Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Interview With Author Gwydhar Gebien



1.      What inspired you to write a series of novels? Some people find themselves driven by inexorable forces that compel them along an inalterable path toward their ultimate destiny. For me, that inexorable force was the #66 bus in Chicago, which daily compelled me along its inalterable path along Chicago Avenue to my day job downtown in the Loop. Because this is America and one must have gainful employment. Anxious to find ways to Reclaim My Time in the face of the daily grind, I used the time on my commute to daydream and write little stories about  characters that I liked to imagine I shared the city with.

Damen, the protagonist of the “Enfant Terrible” series, was named after Damen Avenue, a major cross-street in Chicago which the bus route crossed daily. He sprang forth from my mind nearly fully formed, immediately began screaming in my ear demanding that his story be told, and proceeded to stay there for the next fifteen years until I got it on paper.

2.      What exactly are they about and who is it written for? The books tell the story of Damen Warner, the front man for a metalcore band which has hit the skids. In the beginning, he is at a crossroads, having just turned thirty and now finding himself confronted by a huge personal failure. He returns to his hometown of Chicago but in doing so now has to confront his estranged family: his elderly grandmother, his emotionally unavailable mother, a brain-damaged but favored younger brother, a successful but distant sister, and most critically, his stepfather, Michael, toward whom his resentment knows no bounds.


While contriving to revive his career he falls in love with a woman named Melody with a five-year-old daughter. As their relationship deepens, Damen finds himself cast as an erstwhile father-figure to the ‘Girl Child,’ teaching her to stand up to bullies, caring for her during sickness, and soothing her night terrors. For the first time, he imagines a future beyond rock-stardom, but old habits die hard and at every turn he doubles-down on bad decisions until his life reaches a crisis point and he is forced to confront his demons—and his drinking—head on.


Ultimately, this is a coming-of-age story about the continual process of growing into adulthood. It was written for anyone who set out in life with great expectations only to have their ass handed to them be confronted by reality and learning to reinvent themselves on the fly. I anticipate it is likely to resonate most strongly with elder Millennials like myself who grew up with great optimism only to come of age into a world turned upside-down by 9-11 and worldwide recession. 


3.      What do you hope readers will get out of reading your books?  I wrote these books hoping to give readers a fun and wild ride as they follow alongside a cast of colorful characters—the kind of people you may or may not enjoy knowing in real life but sure are fun to watch from a safe distance. Ultimately, I hope readers will take away a message about personal growth and redemption: that it’s never too late to change and that finding a place where you belong might be closer than you ever imagined. 


4.      How did you decide on your book’s title and cover design?  I had the pleasure of working with a fantastic cover designer and book formatter named Emily Bratton (10/10, would recommend). She was able to take my concepts of calling back old-school punk posters created by Xeroxing an image onto bright paper. Each cover makes use of graphic elements in black and white on a single bright color from the CMYK color scheme (to tie the series together). The series title: “Enfant Terrible” comes from the expression used to describe both a young, successful person known for being unorthodox or avant-garde, as well as someone known for shocking remarks and outrageous behavior—both of which describe the protagonist.


5.      What advice or words of wisdom do you have for fellow writers – other than run!? I’m hardly in a position to give anyone advice about writing because I only really know what words for me. Things like “Take the bus so you have 40 minutes of writing time two times per day” or “If you don’t know what the character should do next, just write about what you are experiencing in that moment to keep your pen moving.” Everyone’s process is different and no two people can walk the same path to success. Everything takes way longer than you think it should. The key is to focus on the next step and to just keep going: as long as you keep taking steps, the path will keep rising up to meet you.


6.      What trends in the book world do you see -- and where do you think the book publishing industry is heading?  I like to think that the normalizing of self-publishing has opened the world to an array of stories that otherwise wouldn’t make it past the gatekeepers of traditional publishing outlets. As a result, there is a new level of vibrancy and range to the stories available to readers nowadays. At the same time, the sheer volume of books available—and the proliferation of AI generated content—is flooding readers with more content than they can possibly read. As a result, I think readers are going to become more discerning about what they look for in a book and will seek stories that express and find meaning in the experience of being human.


7.      Were there experiences in your personal life or career that came in handy when writing this book?  I wasted most of my twenties trying to prove myself. I had this notion that if I could just achieve enough, I would become worthy of attention and acclaim. I would be Good Enough. That I would Belong. Predictably, those years turned out to be a series of episodes of depression and anxiety as I tried and failed to live up to my own impossible expectations. In a large part, these books were written as an outlet for my internalized frustration and rage. Just as Damen is forced to examine the underlying issues of his mental health, so too was I. Forced to admit I couldn’t just keep white-knuckling my way through crisis-level depression, I sought treatment. In the course of my therapy, I was formally diagnosed as being on the Autism spectrum and all my lifelong feelings of not-quite-fitting-in made sense. A lot of pieces fell into place and with this new clarity on my past I was finally able to escape the vortex of my insecurities. Much of this journey of discovery was incorporated directly into Damen’s story. (Names and places have been changed to protect the innocent.)


8.      How would you describe your writing style? Which writers or books is your writing similar to? I like to describe my stories as character driven ensemble stories told with a comedic tone and a sincere message, which might best be described as “heartfelt but warped.” Much of my narrative voice was influenced by ‘The Neils’:  Neil Gaiman, Neal Stephenson, and Neil Strauss.


9.      What challenges did you overcome in the writing of these books? Listen, it’s hard to write a book, full stop. It’s hard to write a book while working full time. It’s hard to write a book while struggling to make ends meet while making slightly-more-than-minimum-wage. It’s hard to write a book while struggling with mental health issues. It’s hard to write a book and to receive only silence as a response to queries. It’s hard to write and self-publish a book only to be lost in the vast ocean of reading material available to readers nowadays. Every step of writing a book is a new challenge to be overcome but really, I wouldn’t have it any other way: the challenges persist, but so do I.


10.  If people can buy or read one book this week or month, why should it be yours? Have you ever wanted to hang out backstage with a rock star? Have you ever wanted to really get to know them as a person? All their hopes and dreams and successes and failures? Do you enjoy wild stories about crazy antics, about complex and emotionally layered characters? Do you appreciate a good redemption arc? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, the “Enfant Terrible” series might be right for you. Giving up premium coffee and/or avocado toast may not save you enough money to buy a house but it would save you enough money to buy one or more of these books. Now’s your chance to read them while they’re still indie and underground. 


About The Author: Gwydhar Gebien is an author, screenwriter, filmmaker, and artist who is best known for her “Enfant Terrible” novels. When she is not spinning her works of heartfelt but slightly warped narrative fiction, she works as a production coordinator for Skydance Animation on the animated feature “Spellbound,” which is slated for release in 2024. Her previous film production experience also includes writing and directing a number of award-winning independent short films through her production company Blue Damen Pictures. She was trained in Theatre Arts and Fine Art at Illinois Wesleyan University and has a Master’s degree in film production from University of Southern California. Originally from Chicago, she now lives in a small pink house in Los Angeles with her husband and a growing collection of unfinished arts and crafts projects.  Website:



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