Just Shut Up and Drive
by Chynna Laird
Genre: Coming of Age, Contemporary
Eighteen-year old Wil Carter can think of more than a fistful of things he’d rather do than go on a road trip with his ninety-five year old grandfather. But when Gramps Wilf barks an order, you listen or get an earful of grief.
Wil lost his parents in a horrible car accident when he was five. Gramps has been the only parent he has ever known. Now that he’s ready to go off to college, the old man says he has things Wil needs to learn to be the man he’s supposed to be. But the trip turns out to be more than he bargains for.
Along their week-long road trip across the Canadian Prairies, Wil not only learns tidbits about his own life, but realizes the grandfather he thought he knew has mysteries of his own. With each stop they make, a new layer of emotional truth is revealed…for each of them.
Will Gramps teach Wil what he needs to know before the journey ends? And is Wil strong enough to hear it?
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"Gramps," Wil sighed. "I'm going the speed limit. Anyway, what is the hurry?"
"The hurry is I hate being a passenger, especially yours," he said, emphasizing each word. "And watch your mouth, boy. You aren't too old for me to give a whoppin' to."
"You're just ticked because they won't let you drive anymore. It's your own fault for not taking care of your eyes. And for the record, I'm not exactly thrilled at the moment having you as a passenger."
"You better watch your attitude, or I'll take this truck back."
"Correct me if I'm wrong, but it was Dad's, right? And I think you told me he wanted you to give it to me. Guess that means it isn't yours to take."
Gramps got a sour look on his stern face, like he'd just sucked on a lime. "Don't you be talking to me like I'm some crazy old coot who's lost his mind. I remember what I said. Shoulda charged you for it, considering the lip I have to put up with every time I'm gonna be in here with you."
"And what makes you think I'm going to drive you around everywhere in this beautiful truck? I'll chauffeur you around in my car."
"That piece of crap? Hmph. Forget it."
Wil stared at the road ahead of them. "You could take a cab, you know. Or the bus." Sam Hill help the poor drivers.
"Nah," Gramps said, slugging back the rest of his coffee and shoving the empty cup in a plastic bag. "I get much more pleasure out of torturing you than I would a stranger."
I noticed. "Alrighty, then. So you got a plan for us, or are we just going to keep going until we run out of gas?"
Gramps crossed his arms over his chest and looked out his window. "First stop is gonna be Elie."
Wil released a sharp breath and squinted. "Seriously? There's, like, 100 people living there."
"Six hundred and fifty."
"Close enough. And I'm sure the census people were able to gather them all in one place and count them at once. C'mon, Gramps. What could possibly be in that small town worth checking out? If we drive straight on, we can get to Portage la Prairie for lunch—"
"Just because a place isn't all lit up like Vegas doesn't mean it shouldn't be visited," Gramps interrupted. "Some places need to be seen because they're gold mines for memories. We're stopping at Elie."
Wil had a smart-butt retort clinging to the tip of his tongue, but he held it there after giving Gramps a side-glance. The old man rested his chin on his right fist and stared out his window.
"Fine. I guess we're stopping at Elie," Wil mumbled.
Like my vote even counted.
You’ll find her work in many online and in-print parenting, inspirational, Christian and writing publications in Canada, United States, Australia, and Britain. In addition, she’s authored an award-winning children’s book (I’m Not Weird, I Have SPD), two memoirs (the multi award-winning, Not Just Spirited: A Mom’s Sensational Journey With SPD and White Elephants), a Young Adult novella (Blackbird Flies), an adult Suspense/Thriller (Out Of Sync), a Young Adult Suspense/Paranormal (Dark Water) and a contemporary New Adult novel (Just Shut Up and Drive,). She is presently working on a sequel to Not Just Spirited as well as the next book in the Dark Water series. Stayed tuned as Chynna has several Works-In-Progress on the go.
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I am a complete stickler for routine. Almost to the point of being OCD about it. OH! And I like working by the light of my Walking Dead desk lamp. My husband teasingly calls me a vampire because I actually prefer to work in dim light. Don’t get me wrong, I am a sun worshipper. But there’s something about working in the near dark that gets my creative juices flowing.
I’m sure my optometrist appreciates my preference to work in the near dark. I’m sure my eyes are getting worse with each book I write. lol
Tell us something really interesting that's happened to you!
I have a few wonderful things that I think are pretty cool. One thing about me is that I am a HUGE Beatles fan. Like, HUGE! So much so that I have made my children mini-Beatles fans. In fact, they have been listening to the band since utero.
I was always torn between John and Ringo – John for his creativity and talent, Ringo for his sense of humor and love for humanity. A few years ago, Ringo was performing in Alberta but not here in Edmonton. If I’d wanted to see him, I had to travel down to Calgary to watch the show. There were about 50 tickets for VIP packages where buyers not only got to see the show, but got to meet the Fab drummer face-to-face. After much waffling, mostly due to the fact I had to leave my children with their dad (and two of them have special needs who totally depended on me for everything at that time), I bought myself a ticket.
I wrote a story about the whole adventure, but the short version is that I got to the show, met Ringo in person and even got a hug! I’d say that was one of the most exciting things that’s ever happened to me.
I mean, I’ve had opportunities interviewing awesome people like Gary Wright, several celebrity chefs, soap opera stars, fellow authors, musicians and movie people but to actually meet, touch and converse with a Beatle…? Well, that just shortened my bucket list.
What are some of your pet peeves?
There are a lot of things that just rub me the wrong way but things that are ‘pet peeves’ to me are things you just can’t ignore and would throttle someone for.
Arrogance, tunnel-vision, lying, manipulation, guilting, gum snapping, cracking knuckles, high-pitched noises, overly-perky people (especially in the morning), being poked, close-talkers and touchy-feely people. I think there may be a few more but those are the main things that set me off.
What are your top 10 favorite books/authors?
Oh boy. This is a tough one for me, but here we go (in no particular order):
~ It – Stephen King. This book scared the crap out of me for weeks. He so deserves the title of ‘King of horror’.
~ Letter to My Daughter – Maya Angelou. I love almost anything she writes.
~ Chocolate On A Stick – Carole Bellacera. She’s my writing mentor and helped inspire me to get Out Of Sync out.
~ Tasting Rain – Kim Malchuk
~ Anything by John Grisham
~ Thinking In Pictures – Dr. Temple Grandin. Very inspiring book for those living with or raising a child with Spectrum disorders and/or SPD.
~ Anything by Jodi Picoult.
~ Whale Song by Cheryl Kaye Tardiff.
~ Mutant Message Down Under – Marlo Morgan. Oddly, this was a book I had to read for University but I read it in two days. The message in the book of self-healing is so powerful.
~ Leaving the Hall Light On - Madeline Sharples. A book about raising/living with a child who lives with Bipolar Disorder. The book hit very close to home for me.
What inspired you to write this book?
I guess I was missing my grandfather one day and thought, ‘What if we’d gone on a road trip together?’. Obviously, it wouldn’t have been as adventurous as it was in the book, but it still would have been fun.
I wrote Just Shut Up and Drive for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), a challenge for authors and authors-to-be to get a novel written in a month. It was all done in less than a month. Like most of my fiction, the story was all finished in my head it just needed to be written down.
What can we expect from you in the future?
Great question. I am working on two separate novels simultaneously, one of which is a sequel to my YA novel “Dark Water”. I have a children’s picture book coming out late spring called ‘Don’t Rush Me’ that is based on my daughter’s experiences being the sibling of an older sister with special needs (SPD). I also have a sequel coming out early next year for ‘Not Just Spirited’. And I have a few other projects in the works in the YA and NA genres.
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?
What’s interesting is that I seem to write in the POV of a young male than that of a female. Weird, huh? Wil has a lot of my own personality traits, most specifically his sarcasm. Gramps’ character is how my grandfather would have been if he had been more of an extravert. Those traits are what inspired all the hilarious banter between the two men.
There are no real ‘side stories’ about Wil. Readers will learn about his history as they are taken along his journey. However, Gramps’ house is an exact description of my grandparents’ real house in Winnipeg; Bassey’s Pharmacy, where Wil worked, was a real place and where I got my first job in my teens; and every stop they make along their journey are real small towns in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
Where were you born/grew up at?
Oh boy. I don’t admit this unless openly asked (lol). I was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba in Canada. It’s called a ‘Prairie City’ as it is smack dab in the middle of the Canadian Prairies. It’s known for its flat landscape; long, cold and very snowy winters; and mosquito-infested summers. Although not a place a lot of people plan their vacation time to visit, the province does have some good points.
It doesn’t have the beautiful mountains or popular tourist attraction resorts as found in Alberta or British Columbia, but there are some of the most beautiful lakes found in Manitoba, including West Hawk Lake where my grandfather built the cabin we were fortunate enough to have been able to escape to every summer of my childhood. There is also a strong focus on the Native culture, which I always loved and a major influence in much of my writing.
I moved away from Manitoba many years ago, however, there are a few things I will always treasure and hold close to my heart.
If you knew you'd die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?
You know, I find this question so ironic because I have been very close to it recently.
Long story short, I had been diagnosed with cervical cancer (for the third time). Because it was a reoccurring cancer, I had to undergo a more intense investigation into the problem to make sure that it hadn’t spread, as well as to see if there were any underlying health issues. There were.
I found out that not only did I have the cancer to deal with, I also have liver disease, digestive issues, a lung condition and one functioning kidney. Most disturbing to me was that due to the damage and scarring from these conditions, it was determined that I have been dealing with them my whole life and not known it. On top of all of that, I was experiencing vertigo problems and blacking/passing out constantly. After an incident where I passed out and hit my head, it was discovered through a head MRI that I had an old neck injury (fracture) in my neck that I had re-injured, causing the passing out, etc.
Needless to say, I was rather overwhelmed and did not handle it in the positive ways I always have. I turned to alcohol for a few months, which, of course, intensified my symptoms and caused further damage. It was a temporary crutch that I gave up without much difficulty, but not before having several hospital trips. The last one, the doctor on call advised me, in front of my husband and my older two children, that if I didn’t change my lifestyle and start being more proactive and aggressive with treating my conditions and symptoms, he gave me two months to live. Needless to say, that scared me back to reality.
So, to answer your question: I would spend my last day thanking God to have allowed me to be here this long, being grateful to those who have stuck by me and made me strong enough to go on, forgiving myself, and simply enjoying the love and support of my beautiful children. After all, everything I do and everything I am has been for them.
Who is your hero and why?
It’s funny because we all have people we consider to be strong inspirations for various reasons. We should all surround ourselves with people who are doing amazing things and who we aspire to be. But a ‘hero’ is someone who touches us in a deeply emotional way and who we can credit for shaping us into the person we are. That person for me is my grandfather.
Now there are those in my life who would tell you I have put my grandfather on a pedestal. I’m not sure that is true. People put on pedestals are worshipped, most times undeservedly, by those who have put blinders on to the not-so-wonderful things that person has done (or neglected to do). I wasn’t like that with my grandfather. There were things in his past before I was born, and even during the times I was in his life, that he wasn’t proud of. However, he never harped on those things, felt sorry for himself or blamed anyone for any of his short-comings or bad decisions. He owned them and learned from them.
Without getting into too much detail here, I had a very rough childhood. My brother and I were exposed to a tremendous amount of abuse, neglect and exposure to substance abuse from my mother (Grandpa’s daughter). Perhaps because of that, he felt a sense of responsibility to ensure that neither of us ended up on the same path.
My grandfather was tough on me, but I needed it. He instilled self-worth, self-esteem and self-confidence in me that I hadn’t had before. He never got angry with me for making mistakes (and I made some loo-loos, trust me), but guided me to learn from them and move on. He gave me the loving support I needed to become who I am today. He was that silent cheering squad in everything I did. His constant reminder to me whenever I’d face adversity or failure was, “I am proud of whatever you choose to become. You can be a garbage girl, as long as you are the best damn garbage girl out there.”
I am not a garbage girl, although some of the jobs I’ve had may fall into that category, but I think he’d be proud of who I am today, and how hard I’ve worked to get here.
He is my hero because he was there, and I still feel his support to this day.
What book do you think everyone should read?
I am a book geek so I am very well read in many different genres (you should see my book shelves!). I am a huge fan of Maya Angelou. She was one of the most gifted, deeply spirited and wisest women I have ever known.
What I loved about her above all else was that she was never afraid to speak her mind on any subject, regardless of what others thought. She was the model of what every girl and woman should aspire to be: strong, courageous, perseverant, confident and inspiring. Her readings, books and sayings have gotten me through many a tough time. And she went through hard times and made bad decisions, like any of the rest of us. The difference is, unlike a lot of people, she learned from those bad decisions and hard times and used them as a way to come to a better place.
Although I’d recommend any of her books for different reasons and where a person is in his or her life, “Letter To My Daughter” hit really close to home for me, especially being a mom of three girls. All girls and women, as well as the men who love them, should read this book.
What kind of world ruler would you be?
This probably would mean nothing to those who are not avid Walking Dead fans, however, I see myself as being the sort of ruler that King Ezekiel is. He is wise, but welcomes insight from those around him. He is fair, but ensures there are consequences for not following rules or bringing harm to others. He is strong, but has no fear in being vulnerable or showing/sharing his emotions. He is aware of what is going on around his kingdom, right and wrong, and ensures that those he is responsible for understand his or her position in the world. He doesn’t expect anything from anyone that he is not willing to undertake himself. He strives for equality, peace, awareness and knowledge as well as instills a strong sense of self-reliance, self-respect and empathy towards others in all those who follow him.
Plus he’s got a white tiger for a pet. How cool is that?