“I’ve Been Wanting to Write this Story for a Long Time” – Gareth Crocker Chats About The Last Road Trip
Jack, Sam, Elizabeth, Rosie and Albert are five residents of a high-end retirement estate, each with a story to tell and saddled with a few regrets. When one of their fellow residents dies, they become inspired by his last words to follow their hearts.
What ensues is a whole lot of fun and adventure in a heart-warming tale of hope and redemption. As Crocker writes on the cover of his novel, “The end of your life doesn’t have to mean the end of your story.”
Books LIVE’s Annetjie van Wynegaard spoke to the author about The Last Road Trip. Read the interview:
Hi Gareth, thanks for talking to us about The Last Road Trip. What was it about this specific story that needed to be told?
Gareth Crocker: There are few things more poignant in life than growing old. As one approaches the end of one’s life I think it’s the most natural thing in the world to look back and reflect on one’s journey and, of course, one’s regrets. In some ways, The Last Road Trip is a sort of allegorical tale of what could happen if you let yourself believe that some of your regrets can yet be undone. I’ve been wanting to write this story for a long time.
In the author’s note you mention that The Last Road Trip isn’t just about the story of five people embarking on a final journey together, it’s also about trying for something. Why did you want to share this specific message?
Too many people live their lives afraid to take chances. They either get stuck in a rut or maybe trapped in debt and spend most of their time just trying to get to the end of the day. I know. I was there myself for a while. I want people to consider the possibility – however improbable it may seem – that there are other options. It’s never too late to try for something more. Maybe even something extraordinary.
The five (and a half) characters are so different, yet they become best friends. What is it that draws them together?
Their shared quest. While all their stories seem quite different on the surface, they’re effectively all on the same journey – to right a wrong and to find some peace while they still can.
When I read your book I thought that your characters are such good people, you must have a wonderful family to draw from. Are they inspired by real people?
I’m very fortunate. I come from a wonderful family and have many close friends. Traits of certain characters are most certainly based on people in my life, but I would say at least half are drawn from pure imagination. In the end, I’ve tried to create the sort of characters that I’d like to share my own last road trip with.
Each character has an unresolved issue that’s been plaguing them their whole lives. How did you manage to give equal weight to all their stories in the 200-odd pages of the book?
I think because I felt equally invested in each of their stories. While the book’s main protagonist is Jack, I don’t believe his story is necessarily any more important than anyone else’s. I loved each of their journeys.
Where are your characters now? Is Pilot still running around somewhere?
An odd thing happens to me after I write a book. Once the last page has been written and the book has gone off to print, the characters continue to live on in my mind. In most cases I’ve spent years with these people and I’m unable to draw a line through them after their story is told. I actually find it quite sad and can sense that the characters are waiting for me to write them another story. If that isn’t weird enough, characters from different books come across each other from time to time. For instance, Jack from The Last Road Trip has become close friends with Lieutenant Rogan Brock from my first novel, Finding Jack. They play cards together in a small security office beside a chemical factory. Too damaged to mix well with people, Rogan works the night shift.
Writers. What can I say?
What was the most fun part of writing this book?
Oh that’s easy. Creating Rosie was a delight. People have this absurd perception that being old means being boring. I wanted Rosie to be a complete wildcat. I think I did okay on that front. Readers seem to have really enjoyed her.
You write in your book, “Prisons can be made out of just about anything”. Why do we make prisons for ourselves?
I don’t know. I think maybe we fall into them. And once we’re in deep enough, it takes a massive effort to claw ourselves out. I’m certain that the vast majority of people working a typical nine-to-five job would resign immediately if they didn’t need the money. These days I look at office parks and see prisons.
I bought this book for someone in their 70s, yet I enjoyed it as much as she did. Why does your story resonate across generations?
Because it’s not only a story about old people. It’s a story for readers of almost any age.
What are three life lessons that people can learn from The Last Road Trip?
1. If there are people in your life who you care about, tell them how you feel. Even if it shames and embarrasses you. Do it. And do it today. Years ago, I took my father for a drink and spent an hour telling him what a privilege it was to have him as my dad. It felt pretty cringeworthy at the time, but now I know that he knows exactly how I feel about him and it’s something I’ll never regret doing. Rather regret the things you did than those you never did.
2. Try and escape your prison if you can. Live. Really live.
3. It’s never too late to go after something that’s important to you.