Jane Two is the debut novel from accomplished actor and director Sean Patrick Flanery. It details the moment young Mickey falls in love with Jane, both too young to fully comprehend their feelings or how to go about expressing them. It’s hard to put pen to paper and do this book full justice, despite being set against the backdrop of Texas, there’s just something so relatable about the story Sean has written.
Not only does it follow Mickey’s journey of love for Jane, but documents the goings on of the other people in his life, the strained relationship with his sister, the wise words from Kevin, someone who seems to have been written off by the rest of the community as a failure and the bond Mickey has with his Grandaddy a man who offers up sage advice for the young boy to live by. The character of Mickey is endearing, at times I literally wanted to reach into the book and stand by his side to help him manoeuvre his way closer to his dream. It perfectly captures the way we perceive things and how time can pass by so quickly, and before we realise, it’s too late.
I’m not ashamed to say that it drew tears from eyes and sobs from my mouth as I read it on the commute to work, it’s very rare for me to be blown away by a piece of writing, but this truly moved me. Reading this book is an experience, an ethereal journey that takes your breath away page after page and I implore you to read it. Without a shadow of doubt, this is the best book I have read this year. I was fortunate enough to get some time with the man himself and here’s what he had to say.
What is it about someone’s first love that can shape who they become so deeply?
I blink at the term “puppy” when it’s used to describe love as a sort of discounted version of itself. It’s just love. I think love is life’s most potent narcotic. And our first exposure to it is rarely handled correctly. But it does offer a taste of something that we’ll chase, usually unsuccessfully, for the rest of our lives. But by then we’ll most likely be armed with a newfound adult logic and thus fatally ill-equipped to ever find it again. Because finding it requires a certain abandon from the same things that we’ve consumed to become just that: grown-ups. Sometimes it’s the “adult” things that preclude us from ever seeing what we’ve waited for adulthood to see.
One thing I noticed was the relationship of music as a way of communicating or explaining feelings to Jane, did music play an important role to you when you were writing?
I sometimes find even more philosophy in music than in even philosophy. And I think I write from philosophy, so it’s no shock that I go looking there. I find that some of the beautiful messages and thoughts contained in song are sometimes more resonant than those in books, because the music leaves a little trail of breadcrumbs right back to the idea, which loops me right back around again. I always know where to find it. And oftentimes, when the music is speaking the same language as the words, they together become an amplified version of something new entirely. I don’t know all the things that I need to surround myself with to be able to write, because I’m really just figuring this out. But, I know what I cannot write without, and that’s music.
Talk about importance of place in your writing. How is Texas the perfect backdrop for this coming-of-age, small-town love story?
It’s like my Grandaddy used to say, “If you gotta look for the light switch when you wake up to pee, you ain’t at home.” And I think “home” is really the only thing you can write with any authority.
How do you think memories can change with time? Do you think it’s better to edit memories to cope, or would it be better to vividly remember the past in order to move forward?
I think some people compartmentalize, and some people quarantine memories, depending on their capabilities. I think it’s important that they don’t change, but it’s like the weak link in a chain. [Memories] can be like parasites to a host. They will either serve him, or kill him. I tend to handcuff the violent offenders—but they’re free to roam.
Let’s talk about missed opportunity as a motivator in your novel. What is the significance of roads not traveled in Mickey’s journey?
Regret has sharp teeth, but there’s a version of her called “what if” that has a mouth of razor blades. I think if you’re not changed by life’s lessons, then you’ve missed the point. And there are lessons learned from both the doing, and the not. But windows of opportunity really are portholes. They’re not bay windows.
In addition to a coming-of-age story, your novel is partial family saga. How does a family repair its fissures and grow together? And what about this genre is so appealing?
Man, I’m not so sure the genre is appealing at all. There are no guns. No nudity. Maybe I wrote this thirty years too late! But I feel better because of it. Maybe someone else will too.
The book had so many moments that made me stop and take note of a particular section, it’s basically very quotable and beautifully written, and I can see from Twitter that other people feel the same way, how does it feel for you to see people quoting sections of your work?
It really flares a nerve ending that I didn’t even know existed. It’s one that keeps the pride swollen for days. And “flattered” doesn’t really seem to sum it up. It’s bigger than that, and tingles a different place.
I read a lot and was blown away by the way you seemed to capture emotions and situations so eloquently, what’s taken you so long to sit down and write a book?
I guess I was waiting for something that I just couldn’t not say. But really, I wasn’t waiting at all. I just suddenly decided to do a certain thing the moment it became necessary. And if I’m honest, I wasn’t compelled to become a writer . . . I was just compelled to write this book.
My second book, The Boudin Heirloom, which dives further into the legacy that my Grandaddy left me. It’s the details about my paternity, and my dad’s, and James’. I have three films releasing in 2016: Trafficked with Ashley Judd, Anne Archer and Elizabeth Rohm; an as-of-yet untitled WWII picture for Sony with Steven Land and Kip Pardue; and Unhinged with Eric Balfour, a killer indie film.
And finally, if you could give one piece of advice to any young Mickeys out there what would it be?
That windows of opportunity really are portholes and not bay windows, and should be leapt through at first sight. And that the regret of not trying will gnaw at you far longer than the little knick of a failed attempt.
Jane Two is published by Center Street and is available from Amazon (RRP £6.99) The hardcover is available from all good bookshops (RRP £18.99)