Paul Teresi - A Thought-Provoking Novella About The Dying American Dream
Paul Teresi attended Eastern Illinois University to pursue a degree in teaching history. He left to pursue a career in writing after creating an independently produced sold-out show on his campus. Since then, he has written several stage productions at Chicago's famed Second City Training Center. While performing live shows was his favorite thrill, he has found a new niche in writing his stage stories longhand for publication. As our Author of the Day, he tells us all about his book, Painted Roses.
Please give us a short introduction to what Painted Roses is about.
The story is about the larger meanings of life, and how those meanings so easily slip away from us when we’re distracted by social media, politics, and culture-war issues, all of which are compounded by a decaying morale for a system that seems indifferent to those who need help. Our main character, Charlie Woods, begins to see through the distractions and rediscovers the wonder of life once he begins microdosing a psychedelic.
What inspired you to write about a heroin addict who microdoses Psilocybin?
I heard about microdosing on a podcast, and was shocked at all the positive stories that came out of patient interviews and follow-up research I did on the subject. In fact, there are members of congress who are currently trying to get microdose research approved for our soldiers returning home with PTSD because the previous trials had seen tremendous results not only with soldiers, but with addicts who became clean in record time.
You started out studying teaching, but ended up writing - tell us a bit more about your journey.
I love a good story. History is filled with those, so I went to EIU to become a History teacher, but at some point, I just began writing fiction stories in the middle of class. Grades suffered, but I wrote, produced, and acted in my own shows and we would fill every seat every night. From there, I knew this was the path I wanted to take. I spent the next eight years at the Second City in Chicago writing and producing shows, and then decided to begin writing novels
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
Developing useful skills has been on my to-do list for a very long time. My wife insists I make it a priority.
Painted Roses is also a commentary on modern society and the dying American dream. Why did you take this approach?
At thirty-seven, having grown up in a pre-9/11 world, I am always fascinated by how much things in our country have changed in the past twenty-five years, and how I miss seeing life as it was back then. Simpler. Not knowing everyone’s political business. Our political egos, mixed in with our preferred eco-chambers online, is what I think is rotting our country from within. The truth is usually found in the middle, and we’ve lost the middle in this country. I wanted to write for a character who personified a middle-aged skepticism of America and its future while allowing everyone else’s voice to chime in as well, so we can collectively hear ourselves through a story.
Tell us more about Charlie. What makes him tick?
Cancel culture and unwarranted sensitivity makes Charlie tick. Being a comedic writer, he prides himself on being edgy with his jokes, and longs for the older days when people could brush off controversial humor. When he’s fired from the theatre he works at, it places a wedge between himself and the younger generation of actors.
Interesting cover. How did you come to choose this one?
The cover is actually inspired by a scene from Alice in Wonderland, where a deck of cards is painting roses red. One of the characters in the story is watching that scene and turns it into an Orwellian metaphor for the times we live in.
What was your greatest challenge when writing Painted Roses?
I wanted everyone’s voice to be heard in this story, but I did not want to legitimize any perspective as being the correct one. There are both conservative and liberal talking points heard throughout the book, but it’s the character who is microdosing who learns the most because he is able to listen the most.
Do any of your characters ever take off on their own tangent, refusing to do what you had planned for them?
Sometimes, they manage to find forgiveness and love where I never thought to look.
When starting on a new book, what is the first thing you do?
I have always had this very odd routine where I imagine it as a film, and I imagine Siskel and Ebert reviewing it. What is it that I would want them to get out of it? How would they summarize the plot and the strong points of the story? From there, based off their imaginary review, I determine if it’s a story worth writing.
You also write for stage shows. How different is writing for stage vs. writing for publication?
There is quite a difference, and that difference is what inspired me to begin writing for publication. There’s no greater high than being on a stage and writing a show that is making an audience laugh, and making talented actors shine. The downside is we would only be given 45-50 minutes to act out a story, and so it’s rushed. With publication, you can slow down and take your time with sincerity. My first book ‘Yes And (ish)’ was a stage show, but it felt so rushed that I had to tell the full story, and so I wrote it as my first book. It received wonderful reviews so I kept writing.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
There is no day, haha. I’m a night writer. I put my daughter to bed at 9, and I write from 9:30 to midnight. If I’m satisfied, I relax and unwind with a glass of red wine. If I’m not satisfied, I refill my coffee and write until the scene reads the way it should.
What are you working on right now?
I have two books hopefully coming out next year. The first is a dream thriller where characters lucid dream into the same reality and they’re on the hunt for the Vatican’s greatest kept secret – The Chronovisor. For that one, think Inception mixed with Man in the High Castle. The second book is a Christmas comedy for everyone to enjoy. Its about Aliens invading the North Pole because they are after Santa’s magic book. As you can tell, I have a hard time sticking to one genre, which is a blast for me! Hopefully, the readers too.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
All my books are available on Amazon, and they can be found simply by typing in my name. I am also on Goodreads, and folks can reach out to me there, I’m happy to interact and also support other authors. Being an old soul that is hesitant towards social media, I’m not on Twitter or Instagram, but maybe that will change someday. I know social media is needed to advertise and sell, sell, sell. If only I was in this for the money…