Minds and Mr. Holland’s Opus, among others. His stage plays have been produced in New York and at theaters throughout the US, Europe and Japan. He is an Associate Artist at The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego and has been an adjunct professor in dramatic writing at University of California at San Diego, University of San Diego and San Diego State University.The Tragic Age is his debut novel.