On Feb. 7, author Willy Vlautin made an appearance in room C-120 to give students an in-depth look into his novel, “The Motel Life,” and to speak about the process he underwent while writing this novel.
Willy Vlautin is an American author and the lead singer of “Richmond Fontaine.” Vlautin was born in 1964 and raised in Reno, Nev. He currently resides in Scappoose, Oregon.
The Motel Life takes place in Reno, Nevada, and is centered on two brothers, Frank and Jerry Lee Flannigan. These brothers are high school ‘drop-outs’ who live in cheap motel rooms, working small and odd jobs for money and who drink heavily. “Reno is a city that preys on the weak,” says Vlautin.
In “The Motel Life,” while driving drunk during a blizzard one night, Jerry Lee accidentally hits a teenage boy riding a bicycle. There are no witnesses and not a single person is around to help him. Jerry Lee attempts to take the boy to the hospital, but the boy dies, and the car instead finds its way to Frank’s motel room.
“It’s a book about trying to stand up and do the right thing when you don’t know how to. These brothers live in the kind of self-hatred people have when not acting like the person they think they should be,” says Vlautin.
Frank and Jerry Lee Flannigan have an exceptionally difficult time maneuvering through life because their self-hatred cripples them. They feel stuck in their situation. They have grown up living the ‘motel life,’ with their biggest influences being drug addicts, alcoholics and gamblers from a young age.
The brothers constantly have to escape the bad luck that fate gives them. Convinced that bad luck follows them, Frank and Jerry Lee leave town to evade the police, not knowing that the police are not even conducting an investigation on the missing boy. It is on this journey that the two brothers will test their bond.
“I was interested in the idea of them being decent guys who don’t know how to be the men they want to be. If you don’t have any decent role models, a lot of people flounder. These two brothers could be decent guys if they were to have the right influence,” said Vlautin.
When asked about his creative writing process, Vlautin says, “I always write books that I would like to read and live in. Writing a novel takes years.”
The Motel Life was an editor’s choice in the New York Times book review. The novel has also been named one of the top 25 books of the year by the Washington Post and has received the Nevada Silver Pen Award in 2007.
Polsky Films is currently working on the film version of “The Motel Life,” starring Emile Hirsch, Stephen Dorff, Dakota Fanning and Kris Kristofferson. The release date has yet to be revealed.
“Reading this book, initially it came across as a sad story. But hearing the author read it in his own voice made the story more realistic,” says Erin Dawson.
“He’s a character from the story. You can tell he definitely wrote it,” says Matt Hart.
Vlautin advises all aspiring writers to edit their work.
“I don’t have much skill, I don’t think. But I have perseverance. I’ll tinker on my novels for years. A good writer always edits. I always edit like I’m trying to save a drowning story,” says Vlautin.