Book Title: A Year in the Company of Freaks by Teresa Neumann
Category: Adult Fiction, 515 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: All’s Well House
Release date: Dec 21, 2015
Tour dates: Sept 11 to 29, 2017
Content Rating: PG + M (Little violence and profanity, no f-words, no sex, but some drug use)
It’s 1972 and a seismic clash-of-cultures is rattling northern California. In the redneck town of Trinity Springs, rumors of hippies migrating up from San Francisco have residents bracing for an invasion. When Italian-American hometown boy and Berkeley graduate Sid Jackson is busted for growing pot on his deceased parents’ farm, locals suspect the assault has begun. Will a crazy deferral program devised by the sheriff keep Sid out of prison? Or will a house full of eccentric strangers, a passionate love interest, and demons from his past be his undoing?
A “disarmingly appealing” tale of discrimination, transformation and restoration, Freaks is bursting with intrigue, drama, comic relief and romance. Reviewers agree this five-star, coming-of-age classic “very much reflects the attitude and mood of the times.”
Praise for A Year in the Company of Freaks:
“This coming of age story will draw the reader right in. Teresa Neumann demonstrates how much she values relationships in her writing … a precious skill. I held my breath all the way through to the final few pages. Five stars!” — The San Francisco Book Review
“As it relates to the complicated clash of culture and counterculture, Freaks acts as an authentic, strongly Seventies book. Northern California works as a strong presence in the novel that is vivid and omnipresent, but never overwhelming. Sure to intrigue and entertain, Freaks will have its digs in you before you realize how involved you’ve become.” — The Manhattan Book Review
Author of highly-acclaimed “A Year in the Company of Freaks,” Teresa was raised in a large Midwest family and now lives in Oregon. She is also the author of “Bianca’s Vineyard,” and its sequel, “Domenico’s Table.” Both books are based on the true stories of her husband’s Italian family in Tuscany. In addition to enjoying family, writing, reading, meeting her readers, wine tasting, traveling, and all things Italian, Teresa loves playing the fiddle with other musicians.
Today I’m happy to interview Teresa.
Your main character, Sid Jackson, is uniquely different from the other characters in your book. He’s both shy and outspoken. Proud and insecure. Retiring and ambitious. Rebellious and compliant. Was there a reason you created him to be this way?
Sid is definitely a study in contrasts: something I’ve been accused of being myself! In no way did I create him to be a male reflection of me; rather I was able to craft his character more easily because I’m familiar with that type of personality. Part of Sid’s uniqueness is also, in part, a result of his mixed heritage. His Anglo-ness offsets his Italian-ness and vice-versa.
The attraction – and repulsion — of opposites is a theme throughout A Year in the Company of Freaks. Is there a lesson to be learned for readers?
If there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s one that each reader would have to find and apply to themselves and their own circumstances. The fact is, everything in life – the universe, relationships, our souls — reflects the incredible “push-and-pull” power of opposites. The poor wish they were rich. The weak are attracted to the strong. The unloved want to be loved. In Sid’s case, being orphaned when he was young, and the way he was orphaned, made him desperately want to be part of a family, but also desperately afraid of loss if he allowed himself to be vulnerable to love. Being forced to live for a year with virtual strangers, most of them entirely different from himself, allowed him to view his fears, dreams and life possibilities with a new perspective. We all learn and are influenced by others, sometimes even by people who are our polar opposites.
There’s one fairly central character in Freaks — a female — who is especially dysfunctional. Without giving the story away, is she patterned after someone you know who experienced the things she did?
If I’m honest, most of my characters are patterned a little – or a lot – on people I’m familiar with, but mostly they’re composites. The character I’m sure you’re referring to represents many different people I’ve known who made choices that either ruined them or saved them. In my book, as in real life, it’s nerve-racking having to helplessly watch someone make a train wreck of their lives. Even so, although no one can change another person, I’m a believer that it’s never too late to change.
It’s intriguing that some significant characters in your book are much older than most of the main characters who are younger. How important is that concept to you as an author?
Very important. All three of my books have both older and younger main characters. My mother-in-law once told me that she and her husband were considering moving to a seniors-only residential community in Arizona. They decided against it. When I asked her why, she said they realized that without children or young adults integrated around them, it just felt “sterile.” She hit the nail on the head with that observation. I believe that the more diverse the characters in a book are – in terms of age, at least – the more balanced, full-bodied and realistic the story will be.
Lastly, is there anything about the era of Freaks – that is, the early 1970’s – that you’re glad you experienced in your own life?
Honestly, not a whole lot. I lived so thoughtlessly and dangerously for much of the 1970’s, it’s a miracle I lived through it. For example, for the 2 years I lived in northern California during that time period I didn’t have a car, so I hitchhiked everywhere I went. Day and night. By myself. So stupid, I know. I can’t even imagine if that was my daughter doing that! I was also caught up in some very confusing relationships and struggled because I was really, at heart – like Sid — a product of the 1950’s and wanted the stability in life that was so elusive to me by my own choice. But, it wasn’t a total washout. The music was GREAT! And I still have some precious friendships that endured from that time. It was definitely a mixed bag.
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