The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #255: Welcome Bboy / MC / Professor Raphael Xavier!

Episode #255: Welcome Bboy / MC / Professor Raphael Xavier!

On this week’s show, I’m pleased to welcome Raphael Xavier, a breakdancer and emcee who got his start in 1983 and has been around to see these aspects of hip hop come, go, return, and evolve over the past 30+ years.


He is also a professor at Princeton University, where he teaches a history of hip hop class as well as one that provides an introduction to breaking.  My co-host today is not only my friend but former roommate, training partner, and fellow breaker / Princeton alum, Justin Liang (last on the show on episodes 47 and 48).  We were both blown away that not only is hip hop being taught at our former alma mater, there are actual classes on how to break.  ABSOLUTELY MIND BLOWING.


We covered so many topics in this conversation, including a lot of things that, while not part of dance, are important life skills to keep in mind for creative people – transforming pain into insight and then power, not giving up, having a direction in life as well as daily practice, how the creative process changes over time and with age, the past and future of the dance, and – for all the high school and college graduates who didn’t get a keynote speaker at a formal ceremony speech this spring – there’s even one in this interview for you.

Check out the following links for info:

-Agency Website:

-Benefit Performance (1/30/20, about 33 min into the clip):

-Ignite Philly talk on breaking:

-A Conversation with Urban Artistry (5/30/20 – thanks to my friend, breaking professor, and bboy Taylor Lomba) for posting this clip):
-Find Raph on IG and Facebook
-By the way, the clip we were discussing at ~2:05:00 you can watch below on Instagram:
Thanks, Raph, for joining Justin and me for this interview!





There are now Thirteenth Hour toys!  If you’d like to pick up one of these glow in the dark figures for yourself, feel free to email me or go to the Etsy store I set up ( and get them there.

If the past few months have got you needing a break, you may want to chill out to this 80s synth throwback track for a upcoming LP with the accompanying music video:

Empty Hands, the synth EP soundtrack to the novella, Empty Hands, is now out for streaming on Bandcamp.  

empty hands ep cover_edited-2.jpg

Stay tuned.  Follow along on Spotify!  There is also a growing extended Thirteenth Hour playlist on Spotify with a growing number of retro 80s songs.

Check it out!

As always, thanks for listening!


The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #254: Welcome Back AC to Discuss Weird Science! (John Hughes Part 2/2)

Episode #254: Welcome Back AC to Discuss Weird Science! (John Hughes Part 2/2)

On this week’s show, Adam from AC Toy Design comes back on the show to talk about another John Hughes films – last week, we discussed Pretty in Pink (see episode 253) and, this week, we’re talking about Weird Science.

Weird Science” — Review – AHSneedle

This film is probably John Hughes’ only real fantasy (sexually frustrated teenage boys create a woman a la Frankenstein or Pygmalion).  So – basically, a pretty guy-centric film that has many things in it that would never get it made today.  Still – despite all that, it has some great scenes that still hold up today.  Check out these:

Look at how Lisa deals with Gary’s parents (who are your typical John Hughes parents, meaning that they are clueless).

A great scene with Vince Townsend Jr. (RIP)

“The Circle” by Max Carl is playing in the background with the boys wrap up the crazy party with their respective girls.  The Weird Science soundtrack is another great soundtrack.

The scene “The Circle” is playing in always stuck with me.  There was a little homage to it in this scene from The Thirteenth Hour.  The main character, Logan, is trying to express similar sentiments to his best friend, Aurora, during a difficult point in their lives (they are both basically imprisoned):

The next day, a clanging sound woke me from my dream. I looked around, not quite
aware what was real and what was still a dream.

“Chow time,” came the gruff voice of a guard, opening the door of my cell. Aurora stood
behind him, carrying a basket. I noticed she was wearing a new dress. The guard put a meaty hand on the basket and pulled, but Aurora quietly but firmly held onto it. Then the guard let go, peeked inside, and grunted something that sounded like, “Huh. Alright. You can go in. But no funny business.”

“Hear that, Aurora? No funny business,” I said, yawning, wiping the sleepiness out of
my eyes.

Aurora just shook her head and gave me one of her half smiles. “Always the joker.”

We sat against the wall, looking up at the sunlight coming through the small window by
the ceiling as we ate the meal in the basket. When we had finished, we continued sitting there, and I guess a little smile crept over my face because after awhile Aurora asked, “What are you thinking?”

“I feel lucky.”

[POV change to Aurora temporarily] I laughed a little. “Lucky?” I asked, smiling at Logan.

“Well, you remember that first day we met?” Logan asked.

I nodded.

“What would’ve happened if it hadn’t been you who’d found me that day and taken me
into the orphanage? What if it’d been someone else? We might not have gotten to know each other very well at all. Was it fate that we met? The Dreamweaver said he tries to just let things happen. So was it just chance?”

I shrugged, raising my eyebrows and smiling while cocking my head a little to the side to
avoid the sun’s glare.

“You know, even if I could get to know all the women in the world, one by one, like in a
giant, living catalog …” Logan started.

“Yeah,” I interrupted, “quote–unquote ‘get to know.’”

“Alright, whatever,” he continued, exasperated, “I suck at talking. But what I’m trying
to say is that … if … if I were given the opportunity to create an ideal woman, like take some of this, mix it with some of that …”

“Oh, like a recipe.”

“Yes. I mean, no! Dammit, I knew what I wanted to say in my head, and it’s coming out
all wrong.” He started again. “What I’m trying to say is … that if I could pick the perfect one … for me, she’d be … just like you. I think I always knew that. It’s just that … it took a long time for me to be able to tell you. So yes, in so many words, I feel lucky.”

I was actually a little stunned. Here’s a little something that took me a long time to figure
out. If you complement someone soon after you meet him, you sound like a kiss–ass. But if you wait, get to know the person, and then complement him, your words carry so much more weight because then the person knows you’re sincere. In all the time I’d known Logan, this awkward, limping, borderline aphasic complement was probably the first, totally serious, non–joking one he’d ever given me. And it meant more to me than any flowing, articulate, greeting–card style prose could or ever would. My face grew hot, and I felt all warm inside. And now it was my turn to be tongue–tied.

“I … I feel lucky, too,” I said, finally, resting my head on his arm.

[Logan from here on out] Then the guard walked by and signalled that it was time for Aurora to go.

I thought of something. “New dress?”

“Oh, I found some old clothes lying around in my room. This one fits a little better.”

“Do you still have your grey dress? The one you got from the elves?”

“Sure, why?”

“Can I borrow it?”

She laughed loudly and asked, “Whatever would you want it for?”

“To use as a pillow. I don’t have one.”

I wasn’t sure, but I thought I saw Aurora blushing. “Sure, I mean … I … could just bring
you a real pillow. I have an extra. But I’ll see,” Aurora started, looking down, “what I can put together, and I’ll get it to you next time I can slip away.” Then she looked back up at me and said, “To say that your cell needs furnishing is probably the understatement of the year. And we’ll have to see what we can do about your food service. Water with a side of algae just doesn’t cut it these days.”

The guard grunted something and led Aurora out. Through the bars, she looked back and
whispered softly into my ear, “I love you, Logan.”

“I love you, too,” I said, reminding myself again of a debt I owed, a debt I wouldn’t mind
paying for the rest of my life, to luck, to dreams and wishes, to Dragons’ Eyes and grey dresses, to love and other things.

I ended up writing a song to go with this particular scene for the soundtrack called “Love, Grey Dresses, and Other Things” that expresses similar sentiments:

Look for more John Hughes in the future!




There are now Thirteenth Hour toys!  If you’d like to pick up one of these glow in the dark figures for yourself, feel free to email me or go to the Etsy store I set up ( and get them there.

If you haven’t checked out “Arcade Days,” the song and video Jeff Finley, Brent Simon, and I finished one year ago, click on the link below to do so!

You can find more pictures and preview clips of “Arcade Days” on IG as well as this podcast’s FB page.

Empty Hands, the synth EP soundtrack to the novella, Empty Hands, is now out for streaming on Bandcamp.  

empty hands ep cover_edited-2.jpg

Stay tuned.  Follow along on Spotify!  There is also a growing extended Thirteenth Hour playlist on Spotify with a growing number of retro 80s songs.

Check it out!

As always, thanks for listening!


The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #253: Welcome Back AC to Discuss Pretty in Pink! (John Hughes Part 1/2)

Episode #253: Welcome Back AC to Discuss Pretty in Pink! (John Hughes Part 1/2)

On this week’s show, Adam from AC Toy Design comes back on the show for a two-parter to discuss two films John Hughes wrote, Pretty in Pink and Weird Science.

James Spader is Hot and Other Observations From Revisiting Pretty ...

Weird Science” — Review – AHSneedle

We’ll be focused on Pretty in Pink today.  It’s the precursor to Some Kind of Wonderful (see episode 154; which reversed the roles), also directed by Howard Deutch.  These movies, as do all the John Hughes films, do such a great job at getting into the mind of the adolescent.  And while that world may not always make sense to the mind of adults, these films tap into the tumult of being caught between child and adult quite well.  The parents pictured in the film are rarely present and often clueless.  Even Andy’s father, in Pretty in Pink, in a warm-hearted role done so well by Harry Dean Stanton, is so caught up in the loss of his wife, who left the family, that he is living in a world all his own.  It’s good to remember at time when, like the characters of this film,  current, real-life high school seniors are preparing to enter the working world or go to whatever college will look like in the fall.  Some of those students may have had parents who saw these films and were just as internally conflicted about what they wanted and disgusted by what they saw in the complacency and/or cluelessness of older generations as their children, like the characters in these films, do today.

One aspect of these John Hughes films that also unites them is such great music.  It’s one of the main reasons why I knew that The Thirteenth Hour, which was influenced by the JOhn HUghes films, needed to have a soundtrack of its own that evoked similar new wave vibes of wistful longing.  Pretty in Pink does not disappoint in the music department.  In fact, OMD’s “If You Leave” plays in its entirely during the final scene!  Check out the clips below from the music video from the time as well as an updated performance 30 years later:

Look for more John Hughes next week!




There are now Thirteenth Hour toys!  If you’d like to pick up one of these glow in the dark figures for yourself, feel free to email me or go to the Etsy store I set up ( and get them there.

If you haven’t checked out “Arcade Days,” the song and video Jeff Finley, Brent Simon, and I finished one year ago, click on the link below to do so!

You can find more pictures and preview clips of “Arcade Days” on IG as well as this podcast’s FB page.

Empty Hands, the synth EP soundtrack to the novella, Empty Hands, is now out for streaming on Bandcamp.  

empty hands ep cover_edited-2.jpg

Stay tuned.  Follow along on Spotify!  There is also a growing extended Thirteenth Hour playlist on Spotify with a growing number of retro 80s songs.

Check it out!

As always, thanks for listening!


The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #148: Fairy Tales Aren’t Just For Kids

Episode #148: Fairy Tales Aren’t Just For Kids – A TED-Style Talk for Former Kids on Creativity, the Transition to Adulthood, and What Gets Lost in Between

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to give a short talk at Mondragon Books, an independent used bookstore in central PA.  They were kind enough to offer to carry some of my books and music and have been trying to have more author related events at their store.   The thing about a lot of author events, though, is that they’ve always seemed pretty self indulgent.  Sure, of course you’re interested in what you do, but in my opinion, inviting people to listen to you talk about yourself has always seemed like a snooze fest, so I decided to talk about something everyone grapples with sooner or later – the the transition to adulthood and the inevitable changes that entails in regards to the pursuit of creativity.   This episode is a version of that talk.

From a creative perspective, childhood is often ripe with opportunities to express oneself creatively.  Unfortunately, as we get older, those opportunities gradually narrow unless we actively choose a creatively-minded career or specifically make time for them.  Often, the message we are given is that we’ll never make a living doing something creative, so if we really want to do those things, we can do them “in our spare time,” as Keith, the teenage protagonist from the 1987 John Hughes-penned movie, Some Kind of Wonderful, hears from his father.

So my hope is that this talk will get people thinking and inspire them to reclaim these lost aspects of childhood if they so desire.  I use the analogy of fairy tales, since they’re stories that we typically associate with childhood, but, in actuality, have a lot of lessons that adults can benefit from, too.   For example, fairy tales often have happy endings, which help us believe in a better tomorrow.  Fairy tales also tend to invoke the hero / heroine’s journey, which reminds us that big dreams often require some level of personal sacrifice and persistence in order to accomplish.  All of these things are great to keep in mind when it comes to giving voice to our own creativity, especially amid the hard, mundane realities of day-to-day adult life.

Sometimes talks of this nature are mostly theory, given by folks who are no longer in the position to juggle various commitments.  But I can say that it’s something I basically took from my own life and put into a short talk.  As someone who spends a good majority of his time juggling between being a husband, a father to small children, and maintaining a busy day job, making time for the creative aspects of my life is a constant challenge. You see the results here, but it requires a daily commitment to feed the muse.

I wrote this little essay back in 2015, not long after the birth of my daughter, when I initially (mistakenly) assumed that staying home to take care of her would allow me more time to write (nope … though it did require me to take advantage of every spare minute I had – something I continue to use today).

When I was twelve, I wanted nothing more than a Swiss Army knife. My father had one, and I used to marvel at all the tools that fit in the compact package. Years later, I still marvel at its attempt to “do it all.” But sometimes, a stand-alone knife or can opener just does the job better.

So when I told colleagues that, over the next year, I wouldn’t be working much, instead devoting the majority of my time to caring for our newborn daughter, deep down, I wondered if I’d end “Swiss Army knifing” it. People had mostly supportive words. Of course, there were some puzzled looks and occasional sarcastic or condescending comments, but what I didn’t expect were the rare, wistful silences (generally left by men), followed by, “I wish I’d taken more time to do that.”

Time, that ephemeral commodity. Before the baby came along, I joked with my wife about what I’d do if I were a stay-at-home husband. I’d water the plants. I’d do aerobics in front of the TV like it were 1982. And I’d finally have time to write.

It wasn’t all jest. Even after the baby came and all evidence suggested otherwise, I still maintained the delusion that when the baby slept, I’d really, truly have time to write. And so it was – except those stretches of quiet lasted a total of forty to sixty minutes a day if I were lucky. Amid all the baby and home related tasks, writing was the last on the list. On the days I worked, I’d go in after my wife and I had done the baby handoff and finish in the wee hours of the morning, so zero writing got done those days. And when the baby woke up in the middle of the night, or at least by at five or six the next morning, I was reminded why my mother was always tired.

Single parents have now assumed epic status in my mind. I’m lucky that my wife takes over in the evening. But despite everything, I look forward to each new day. Seeing my daughter’s smile, her waddling, ataxic steps, and the first gleams of mischief in her eyes make up for the times poo plopped out of the diaper and landed on the floor instead of in the toilet. I understand why those men said they wished they could’ve had more time to watch their children grow. Because I wish for the same. No time is ever enough.

Those naps did eventually add up over a year. I coalesced some of these thoughts into a poem and reworked pictures from one of my novels to create a little book for my daughter, which I’ll give to her this Christmas. I’m sure one of the first things she’ll do is take a bite out of the pages. And I’d like nothing more than to be right there to see her do it.

Thanks to Mondragon Books for hosting me.  Check them out if you happen to be in the central PA area or on Facebook or Instagram.


Between Two Worlds, the synth EP follow up to Long Ago Not So Far Away is now out for streaming on Bandcamp.  

The bonus track, called “Flight of the Cloudrider” has a 80s movie mashup music video (see if you can identify all the movies!) which is available on youtube.   This app was largely created with the iphone app Auxy.

between 2 worlds EP cover 2

Stay tuned.  Follow along on Spotify!  There is also a growing extended Thirteenth Hourplaylist on Spotify with a growing number of retro 80s songs.

Check it out!

As always, thanks for listening!


The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #70: Reading of Mark Salzman’s Lost in Place: Growing up Absurd in Suburbia Chapter 2


Episode 70: Reading Chapter 2 of Mark Salzman’s Lost in Place

On today’s episode, we read Chapter 2 of one of my favorite books of all time, Lost in Place, which is a memoir written by Mark Salzman about his childhood and adolescence in suburban Connecticut during the 1970s.  We read chapter 1 back in episode #57.  Here’s a quick recap from the film Protagonist, where the author brings us up to speed:

Here he talk about his kung fu instructor, introduced in this chapter:

Thanks for listening!


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The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #29: Censorship, Children vs. Adults, and Raffle Winner

Episode #29: What age group is The Thirteenth Hour for?

-I get asked this question occasionally and am still refining my answer, which is generally, “adult, though teens over 16 may enjoy it as well.”  The only ones who generally seem interested in the answer are parents or grandparents not interested in the book for themselves but as a present for the children in their lives.  I feel it’s better to let them know what to expect first rather than have them surprised when little Johnny lets them know that someone in the book said, “oh, shit!”

That said, there are no f-bombs (sort of the king of English curse words), but, in the fine tradition of the 80s movies from which it drew inspiration, there are a few four letter words sprinkled in the text for emphasis.  No one has sex, either on or off the page.  No one loses a head or has organs ripped out.  But there are some fight scenes, as well as some introspective narrative passages on more adult-oriented things like growing older, waxing nostalgic for the seeming simplicity and innocence of childhood, the inevitable regrets along the way, the aftermath of traumatic experiences, the complicated and halting way romantic relationships start, and the struggle to become one’s own person … stuff that may not necessarily be the most interesting to an eight year old.  I sometimes say that if it were a movie, it’d probably get a PG-13 rating, which coincidentally, is what the movie The Martian is rated, and that does have a few f-bombs 🙂

Anyway, sometimes I think we protect children in very weird ways (e.g. banning books and other kinds of media).  But that is a different topic altogether and dangerously close to real world activism, which this corner of the internets strives to steer away from.

Onto other things …

-Although I’ve had guests on the show before (e.g. authors Lo-arna Green and Coreena McBurnie), I’ve not had live guests yet.  That is, until next week, when my brother, who writes about video games, will be joining me live!  We’ll be discussing the video games we tried to make when we were kids (as I discussed previously in this post which has a collection of Tomb Raider sprites I made for a game I never finished).

Starving Artist section: make some passive $$ by watching videos on your phone (you don’t have to watch ’em!) on Swagbucks!  See this guide on Reddit for the apps you’ll need to get in order to maximize your points: 

-Lastly, today I announce the winner of last week’s raffle hosted by Kelly St. Clare, chosen at random by the gods in the Rafflecopter machine:

Jeremy J., you’re the big winner! (You’ll be receiving an email from me with more info).  Congratulations!

As always, thanks for listening!


Joshua Blum Interview by Author Coreena McBurnie

Thanks to Coreena McBurnie, author of the mythological fantasy book Prophesy, Book 1, Antigone: The True Storyfor featuring this interview of me on her blog.  I had a chance to talk about topics like the creation of The Thirteenth Hour, how it was influenced by 80s fantasy, scifi, and John Huges teen movies, and how I envisioned the characters, especially their struggle to become adults in a world that doesn’t quite know what to do with people that are not quite teenagers but not yet firmly ensconced in the supposed security of middle adulthood (kind of like our actual world).  Watch for Coreena’s interview coming here soon as well as her appearance on the weekly podcast!




Dreaming Big, Not Giving Up, and Other Thoughts from The Thirteenth Hour

All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.

~T. E. Lawrence

Ask many children what they want to be when they grow up, and you’re likely to get a fantastical answer.  Professional football player, race care driver, ballerina, Hollywood actor, rock star, etc.  When my own brother was asked this question in nursery school, he said something to the effect of “someone who jumps off buildings” – he was really into Batman at the time.  I was pretty confident I was going to be an astronaut until I was about twelve, and then I wanted to be an American Indian (sort of), as described in this post here, so I could shoot bows and arrows all day (I’m sure an actual Native American would be horrified by this stereotype, but what can I say?  To me, it was a benefit).

But not very many of us go on to do those things.  So what happens to us?

We grow up, slog our way through school, realize most people don’t become astronauts, professional ballerinas, and rock stars, get “sensible” jobs instead, start paying taxes, start worrying about whether there will be tons of traffic slowing down the morning commute or how to make this month’s rent, get into relationships, have kids, start worrying about our kids’ futures and what college tuition will be in 2030, start taking Zantac before eating spicy foods … (maybe not in that exact order, but you get the picture).

And it’s no wonder.  Although this is too big a topic to discuss here, our world today is complicated.  Like the narrator says in The Gods Must be Crazy, modern man has to send his children to school for the majority of their formative years just to learn to survive in the world they were born into.  And now, increasingly, add on one to two more decades of schooling and/or training to become “independent” in this complex world we live in.
Perhaps because there’s so much “important” stuff that children are expected to master, they are often given the message that their hopes, wishes, and big ideas from childhood are nice … but, come on, get real, grow up, and take your place in line like the rest of us.  What’s more, that happens when children and young adults, when, as befitting their psychosocial developmental stages, they’re trying to figure out who they are, how they fit into the world, and what they want to do with their lives.

I would like to ask – is all this necessary?

Must we intentionally piss on the dreams of youth?

If you’re an adult reading this and have thoughts about trying to reality check the children around you – ask yourself: how would you have responded at their age if the future you tried to talk some sense into your younger self?  Would you have listened?  Would you have even cared?

There’s a scene in the 1985 movie, The Breakfast Club, where Vernon, the hardass principal is sitting with Carl, the school janitor (drinking beer in a closet, if I remember right) and musing about this very conundrum:

“Vernon: What did you want to be when you were young?
Carl: When I was a kid, I wanted to be John Lennon.
Vernon: Carl, don’t be a goof. I’m trying to make a serious point here. I’ve been teaching, for twenty two years, and each year, these kids get more and more arrogant.
Carl: Aw bullshit, man. Come on Vern, the kids haven’t changed, you have! You took a teaching position, ’cause you thought it’d be fun, right? Thought you could have summer vacations off and then you found out it was actually work and that really bummed you out.
Vernon: These kids turned on me. They think I’m a big fuckin’ joke.
Carl: Come on…listen Vern, if you were sixteen, what would you think of you, huh?
Vernon: Hey, Carl, you think I give one rat’s ass what these kids think of me?
Carl: Yes, I do.
Vernon: You think about this…when you get old, these kids; when I get old, they’re gonna be runnin’ the country.
Carl: Yeah?
Vernon: Now this is the thought that wakes me up in the middle of the night; that when I get older, these kids are gonna take care of me.
Carl: I wouldn’t count on it.”

And so, like Vern, we adults worry about the welfare of the future generation – maybe because we want them to do things we couldn’t, maybe because assuring their security ameliorates our anxiety about their future or makes us feel like good parents and role models, maybe because, like Vern, their success means our own futures are that much safer.  Or maybe because we just genuinely want the best for them or want to see potential fully realized.  There are many reasons to talk sense into fantasy, some out of self interest, some more altruistic.

So I ask again, must we piss on the dreams of youth for these things to happen?

I’m not a huge believer that every story needs to have an underlying message.  But if there is any one message behind The Thirteenth Hour, a fantasy novel of all things, it would encapsulated in the quotes from T.E. Lawrence and Harriet Tubman above – essentially, dreams are important, so make them big, for they are within your reach, and you shouldn’t give up on them.

Particularly the last part.  It’s an unspoken message in these quotes, but it’s there, under the surface – the sad fact that despite the mountains of pee that rain down on your dreams, you should hold fast to your umbrella and not let go.  It’s idealistic, that’s true, but that’s what dreams are – visions of something better, things that give us hope when we have none and help us get through the morning commute, the mountains of paperwork, the dead-end job, and the countless other mindless tasks we probably didn’t envision ourselves doing when we were children dreaming of being John Lennon.

You can help those younger than you in many ways.  Curiosity, hope, and optimism in the world’s possibilities are all qualities that can be as easily fostered as crushed.  Middle school, adolescence, and the early twenties will do a fair amount of the latter anyway, but less so if it’s circumstance, rather than the purposeful actions of another person, that does the crushing.  All this you know, because it’s probably happened to you, as it does to most of us.  But that doesn’t mean you have to like it.  Because underneath the calluses, the TPS reports, the bills, and the other trappings of adult life, beats the heart of a rock star, race car driver, jet fighter, Hollywood actress, or … even someone who jumps off buildings.

Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.

~Langston Hughes

All quotes from:

Writing the Main Characters

My brother once asked me if the characters in The Thirteenth Hour were based on myself. I don’t think so, at least not on purpose. I suppose every writer injects some of himself in the characters that he creates, but I didn’t set out to do this consciously, although I no doubt suspect that there were plenty of unconscious contributions.

The character of Logan was somebody I envisioned as being unassuming and initially kind of naive, not yet possessing the confidence that comes from having more experience in life. Despite losing his parents at a young age, I want to portray the rest of his childhood in as secure a way as possible. I think there’s sometimes a stereotype to portray institutions like orphanages as evil, bureaucratic places that are understaffed, underfunded, and poorly run. And while there are no doubt some places like that, I wanted to paint a better picture for Logan’s childhood environment in order to give him the kind of consistent, safe, caring support that I thought he’d need to equip him for the challenges that he would face in the story. I also wanted him to be someone that spoke to the reader in an honest, sometimes irreverent way, kind of like an adult who’s looking back on his life but has a good idea what it still is like to be a kid (although I didn’t specifically think of it at the time, the narrators from The Wonder Years, Stand By Me, and The Christmas Story do this quite well). I thought it important that he not take himself too seriously, because let’s face it, there are a lot of lousy, humiliating things that happen to everyone when they’re kids that seem a lot funnier years later.

If you’ve read the book, you know that the Logan narrates the majority of the story interspersed by sections told by Aurora. She was not based on anyone in particular, but rather a compilation of characteristics that I thought would make her an interesting independent character yet a good friend and partner to Logan. The creation of young adult female characters has always seemed a bit more loaded than the creation of their male counterparts. I’ve often gotten the impression that some authors write their female characters with some kind of agenda in mind; instead of it just being a story about a human that happens to be female, it’s a story about a woman who is strong, or a woman who is not strong, or a woman who is not strong and becomes strong, or … whatever! While I wanted her to be able to stand on her own two feet, I didn’t want it to be for some kind of feminist or politically correct agenda; I just thought that would be the most realistic way of depicting her given what she has to go through in the story.

Like Logan, Aurora spends much of the book trying to figure out the world around her while navigating the challenges of young adulthood – namely figuring oneself out and finding love. This is, of course, something that all teenagers go through. It was this awkward mix of yearning, anticipation, and reckless abandon that I hoped to capture. Unfortunately, it took me about sixteen years to finally get it to where I was satisfied with it, but that, to me, was more important than any of the adventure parts of the story.

There are a few writers out there I’m aware of that have captured the world of the adolescent well – novelist Cynthia Voigt (Homecoming, A Solitary Blue, Jackaroo) and screenwriter John Hughes (Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful) come to mind – and it strikes me now that one of the most critical things you can do for a teenager is let him or her know that – hey, you know what, there’s someone out there who gets you, who remembers how lousy it can be, and despite all the eye rolling and grunts you might give, is going to hold you to a higher standard and isn’t going to talk to you like you’re a three year old while doing it. Of course, I didn’t understand or care about any of that then; I wrote the first draft of The Thirteenth Hour when I was a teenager. But the nice thing about having written the story when I did was that it gave both me and the characters time and space to grow. It often seemed that as got older, I got to know them better and better. I might even go so far as to say that we all kind of grew up together. So in many ways, The Thirteenth Hour is less about the physical journey that the characters take and more about the journey they take from children to adults.





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