gmhTODAY 25 gmhTODAY April May 2019 - Page 94

AUTHOR ' S corner Jordan Rosenfeld Jordan is the author of four writing guides and three novels. Her articles have been published in such places as: Alternet, The Atlantic, Marin Magazine, the New York Times, the Petaluma Magazine, Salon, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Washington Post and many more. Matt Brandt… Fiction is Fact Rearranged F or Gilroy author Matt Brandt, reading the work of the great literary writer Thomas Wolfe served as a pivotal moment of inspiration for his own novel to come, The Boy From the Forge, which he published in July 2018. “Before I’d even finished reading Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel, I thought ‘Ah, I know how to write my first book,’” he said. He was particularly drawn to a Wolfe quote that helped him find his way into his own novel, “[Wolfe] said ‘fiction is fact rearranged and charged with purpose.’ I drew upon a lot of experiences from my own past, wove, rearranged, elaborated, fictionalized and created a story with… characters hopefully learning lessons along the way.” Similar to Wolfe’s work, Brandt’s novel is also a coming-of-age story about a young boy grappling with what he calls “the usual stressors” such as parents, first loves, and best friends. “Sometimes those things work to help us, and sometimes they present challenges,” he said. Like himself, his main character, Max, grew up in a blue-collar family in Milwaukee. His title encapsulates the complexities of the place. “The word forge is meant to describe in one word all of what Milwaukee is to my mind. When I grew up, it was still manufacturing based: smelly, dirty, about labor and work, foundry businesses and all that stuff.” Brandt has plenty of real-life fodder from childhood to feed into the fictional mix. He grew up in trying childhood circumstances, under a tumultuous relationship with the father who was abusive to his mother and five older sib- lings. Other than a brief lull, which he 94 refers to as “the golden years” after his father left, things were challenging. Though he does consider being the youngest of six “lucky” in that he received the least of his father’s rages, the repercussions of his father’s abuses lingered, and their mother’s subsequent marriage to an alcoholic did not bring idyllic circumstances. “[Our stepfather] was a real party guy, but party people usually don’t make good parents or part- ners, so it only lasted about three years.” “My siblings, because they’re all older, they endured a lot more challenges and pain than I ever did. That kind of pain can really cloud people, prevent them from growing.” Despite getting off “lucky,” Brandt left home when he was just 16, joined the military when he was 18 and spent some time in the Air Force. He eventually moved to Colorado, where he obtained a Master’s Degree. He remembered the first time he visited California, which he immediately loved. “I landed in SFO, got out of a snowstorm in winter clothes and stepped off the plane where it was 70 degrees and green. I thought, ‘I’ll live here someday.’” He moved to San Jose in 1999 and to Gilroy in 2006, where he lives with his sixteen- year-old son and his sister. “California is a utopia,” he said. Thanks to a lucrative career in hi-tech telecommunications working for Cisco and Sprint, and “aggressive financial investments,” Brandt recently has been on sabbatical from work. This was not only to allow him the time to write but to attend to his health. In 2013, after several years of being consistently under the weather, he was diagnosed with hairy cell GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN april/may 2019 leukemia, a slow-growing and chronic but “highly survivable” variation of this blood cancer. While chemotherapy put him into remission, the chemo causes side effects where his body creates too many red blood cells, and every three months he must have excess blood drained. Despite all of this, he takes a positive outlook. “It’s definitely an opportunity to reflect on priorities and make decisions and try to live life a little differently,” he said. Leukemia of this kind often recurs, but cancer treatments continue to innovate, too. “My greatest hope is if I need to be treated again, chemo will not be the go-to therapy.” In his downtime, he’s already working on the sequel to his novel. He’s learned a few things since writing the first. Plans for the next book include “not as many words,” he said with a chuckle. He had to cut Boy from the Forge back from a mammoth 150,000 words to the 80,000 it published at. He hopes that his readers will have the same feeling reading his work as he does reading his own literary heroes. “When you read a good story, you’re taken away from your current predicament.”