a far out trip, 1965
Daze: A Far Out Trip, 1965 is a story about love, friendship, and
rock and roll. It's a story about a group of high school friends and their
sometimes humorous, often painful, and ultimately dramatic lives. And it's
a story that plays out on a stage shared by riots, assassinations, and war
in the City of Angeles, 1965. Six unforgettable characters' experiences
and feelings are expressed in highly personal journal entries, notes,
letters, and interconnected poems.
Shahan has 30 books to her credit, fiction and non-fiction. Purple Daze is
her first novel written in verse. Set in Los Angeles in 1965, Purple
Daze is a story about war, feminism, riots, love, racism, rock 'n'
roll, and friendship. Six high school students share their personal
experiences through journal entries, letters, interconnected free verse
and traditional poetry.
inspired you to write about the 1960s?
cleaning out my office closet, I found a shoebox filled with letters from
a friend who served in Vietnam in the late 1960s. I spent hours pouring
through his gut-wrenching accounts. It was disturbing to watch a close
friend turn from a carefree teenager into a calloused soldier. I knew I
had to do something with his letters; after all, I’d kept them nearly 50
adventure novels Frozen Stiff and Death Mountain are written
in traditional narrative form. Why did you choose verse for Purple Daze?
Purple Daze was inspired by my friend’s letters it made sense to
use letters as a form to portray his life in Vietnam. Then I began writing
sketches about other high school friends. Once I began scribbling,
memories assaulted me twenty-four-seven.
challenging was this form?
Each character required his or her own story arc - with a clearly defined
beginning, middle, and end - yet I had to weave each story smoothly into
the whole. To me, this was the most effective way to give readers access
to the inner most thoughts of all six characters. Here’s an example:
My motel sign:
poem is only two lines, yet it says volumes about Ziggy’s emotional
more than if I’d written it in margin-to-margin prose. I think verse
mirrors the pulse of adolescent life. Condensed metaphoric language on a
single page is a good reflection of their tightly-packed world. Emotions
are where teens live.
type of research went into Purple Daze?
Purple Daze draws from my high school memories, it’s not a
memoir. Research included reading newspaper accounts and other books about
those tumultuous times. Talking to Vietnam vets gave me details I hadn’t
seen in secondary material. One guy told me he hung hand- grenades on the
dashboard of his truck for easy access. His truck had a bullet hole in the
door. “Lucky bullet,” he said. Those details went in the book.
characters often processed their world through music. Was that
is such a dynamic art form. Sixties music was charged with feelings about
the war. Lyrics were a vibrant form of communication, a call to action.
‘The Unknown Soldier’ by The Doors, ‘One Tin Soldier’ by Original
Caste, ‘Volunteers’ by Jefferson Airplane and dozens of others mirror
feelings of that time.
though, Purple Daze is a story about six high school friends and
their sometimes crazy, often humorous, and always dramatic lives.
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