Starting over is always easier among strangers. For Ford Carson, the process meant leaving behind the waves of South Florida in order to forge a new life as a visual artist in the mountains of North Carolina. At the peak of his reinvention, he meets Grace Burnett—a young, wealthy Texas transplant in the midst of her own transformation. A mutual infatuation develops. But when Grace’s estranged husband arrives complications ensue. Matters only worsen when Ford’s own estranged son announces plans to visit for his eighteenth birthday. Thomas Calder’s debut novel explores the lasting impact of broken bonds and the unanticipated ways the past haunts those on the run.
Targeted Age Group:: 25-55
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The Wind Under the Door began as a short story back in 2014 for a workshop I was taking with professor and writer Robert Boswell, during my MFA at the University of Houston. I've always been drawn to books about characters running from, or ignoring, their past. So I was inspired to create a story about a pair of strangers who happen to meet each other and become romantically involved in the midst of their individual reinventions, in order to explore the types of problems that arise when people avoid self-analysis and attempt to go full speed ahead into the next phase of their life.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
My characters evolved over several years and multiple drafts, which is to say I came up with them gradually. My two main character, Ford Carson and Grace Burnett, were always mercurial and somewhat guarded. But there came a point where I realized they were both incredibly vulnerable people, and that this vulnerability had to come out at times in the novel for readers to fully appreciate these characters stories.
Bright bulbs outlined the Funland sign, a small amusement park just east of Gatlinburg. Ford followed Grace through the outdoor crowd, passing bumper cars and a rundown go-kart track. They ended up at Thunder Road, a wooden roller coaster with a handwritten note at its gate announcing that it was the final weekend to ride before it shut down for the season. Its farewell tour drew an unimpressive crowd.
They sat in the front car. The attendant, a teenage boy, locked them in. Once the bar was set, the young employee looked at Grace. His dull, tired eyes widened.
“You’re that girl,” he said.
She ignored him.
The ride slowly climbed out of the gate. “Billy,” the attendant called back to one of his pals. “It’s her!”
At the top of the track, before the drop, Grace clutched Ford’s knee and said something, but the wind pulled her words out of reach. The car jerked to the left, then dropped, circling back around before climbing a slope. Behind them a small boy screamed that he wanted off.
Grace leaned into Ford. He anticipated her tongue’s wet kiss inside his ear. Instead, she shouted, “I’m so fucking depressed.”
By then the boy was crying behind them. Ford tried turning to see him, but the ride shot through a brief tunnel before taking a shallow dip.
“Make it stop,” the boy screamed.
As if answering the boy’s plea, the ride came to a halt. They pulled up to the loading station. Only a few people waited in line. Grace let go of Ford’s knee.
“You ain’t gonna ride it again?” the attendant asked.
Once more Grace ignored the teenage boy, leaving the platform. The attendant and his pal Billy both stood silent, watching her walk toward the arcade.
Ford considered the boys. “You know her?” he asked them.
The two eyed Ford. “No sir,” the attendant finally spoke, kicking at the ground. “She just comes here a bunch. Always riding the coaster.”
Ford left the pair, passing a bench where the fearful little boy clung to his father’s neck, sobbing.
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