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Having the Write Stuff

October 29, 2007

A Feature Article of The Woodburn Independant
December 9th, 2003  pg. 9

Perry Perkins, a Gervais author, is awaiting publication of his first book, “Just Past Oysterville.”  By John Baker

Ever hear of a town called Oysterville?
For most, the answer would probably be a puzzled “no,” but for local resident Perry Perkins, there’s an intimate relationship with the Washington coastal town.

Perkins, who lives right on the border of Woodburn and Gervais, is awaiting the publication of his first novel, “Just Past Oysterville.”

He knows plenty about the town.

“I started this novel in 1998 after I took an anniversary trip with my wife up to the Long Beach Peninsula in Washington,” Perkins explained. “We ran into this town called Oysterville and I loved the name so much. When I decided to write a novel based on the title, I went through three different story ideas before finding one that I liked for the title.”

The process of writing took years, but Perkins stuck with it, making repeated trips to Oysterville to research the book, as well as continuing to work the keys of his word processor. Doggedly determined, Perkins finished “Just Past Oysterville,” in January of this year.

The book is currently in press. Perkins said he expects the first set of galley proofs back any time and once they arrive it should be about six weeks before it hits the press for publication. The scheduled release of the book is tentatively set for early April.

“It’s a book written in the Christian mystery genre, much like Frank Peretti and Randy Alcorn,” said Perkins. “It very much comes from the premise that forgiveness is an inherent need for everyone — God’s forgiveness, our forgiveness of others, and other’s forgiveness of us.”
Synopsis
“It’s kind of a story about forgiveness and what can happen when we choose to forgive or not to forgive,” Perkins explained.

A young girl loses her mother in a car accident and when she goes through the personal effects, she discovers her parent’s marriage certificate.

On it is the name of the father she’s never known, and a strange name for his place of birth — “Just Past Oysterville.”

When the girl looks on a map of Washington’s coast, she see that there is nothing past Oysterville. It’s the last town on the Long Beach peninsula.

The rest of the book follows her journey to find the father she’s never seen, and to make a decision — forgive him for now being in her life, or simply deliver the news that her mother is dead and walk away.

Along the way she meets Jack, an older, crusty gentleman who becomes a portrait of what happens when you don’t forgive and carry it with you your whole life.

“Oysterville is a very interesting town,” said Perkins. “It has an interesting gold rush history and some very interesting people in its past. I spent a lot of time there.”
A little of himself
“My favorite part of the book is how we learn something about Jack’s past,” said Perkins. “As a younger man in the ministry, we learn about some of the situations he encountered.

“I think every writer has something of themselves in their characters,” he added. “There’s a lot of me in Jack — a somewhat crusty, opinionated character. That something that runs contrary to what we sometimes think youth pastors or pastors should be. He doesn’t pull any punches and is very straight-forward. I’ve been accused of that having been a youth pastor myself. There’s a lot of humor in his past.”

Perkins has been writing since the fourth grade, when one of his poems was published by The Oregonian. He got more serious about it after high school and through college, and has spent the last six years writing for outdoor magazines and penning drama scripts and plays.

“This is my first novel,” he said.

Through the process of setting a story down on paper, Perkins said he’s learned a little about life and about himself. The process, he said, has taught him much.

“As I worked through the book, I learned a lot about forgiveness and insights into that,” he explained. “I think a large part of our society looks at forgiveness as coming from weakness. I’ve learned that it’s something we do from strength — something we choose in ourselves to do and be. It’s something to take pride in in a good way — the ability to forgive and move on.

“In the course of writing this book, I realized that that was something I wanted to strive for more and more,” he added. “Some of the things we deal with in our society — we can choose to be bitter about, or move on. It’s been interesting to hear what God has to tell me about situations in my own life and the society I live in.”
The process
“I believed in outlining,” Perkins said of his writing style. “There are two serious camps on this — those who outline and those who don’t. I write my outline, which is kind of a living document. It lives and grows as much as the book does.”

A few pages of outline at the beginning may balloon to 20 to 30 pages by the time he’s three-quarters of the way through the project. As the book develops, the outline develops as well, with additions helping it to balloon up rapidly.

“As the book develops, I kind of go where the characters take me,” he explained. “I find I don’t control the book as much as I thought I would. I’ll have a good scene in my mind, but when I write it the characters take it somewhere else, which is kind of frustrating. My writing process is very character driven.”

Perkins said that, unlike some writers, he doesn’t aspire to a certain number of pages per day. Instead, he writes with the time available and goes as long as it’s productive.

“When I feel my work is starting to slide off, I’ll leave it in the middle of a paragraph so when I come back to it I have something to finish, to kick-start me back into the story.”

Ideas for works come in waves he said. He uses a spiral notebook and tape recorder to jot down or relate ideas that could work their way into another work. He’s got a lot of projects in mind for the future, and he never knows where an idea for one of those projects will turn up. Staying ready and having something to record the idea on or in helps keep the ideas flowing.
The future
“I’ve definitely got a project I want to do down the road,” he said. “I’ve learned a great deal about the Chinook Indian tribe of the area (around Oysterville) in researching this book. I’ve got a series of novels I want to do based on Chinook tribal characters back in the time of Lewis and Clark.

“The Chinook of that area had trade down to an art form,” he added. “They were one of the richest tribes in America because of this ability to trade successfully. I want to give people a little taste of who the Chinook were and what the coming of the white man did to change their society.”

He also has plans to continue the Oysterville series. He’s planning a three-book series called the “Shoal Water Series,” set in and around Oysterville.

His second book in the series, “Shoalwater Voices,” is under consideration by a publisher right now. The second book will contain the same characters and same locales as “Just Past Oysterville.”

“I’m hoping to hear something back on that soon,” he said.

When “Just Past Oysterville” comes out, it will be available at most local bookstores and Internet sites, including Perkins’ at www.perryperkinsbooks.com.

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