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Renata reads a lot like Estacada

Local author pens "A Simplified Map of the Real World"


by: CONTRIBUTED - Allred called the publication of 'A Simplified Map of the Real World' the 'biggest moment to date' in his writing life.According to the author’s note in “A Simplified Map of the Real World,” Stevan Allred has “survived circumcision, a tonsillectomy, a religious upbringing, the ‘60s, the war on poverty, the break up of The Beatles, any number of bad haircuts, years of psychotherapy, the Reagan Revolution, the war on drugs, the Roaring ‘90s, plantar fasciitis, the Lewinsky affair, the Internet bubble, the Florida recount of 2000, the Bush Oughts, the War on Terror, teenage children, a divorce, hay fever, the real estate bubble, male pattern baldness and heartburn.”

Clearly, you’re in for an interesting read.

Allred’s collection of interwoven short stories, “A Simplified Map of the Real World,” will be released Sept. 12 by Forest Avenue Press. Allred sat down with Estacada News to discuss his latest book.

Allred lives exactly where you imagine your favorite author to live.

You have to drive up a long gravel road surrounded by violently green, enchanted-looking trees and vines. You’re hardly even surprised when a family of rabbits hops in front of your car.

His house is elegant with forest views and eclectic art from around the world.

“I like the quiet,” Allred said of his home. “I feel like I have the solitude I need here.”

Just like its author, “A Simplified Map of the Real World” is intense, personal, funny, a little off the wall and based in Estacada.

Allred has lived in Estacada since 1996 and is fond of the little melting pot town that feels “just like America.”

“A Simplified Map of the Real World” is set in Renata, a small town that happens to have the same geography as Estacada.

Estacada area readers will realize they walk down the same streets and hang out in the same places as the characters.

“I love this place. I love the town, the surrounding countryside, the people here. I hope that that love comes through,” Allred said.

In 2004, Allred penned his first Renata story. By the time he’d written two more, Allred knew he was working on a collection.

Renata is an enticing place for the writer.

Like William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, Allred said he wanted to invent a place he could “return to as a writer again and again.”

“A Simplified Map of the Real World” hosts a cast of 37 characters.

Though Allred insists the stories are not autobiographical aside from a detail here and there, he admits that, “Those (characters) are 37 different versions of me.”

Allred must be multi-faceted.

Those characters include a young man who paints himself into a living statue, Spiro Agnew, a pro-lifer with the hots for her pastor, a stripper, dare-devil brothers who take an “idjit’s” approach to Newtonian Physics, a romantic older gentleman with very bad luck, a badly burned Native American woman and one man described as “a logger, a farmer, a trader, a schemer, and a loud-mouthed, cocksure, bourbon-swilling barnyard bully of a man used to getting his own way.”

“As a writer I see myself as a kind of character actor,” Allred said of Renata’s population.

Many of the characters are women.

“I always start from the idea that men and women are more alike than they are different,” Allred said. “I’m writing about a human being that happens to be a woman instead of trying to write a female character.”

Allred explained that with each story in the collection he gave himself a sort of “writer’s craft challenge” to take on.

He writes of Renata-Estacada in different time periods. The 1970 hippy festival Vortex serves as a setting for one storyline. Another story is set in the early days of the area’s settlement.

Allred takes on a historical figure, Spiro Agnew. He read three biographies to “get inside his head.”

He writes from the perspective of a 92-year old woman.

And he doesn’t shy away from controversial topics.

Allred tackles the issue of abortion in “Trish the Freaking Dish.” He said that this story is “probably the most controversial in the collection.”

It’s clear which side of the issue Allred is on.

“I tend to see the world in shades of grey and not in black and white. I tend to not be as sympathetic to people who see the world in black and white and how it should be,” Allred said. “The anti-choice folks, especially when you get to the extreme end of that political belief, they use a lot of shame, they try to (make people) feel guilty.”

In the story, two women represent different sides of the issue. One is likeable and sympathetic; the other is a buffoon.

“That’s the most satirical story in the collection and satire doesn’t lend itself to well-rounded characters,” Allred explained. “I wrote that story because I was angry. Which is a place I normally wouldn’t write from.”

Allred read “Trish the Freaking Dish” at a Writers Night event in Estacada in April.

“I got a pretty positive response,” Allred said. He admitted that he felt that he was “preaching to the choir” and that most people who attended the event were pro-choice.

There also is a lot of divorce in the collection.

Allred said that he completed all but one of the stories in “A Simplified Map of the Real World” by the end of 2007.

By 2009, Allred and his wife had divorced.

“And that was a total shock to me despite the fact that I’d been writing about people getting divorced for three or four years,” Allred said.

by:  ISABEL GAUTSCHI - Allred's lovely, secluded Estacada home is a peaceful haven for the writer.He explained that while he didn’t see it coming, when he looked back at the collection he had predicted his own divorce.

Despite the weighty issues Allred deals with, “A Simplified Map of the Real World” is not a total downer.

It’s funny most of the way through and while desperation and decay are strong themes in the collection, so is hope.

In one storyline, young Cal Rasmussen is intrigued by his charismatic, grinning, tattooed, bumper-car fixing uncle.

Uncle Lenny is magnetic, even though he does lots of things Mormons aren’t supposed to do.

“That boy Cal looking at his uncle is just like all of us as children looking at the adult world and trying to figure out what it all means and where we fit in,” Allred said.

For more information on Stevan Allred, “A Simplified Map of the Real World” and where to purchase it,

visit www.stevanallred.com or

www.forestavenuepress.com.




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