Since publishing Mayhem at the Happy Valley Motor Inn and Resort, I’ve joined several writers’ groups on Facebook. In one such group I encountered Sandra Lynne Reed. The title of her book, The Drive in ‘65, intrigued me, so I bought it. And LOVED it.
I had some questions for Sandra about her book, and she graciously answered them.
To give you some context for our interview I borrowed this from the book blurb on Amazon: In 1965, two sisters packed up their five children and their mother-eight people-in a nine-passenger van and traveled North America for fourteen weeks. After living in Alaska for twenty years, they wanted to see more of the world, and show their children what lay beyond Alaska’s borders.
Sandra Lynne Reed was thirteen that summer. The tiny town of Moose Pass, and the southern edges of Anchorage, one hundred miles north, defined Reed’s provincial childhood, and left her curious about the world she saw in magazines and on television-strange places that were her own country. In a summer of ‘firsts’ she and her siblings discovered the magic of fireflies, natural wonders, and treasures of history. On their tinny transistor radio, they followed news of the space race, the Civil Rights movement, and the escalating war in Vietnam. The musical sound track of the British invasion and the rising rock and roll era followed them as they circled North America, traveling as far south as Mexico City.”
Me: Sandra, the first thing that struck me as I began reading The Drive in ‘65 was the way you wove current events of the time into the story of your family’s trip. It’s not just about the road trip, but also about the social and political upheaval of the time. Was that your intention from the beginning or did you decide as you wrote that the tale had to include those elements?
Sandra: I began writing about the drive to preserve the family history, and at first did not include many broader events of the day. But with the encouragement of some writer friends and critique partners, I began to see that there was a wider audience for the story. I also realized that more context of the times would be needed, especially for readers who didn’t live through the 1960s. Including the wider context required a lot of research into the details of the news and culture of 1965.
Me: I can’t imagine my mother and her sister venturing into the great unknown as your mom and your aunt did. Even in the 70’s and 80’s when cars and roads both were superior to what your family was dealing with my mom would’ve been a nervous wreck. Did you realize at the time just how brave they were?
Sandra: At that time, I didn’t recognize their courage. I knew the trip would be a big adventure, and was glad they had such a great idea. Driving the highways in Alaska in the 1950s and ’60s required some bravery and could be pretty adventurous, so the trip seemed “normal” to me in that way. But as I grew up, and even more so as I began writing the story in earnest starting around 2014, I came to realize what a courageous undertaking it was.
Me: I don’t think it’s a spoiler to tell my readers that your mom and your aunt Phyllis intended from the beginning to write about the trip. If they’d written this book, what might they have included that you didn’t and vice versa?
Sandra: Phyllis and Mom intended to write the book as a series of letters, somewhat embellished because our actual letters were not entertaining enough to suit them! Some of their early beginnings on that book still exist in the archives of The Drive. They wanted to write about it shortly after our return, which would not have included the long-term effects the trip had on all of us. And they probably would not have included some of the difficult and painful family events that I did. They envisioned a more comic rendition of the story.
Me: The story isn’t all fun and games, though, and we learn a great deal about your family dynamics. How difficult was that to write? At any time did you think “Hey, I don’t want to tell this part.”
Sandra: Some of those were difficult, and I did debate about including some of the more painful stories. Some were included to illuminate the characters, and to reveal some of the effects the trip had on us all. But they are only my perspectives, and sadly, most of the others were no longer living by the time I was writing the book, so I could not consult them.
Me: You were thirteen when the eight of you took off on the adventure. If you could give your twelve-year-old self some advice prior to the trip, what would it be?
Sandra: I’d have loved some advice to help me feel less insecure and geeky! And I wish I had kept a detailed and thoughtful diary–I’m sure I did have advice from my mom to do that, but didn’t follow it. I confess, I have never been a faithful diary keeper!
Me: I can so picture The Drive in ‘65 as a movie. If Hollywood came knocking on your door, who would you like to see cast as a 13-year-old you?
Sandra: I’m very out of touch with actors in that age group! So after a little Googling around, I might choose Brooklynn Prince or Mckenna Grace.
Me: Thank you Sandra for taking the time to satisfy my curiosity. Now I’ll have to Google those actresses!
Sandra’s book brought back so many memories of trips with my family during the same time period. I was only nine in 1965, but the events of that decade are still etched in my heart and mind. And even though we never embarked on a trip of this magnitude, I could relate to her feelings of joy and angst, excitement and homesickness. I highly recommend The Drive in ‘65. It’s available on Amazon and as an ebook for Kindle.
Check out Sandra Lynne Reed’s website http://www.sandralynnereed.com/.