Thursday, November 6, 2014

Spotlight & Deleted Scene from LAST TRAIN TO BABYLON by Charlee Fam

Last Train to Babylon 
Charlee Fam
October 28, 2014 
William Morrow Paperbacks
Harper Collins

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It’s been five years since Aubrey Glass left her Long Island hometown and since then, she’s crafted five perfect suicide notes—just in case. Now, her former best friend has gone and killed herself—Rachel always did have to be the center of attention—and Aubrey can’t believe her luck.

But Rachel’s untimely death doesn’t leave Aubrey in peace. There’s a voicemail from her former friend, left only days before her death that Aubrey must face—and worse, a tasteless after-party, disguised as a memorial for Rachel, that promises the opportunity to catch up with everyone…including the man responsible for everything that went wrong between her and Rachel.

As the event approaches, memories of friendship tangle with painful new encounters while underneath it all, Aubrey feels the rush of something closing in, something she can no longer run from. In one devastating night, everything will change. As the past and present collide, facing the future will force Aubrey to confront herself and decide what will define her…what lies behind or what waits ahead.

LAST TRAIN TO BABYLON is a gripping novel of twisting relationships and raw emotions pulled taut by a touch of delightfully dark comedy as a young woman faces the demons of a past she’s buried and discovers that the life she desires is one she must demand from herself.

If you’ve read Last Train to Babylon, you already know that Aubrey Glass is the novel’s 22-year-old, slightly contentious narrator. In it’s finished form, the book is written entirely in first person POV.

But fun fact: I originally intended to write Last Train in alternating POVs between Aubrey and her high school boyfriend, Adam Sullivan. I was about halfway through writing when I realized I had way more Aubrey than Adam chapters. So as I made a conscious effort to beef up the Adam scenes, they started to feel forced and extraneous -- like I was rewriting the exact same scenes with different commentary for the sake of word count.

I struggled with it for a while. I even put the whole writing process on hold while I tried to figure out how to finish the book. I considered everything short of cutting out the Adam chapters. I’d put a lot of heart into some of those scenes, and the thought of axing  them felt sort of like betrayal. I eventually realized this was Aubrey’s story, not Adam’s. And in the end, I had to let go of his side of the story. But I saved his chapters, just in case.

Here’s a deleted scene:

She’s in her room. It looks the same as it did back in high school. She doesn’t notice me at first, and just sort of moves around the place like she’s in a hurry. But she’s definitely not dressed like she’s going anywhere -- at least not to a funeral. So I just stand in the doorway, not really sure how to break the silence, and wait for her to see me. I practice a few poses -- prop my hand up against the door frame, cross my ankles, but it seems too forced, too seductive. That’s not really what I’m going for. I’m going for casual. Curt but causal.

She’s in these sweatpants, they look like they might belong to a guy. I heard she’s got  boyfriend, at least that’s what it looks like on Facebook. So I think maybe they’re his.

She doesn’t look the same though. Her room looks the same. But she doesn’t look the same. She’s too think and pale. Her hair is too long, too ratty. She seems kind of skittish too, real nervous even though she doesn’t know anybody’s watching.

I adjust my position again, cross my arms over my chest, but I lose my footing and the floor boards sort of creak, and I see her stiffen. Great, now I have to say something.

“Um,” I cough. “I thought you might want a ride.” She knows its me, even without turning around. I know she knows, but its almost like she’s expecting me, so she turns around really slow, like real slow.

Her lips have got this purple tint to them, the way Rachel’s used to get on those nights I’d pick her up from the beach and she’d be clutching a half-empty bottle of red wine.  But Aubrey’s lips are more dry, I can tell even from where I’m standing. And the wine, probably from last night, is just stained through her dry swollen bits of lip.

She holds eye contact for about a second. And she’s got this glassy gleam in them, like maniacal almost. But then she looks away and goes back to whatever she was doing.

“I’m not going to the funeral,” she says. Her voice is shaky. She hasn’t looked at me again. I see the empty wine bottles lined up in front of her bed, and everything starts to click for me.

“Aubrey,” I say. “Come on. She was your best friend. It’s really quite a statement if you don’t go.” I think of Aubrey and Rachel before and I think of them after, even though there never really was an after. They were both two completely different people, at least the way I see it.

Before and After.

She mumbles something. I can’t really make it out, but I think it’s something about Rachel not ever being her friend.

“Aubrey,” I say. “Look at me.” She doesn’t look. Just sort of flits around the room, all jittery. Her hands are shaking, I can tell when she picks up an empty wine bottle and tosses it into the bottle.

“Since when do you,” I stop, and remember that Rachel is gone. Rachel is gone so we speak in the past tense. “Since when did you not consider her your friend.”

I know the answer. But I need to hear it from her. I need to hear that she knew. If only ease my own conscience.

She perks up at the question. It’s what she’s been waiting for, I can tell. It’s what she’s been waiting for for five years, I’m sure.

CHARLEE FAM is a twenty-something novelist living in New York City. A Long Island native, Charlee graduated from Binghamton University in 2010 with a degree in creative writing and several awards to her name. LAST TRAIN TO BABYLON is her first novel.

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