Character.Interview: Sinclair Clement

Name: Sinclair Clement

Gender: male
Age: 31
Home:  Queen Anne (off W Highland Dr), Seattle, Washington
Ancestry:  Irish (mother) / French/German (father)
Appearance: With fair skin, green eyes, and wavy, reddish-blonde hair, Sinclair gets his coloring from his mother. He’s fortunate that he gets his tall, lanky body from his father. He wears his hair collar length, and his lean face is clean-shaven. He has no visible tattoos or scars.
Favorite Color: Sky Blue
Typical Outfit: Sinclair’s fashion sense appears to be in a state of confusion, somewhere between college yuppie and Seattle grunge. His typical outfit consists of jeans [folded up at the ankle], an untucked button-down oxford style shirt [or a sweater], and a worn leather blazer, accompanied by Dr Martens or lace up leather ankle boots. He always wears long-sleeved shirts. But, if he’s feeling really relaxed, he’ll wear a t-shirt—-under an unbuttoned oxford under the blazer.

Today, I’m interviewing Sinclair Clement, the antagonist in my latest–yet to be named–novel. Thank you, Sinclair, for letting me pick your brain, for letting me allow potential reader to understand who you are.

[Sinclair smiles, blushes a bit]

So what do people call you?

Sinclair, or if they’re close friends, of which I have a few, they call me Sin.

My notes indicate that you live on Queen Anne. Do you like it there, what with all the old mansions and such?

I live with my parents. So don’t go getting any ideas that I actually can afford to live on Queen Anne.  

Were you born there?

Actually, no. Until my mo-mother became famous, we lived in a nice part of Renton near where my father works.

So your mother’s famous. How so?

You know that show Frasier? My mo-mo-mother is kind of like that. Sh-she’s a radio psychologist. For awhile it was just a local show, but then one of the LA stations picked it up and it went nation wide. You’ve probably heard of h-her. A-A-Amanda Yesler.

Yesler, as in Yesler Way?

You got it.

For those of you who don’t know Seattle history, in the mid-1800s Henry Yesler brought the first steam-powered sawmill to the region, allowing the Seattle area to dominate the lumber industry at the time.

So what’s it like to have a famous mother, famous in multiple ways?

[shrugs]

It’s okay.  

Wow, that was an enthusiastic response.

[shrugs again]

Okay, next question. What do you do for a living?

I teach at Seattle Central. While I’m finishing up my degree, my PhD in literature.

So what do you teach, and how did you decide on a degree in literature?

I mostly teach rudimentary literature classes. You know, the classes you have to take in order to graduate. I do have one class that’s sophomore level, a class in modern lit. We read and analyse really modern day authors, anyone from Margaret Atwood to Vonnegut. We even did a Stephen King short story. Heinlein’s probably my favorite. I find that young people can often relate to someone like Heinlein or King better than they can to Shakespeare or Faulkner.

You sound enthusiastic. I’m really glad to hear a teacher who’s excited about working, one who hasn’t burned out yet.

[smiles]

It’s okay.

So what made you pick literature for a degree?

It’s something I’m good at. I love to read. And I do a bit of writing.

[pauses]

I wasn’t supposed to be a literature major though. My father wanted me to be an engineer, like him, and my mo-mother wanted me to be a doctor, a medical doctor. But I suck at math, which pretty much eliminates both of those. Neither of them is too happy with me. My mo-mo-mother especially.

I don’t mean to be rude, but do you have a speech disorder? I notice you stumble on certain words.

Sorry. I hadn’t noticed. 

No problem. So, if I may ask, you said you’re working on your PhD. What’s you’re thesis in?

Dissertation. You do a thesis for your masters, a dissertation for your doctorate.

Oh, okay. Sorry. What’s your dissertation in?

No. I’m sorry. That was rude of me.

[Sinclair pulls at the cuffs of his shirt sleeves, pulling them down over his wrists]

I won’t give you the title because it sounds so pretentious, but it’s about the disparity between a book and its movie. About why and how screenplays can move so far from the origin of the written story.

Care to share some examples?

My favorite one, although when I talk about it in class I have to do a history lesson with my students before I explain it to them, is Howard Hawks’ production of To Have and Have Not. You know, the one with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Well, Hemingway wrote the story, but Hawks didn’t really like it the way Hemingway wrote it. So he used the title and most of the characters… and the beginning of the story, but brought in an out-of-print and financially-strapped William Faulkner to help write the screenplay. The movie is drastically different that the story. And Hemingway wrote it. Can you imagine telling Hemingway I don’t like the way you wrote it? Of course, Faulkner was certainly no slouch either. Imagine having Faulkner help write the screenplay for a novel you wrote.

[pauses, pulls at his cuffs again]

And of course there’s The Shining, the one with Jack Nicholson–at least most of my students know that one–which was a really, really bad production of King’s book by the same name.

Wow, I didn’t know that about To Have and Have Not.

[shrugs]

I have a lot of theories. Hence, my dissertation. Soon I’ll be the leading expert on why stuff like that happens. 

[smiles, then shrugs again]

As useful as that is.

May I ask if you have a girlfriend? 

 No, no one. There have been a few, a long while back. They didn’t last.

No one you’re interested in now, though?

Well, there’s someone I like, but she doesn’t know I’m alive.

I find that hard to believe, a good looking guy like you. I would think you’d have a girlfriend. Or three.

Sorry, but it’s true.

How did you meet her?

I haven’t yet. I’ve seen her at Pike Market. She has a stall there, reads spirit cards or something like that.

So why haven’t you approached her? Sorry, am I being too forward?

It’s okay. It’s just [pauses for a long time, as if gathering his thoughts] she’s so beautiful. And a bit mysterious. 

[pauses again]

I just know that she would find me wanting.

I think you should ask her out? Worst she can do is say no.

Sure.

I think I just got dismissed. [I smile to let him know I’m teasing.] So let’s do a couple of fun questions. If you were a tree, what tree would you be? 

[thinks for a moment]

Maybe a sequoia. Because they’re so big and imposing. 

Hang on. [I look it up on my phone.] It says here that sequoia trees symbolize long life and attaining your dreams.

Sure. If you say so.

[smiles]

I hope you’re right.

Okay, one more, and then I’ll let you go. If you were a rock star, who would you be. And why?

Kurt Cobain because he was a genius with the soul of a poet. He made profound statements while, at the same time, often poking fun. I love his music. Although his taste in women was crap. Maybe that’s why I can relate.

Care to elaborate on that last statement?

Nope.

You do look a bit like him, except way more clean cut. 

[Sinclair smiles]

One more question. I know I said that last time, but just one more. What smell do you associate with the kitchen from your childhood?

My father is the cook in the family, believe it or not. But even so, he’s not a good cook. So I’d have to say burnt toast. I always knew it was time to get up for school when I smelled burnt toast.

So I’m about to wrap this up. Is there anything you would like everyone to know about you, something I haven’t asked already?

Nah, I think you covered it pretty well.

So do you have any questions for me?

Why me? Why pick me?

Because you’re interesting. Don’t give me that look. You are interesting.

Sure. Keep telling yourself that.

Character.Interview: Beryl Ward

Name: Beryl Ward

Gender: female
Age: 27
Home:  upper Queen Anne, Seattle, Washington
Ancestry: Native American (mother) / German (father)
Appearance: It’s obvious that Beryl gets her looks from her mother’s side of the family. Her caramel coloring, round face, almost almond-shaped eyes and high cheek bones betray her Native American heritage. She wears her hair long and straight, usually pulled back in a loose pony tail or braided due to its thickness. Her eyes are a dark chocolate-brown that matches her hair. She has no distinguishing facial features, no tattoos, no scars.
Favorite color: black, of course
Typical Outfit:  She appears to be the epitome of Seattle Grunge, with her jeans and a plaid button down over a tank top, worn laceless Vans on her feet. Her outfit looks like a hodge-podge of clothing she found at Value Village.

Today, I’m interviewing Beryl Ward, the protagonist in my latest–yet to be named–novel. Thank you, Beryl, for spending some time with me, for letting me expose you, who you are to potential readers.

[Beryl shrugs.]

So what do people call you?

[rolls her eyes at me]

Beryl

No nickname?

Nope.

You live on Queen Anne, right? Must be nice, living in that part of town. Lots of beautiful old mansions up there.

If you say so.

You’re not very talkative.

You’re the one who wanted to do this interview. Wasn’t my idea. I agreed, but I don’t have to be overjoyed about it.

Were you born there?

Yes. My father has owned that house since before I was born. I live in the guesthouse out back now, though.

You don’t live in the house with your father. May I ask why?

You can, but I don’t think it’s any of your business.

Okay. Let’s see… [check my list of questions] Who are the people you’re closest to?

That would be my brother, Jeryl.  And maybe Mr. Denny across the street. He’s blind. Mr. Denny, not my brother.

Funny. Beryl and Jeryl.

We’re twins. I guess my parents thought it would be cute. 

[another eye roll]

And your parents, you didn’t mention them when I asked about people you’re close to.

You’re right. I didn’t.

Would you care to elaborate?

Not really, but I know you’ll just keep asking if I don’t. My mother died when I was very young, five or six maybe. I can’t even remember now. To say that my father and I aren’t close would be an understatement. Let’s just leave it at that.

This Mr. Denny, how long have you known him?

He’s lived across from us since I can remember. I think he’s one of the Dennys, you know, the family that founded Seattle.

What is it you like about him?

He listens to me.

[almost laughs]

Well, I guess he has to since he’s blind. But, you know, he treats me like a person. He’s old, and loves to tell me stories, like my…

You stopped. You were going to add something.

I was going to say like my mother.

[pauses]

My mother told us stories when we were little. Me and Jeryl, she told us stories about Raven, the trickster. About Otter and Orca and Mink. Native American stories. If we were bad she’d tell us that The Woman of the Woods–a giant cannibal woman–was going to get us. But she never let us be afraid for long.

Was there any story in particular that she told often?

There is the Nootka legend of the twins, the Kwe’kustepsep who changed the world. I guess I remember that because of Jeryl and I being twins. But if I remember correctly, she always started her stories–  Once, many many years ago, there was a Nootka chief who had a beautiful daughter, that was how most of my mother’s stories began.

[pauses again, turns away and looks out the window]

She didn’t mean to imply that she was good-looking or even a handsome woman—I came to understand that, only later—but she understood that the best stories are always about the beautiful daughter.  She knew that girls are capable of getting into so much more trouble but as storytelling goes, an ugly daughter, especially a child of a chief, was not worth considering.

[still looking out the window, pauses, this time for so long that I almost ask another question]  

I am the ugly daughter of the beautiful daughter of a Nootka chief.  I wanted to be beautiful, but I only ended up being troublesome. 

Beryl, you’re not ugly. 

It’s not what you see. It’s what I see.

[pauses, turns back toward me]

Let’s talk about something else

Okay. [pause to look at my notes] So what do you do for a living?

IMG_20140608_134306

I have a stall down at Pike Market. I draw medicine wheels and read spirit cards.

Medicine wheels?

What? I have to teach you everything? Let me Google that for you.

[big sigh]

In general a medicine wheel is a physical structure. I create a very small one in a sand tray with stones to act as the elemental points. It’s an introspective way of connecting with, with–  That whole circle of life thing new-agers are so crazy about. You know, the elements and totems and such. I figured out a way to make money off of it. It’s not true to Native American beliefs, but it’s good enough for a bunch of wannabes.

That sounds a little cynical.

I give the customer what they’re looking for, a feel good session. Basically, I listen to their problems. And say supportive things. I think I actually have a gift for knowing what people need to hear. And for them, it’s cheaper than a psychotherapy session. I only charge $60 an hour.

Do you get a lot of customers?

Enough to support myself. 

But you live on Queen Anne.

I live in my father’s guesthouse, okay. I would have moved away a long time ago, but Jeryl won’t move out of the big house. So, I stay there. And no, before you ask, I do not have to pay rent. But I pay for everything else I need, food, clothing, stuff like that.

I’m really not trying to be confrontational. Just to prove it, if you were [laugh] a tree, what kind of tree would you be?

Wow, that’s original. Who are you? Barbara Walters?

Aren’t you a little young to know who Barbara Walters is?

[no response]

Alright, let’s try something else, something that will hopefully give us a view of who you are. What’s your totem animal, or your astrological sign, or whatever you follow?

Leo. And my totem animal changes at times, depending on what I’m trying to accomplish. But usually it’s Raven.

Leo is interesting, all fiery and loyal, fierce and egotistical at times. [smile] I know because I’m a Leo too. But most of us know a bit about astrology, enough to recognize the signs or how to find more information if we want it. Because I don’t know as much about Native American mythology, I have to ask what it means to have Raven as your totem animal?

Raven is the keeper of secrets. But is also the trickster. With Raven, you  never know if what you’re seeing/feeling is real. You never know what you’re going to get.

Okay, how about another one, one a bit more esoteric this time? What smell do you associate with the kitchen from your childhood?

[scowls, and then very slowly smiles]

Pancakes. My mother used to make pancakes for me and Jeryl. His favorite– our favorite, blueberry pancakes. 

That sounds nice. So how about another easy one? What’s your favorite novel?

I don’t read.

May I ask why?

You may.

[sighs]

I’m dyslexic. Reading is difficult for me. But if I had to guess, something I’ve had to read in the past, I’d say Jane Eyre.

Ok. Just for me, let’s do a silly Barbara Walter’s type question. Please?

[sighs and then nods]

If you were a rock star, who would you be?

[gives me a look of long-suffering]

Ummm. Lady Gaga.

You don’t seem all that flamboyant, at least not from physical appearances. You remind me more of Sarah McLachlan, well with Native American coloring. So why Lady Gaga?

I want to be like her, unafraid of being who I am and showing it. Maybe she’s not like that at all, but she projects that.

So I’m about to wrap this up. Is there anything you would like everyone to know about you, something I haven’t asked already?

Yeah, tell them to mind their own business. No one likes their life being on display for everyone to dissect. Your life must be pretty boring if you have to examine mine so closely.

Alrighty then. So do you have any questions for me?

I do. Why are your words in bold and mine aren’t. What, do you think you’re more important than I am?

Well, I did create you.

Sure, keep telling yourself that.