Brian Meehl’s book “Blowback ’07: When the Only Way Forward Is Back” recently roared onto the bestseller list, and as anyone who has read it can tell you, this is not a surprise. In short, Blowback ’07 takes readers on an epic sci-fi time travel adventure that delivers on every single page. This book is the first in a trilogy, one that is definitely a binge worthy read.
Brian Meehl is not only a bestselling author but he also worked for Jim Henson’s Muppets and puppeteered on “Sesame Street”, and Henson’s cult classic, “The Dark Crystal.” But that is not all he has also written for kids’ shows like “The Magic School Bus”, and “Between the Lions”, winning three Emmys along the way. The Blowback Trilogy is the perfect read just in time for the Spring.
We thrilled when we had a chance to catch up with this talented writer to find out more about him, his work, and what’s next.
Every book has a story about its creation, what’s the story behind “Blowback ’07: When the Only Way Forward Is Back”?
“Blowback ’07” has a double origin story.
The first was “Pastime,” a story I wrote about a Major League Baseball superstar who’s riding for a fall. The fall comes when he’s sent back to 1944 and an era (World War II) when baseball was a different game, its players a different breed. “Pastime” sparked the notion of a modern athlete being sent back to a different era of his sport and having to “play his way home.”
The second inspiration was a non-fiction book I read about how a scrappy Native American football team in 1907, the Carlisle Indians, played—and beat—all the big Ivy League college teams by inventing the passing game and revolutionizing how football was played. (“The Real All Americans”)
The “What if?” spark for “Blowback ’07” was simple. I would send a hotshot high school quarterback, whose arrogance and misbehavior threatens to derail his future in football, back to 1907 and the Carlisle Indian School. Once in Carlisle, as he’s forced to relearn the game from the ground up, he falls in love with a Native American girl. Will he make a future for himself in the past or “play his way home”?
“Blowback ’07: When the Only Way Forward Is Back” recently roared onto the Bestseller list, what was that like for you?
Very exciting. When a storyteller conjures a world in a different time and place, there is no greater joy than knowing readers are opening the book and going along for the ride!
The characters you create are extremely compelling, which is something I am sure you hear all the time. What is one of the keys to developing the characters in your stories, and keeping them so engaging?
Compelling characters are built from the outside in and the inside out.
From the outside in. Characters are defined by what they DO. The saying goes, “character is choice.” So, one way to build a character is to throw him or her into tough and challenging situations and see what choices they make. Beating up a character, putting them through hell, is part of the fun of writing. Will they survive? Will they triumph?
From the inside out. To explore the inner working of a character, consider a twist on “sexual orientation.” “Character orientation” is the ability of a writer to self-identify with a person. A writer imbeds him or herself in the mind, heart and soul of each character. You gotta talk their talk, walk their walk.
But I shouldn’t forget an underappreciated part of creating compelling characters: having a good editor—or any critical reader of your work-in-progress—who calls you out when you have a character say or do something that rings false. My longtime editor certainly challenges some of my choices when it comes to “character orientation.” Like any good character, every writer is imperfect.
You are a rather prolific writer. How old were you when you decided that you wanted to be a writer, and why?
As a young performer—actor, mime, puppeteer—I often dabbled in writing monologues and sketches. After a six-year stint of puppeteering for Jim Henson on “Sesame Street” and in three of his films, I traded puppets for the pen. I spent a decade writing PBS-style kids shows such as “The Magic School Bus” and “Between the Lions.” I didn’t write my first novel, “Out of Patience,” until I was about 50. It took me that long to discover that while performing a character is loads of fun, writing is more fun because you get to play ALL the characters.
If you want to know more about my full journey from rambunctious kid with a wild imagination to a boomer who loves being a storyteller, check out my photo-riddled bio at https://www.brianmeehl.com/the-guy/
Clearly, your books have been a huge hit with fans. Do you have another book in the works?
After spending a decade researching and writing the Blowback Trilogy, I’m taking a wee break from writing. But this writer can never stop researching, and there are a couple of subjects that have my attention as fodder for historical fiction.
One little-known story about the founding of our nation and the writing of our Constitution is how, in the 1700s, Benjamin Franklin became fascinated with how the Iroquois Confederacy and its Six Nations (all different tribes) had avoided war with each other for over 200 years. What Franklin discovered within the Iroquois Confederacy were basically three co-equal branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial. Ring a bell? Why don’t we know more about these “forgotten founding fathers”? On top of that, the Iroquois Confederacy was more matriarchal than patriarchal.
The other subject that has me digging deeper is a historical figure who plays a part in the third Blowback book set in Paris of 1894. Jane Avril was the good friend of Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and the iconic dancer he depicted in his art many times. After suffering a brutal childhood that landed her in an insane asylum, Avril’s adult life began literally as “a Cinderella story.” Her talent for dancing was discovered at a ball at the asylum. She went on to become a famous dancer and social phenome with steely independence and a rapacious hunger for knowledge. She was a feminist way ahead of her time. Her story deserves more ink.
If you want to know more about Avril—and see her images—check out my brief blog on her: https://www.blowbacktrilogy.com/jane-avril-the-first-break-dancer-rockette/