Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
KPBS Midday Edition

San Diego Writer Stephen Metcalfe Navigates Life, Literature

The book cover of "The Practical Navigator."
St. Martin's Press
The book cover of "The Practical Navigator."
San Diego Writer Stephen Metcalfe Navigates Life, Literature
San Diego Writer Stephen Metcalfe Navigates Life, LiteratureGUEST:Stephen Metcalfe, author, "The Practical Navigator"

an Diego writer, Stephen Metcalfe, has a long career as a playwright, screenwriter and adaptive. He's been involved in the productions of hit movies like Pretty Woman, and Mr. Holland's opus. He's an associate artist at the old Globe Theatre. Writing novels is something that Stephen Metcalfe has only come to recently. His latest is called, "The Practical Navigator". It tells the story of a loving father plotting his course through a life that is threatening to go off track in several different directions. Author Stephen Metcalfe is my guest. Welcome to the program. Thank you. What do you think your experience in writing police and screenplays brings to your style as a novelist? Well, I think that in writing a stage play you are focused on Kerik and dialogue. I've heard it said that people go to here play and they go to see a movie. When you're writing a screenplay, again, you are working with character and dialogue but you are much more concerned with the visual action of the scene. I would suggest writing a novel, I found you bring all of the above to it. I said it's almost like being the director comedy actor, the set designer all rolled into one. Some reviewers have mentioned the fact that this story tells its story from different character points of view. I was wondering, is that something you have gotten from your playwriting experience? The very first novel was called, the tragic age. That was written from first-person. I thought when I was doing that but I wanted to write in monologue, the same way I would in the theater. I was comfortable doing that. When I started the second novel, "The Practical Navigator", I knew I wanted to do it for multiple points of view. I wonder if you could tell us something about the plot of "The Practical Navigator". "The Practical Navigator" begins with the introduction of my protagonist, Michael Hodge. And what we find out quickly is that he is the father of a son on the autism spectrum. For some reason I made him a single father when I started and I don't know why. My wife and I have raised a young man who is now 19 we did that together. I found myself writing from Michael's point of view. He is dealing with all of the issues that happen when one is first given the diagnosis of autism for a child. At the same time, as he is beginning that, his estranged wife, Anita, returns into the fold, seeking to be what. A mother again? A wife? He's not sure. He's dealing with different relationships in his life. Indeed I say he is trying to navigate himself through these Troubled Waters to find the Safe Harbor. I wonder if you could Reedus it brief passage picks I'd be happy to pick this is in the very beginning of the novel. What we have is Michael dropping his son, Jamie, off to school. Michael looks up beyond the gates, a tall middle-aged woman in a long dresses approaching across the playground Michael Hanzik Jamie his knapsack. There is Mrs. McKenzie, go on now. Jamie doesn't move and so Michael nudges him. Nudges gently again. Jamie finally turns in hurries forward through the gate to meet his teacher seeing him advance, Karen stops and weights. Once he is in front of her she looks down her long nose at him with mock formality. Mr. Hodge, are we ready for second grade today? Jamie briefly meets her eyes and his head bows and he studies the ground. There is a small smile on his lips. Are you having to do for lunch? Yes I am. I'm sharing it with you. A murmur of pleasure, a single word. Okay. All is now right with the world Karen throws reassuring look to Michael hot takes Jamie's hand and they turn and move across the playground together. Michael fight the urge to call Jenny Bak. All too often he feels he is sending a lamb out into a world of wolves. Thank goodness there are shepherds. That is Stephen Metcalfe reading from his novel, "The Practical Navigator". As people can tell listening to that passage, this is a story of devotion between a father and son. That's the story that isn't often told. What he think that is? I don't know. Is there an enormous dramatic action in devotion? I don't know. I think what it is is he is devoted through many challenges. I think that's one of the things I wanted to portray. What is it that you wanted the world to know, perhaps about your relationship with your son that comes through in this novel? I think what it is, and it's interesting, I can look back on this now but in the beginning you have no idea what to expect. My son had his diagnosis in I think, 2002. At that time there was not a lot of information. What there was was frightening. My wife and I, we progressed on this journey with him and now we find ourselves, all these years later, in a totally unexpected place. A good place. I think that is true for anyone who has a child with a disability. You don't know what to expect and at the same time you do end up in a place. A place that you've navigated towards. Exactly. Sumac Stephen Metcalfe will speak about his novel, "The Practical Navigator", at Warwick's in La Jolla. In conversation with Lacy Crawford, author of early decision. That is tonight at 7:30 PM. It's been a pleasure. Thank you. Thank you so much.

Stephen Metcalfe, the author of the new novel "The Practical Navigator," is a pretty good navigator himself.

An associate artist at the Old Globe, he has written several plays, including "Loves & Hours," "Strange Snow" and "The Incredible Willy Rivers."

Advertisement

He has written production drafts for "Pretty Woman," "It Could Happen To You," "Dangerous Minds" and several other movies. His novel for young adults, "The Tragic Age," was published in 2014.

Metcalfe seems to navigate between literary genres with ease. But life can offer entirely different problems, most without maps.

Book Signing and Conversation

When: 7:30 p.m, Tuesday, August 9

Where: Warwick's, 7812 Girard Ave., La Jolla

In "The Practical Navigator," protagonist Michael Hodge, a building contractor in Southern California, tries to find his way through life as a single father of an autistic 6-year-old son. To further complicate matters, Hodge's mother's dementia is getting worse.

Metcalfe knows something about these difficulties. He describes himself as "the proud father of an 18-year-old-son on the autism spectrum."

Advertisement

Metcalfe will appear in conversation with author Lacy Crawford at Warwick's Tuesday night. He talks about his book and his life on Midday Edition.