Questions about On Second Thought

Questions about On Second Thought

What is On Second Thought about?
What is it actually about?
Is Alamitos a real place?
How do you choose names for your characters?
How long did it take you to write On Second Thought?
Is the book autobiographical?

What is On Second Thought about?

When people ask me what itís about, I never know quite what to say. Generally, I will say that itís loosely based on experiences I had while living in a small town in New Mexico. That said, the book is not about me. I was on an LDS mission in New Mexico, and the book is certainly not about a mission. Itís a comedy (the book, not the mission). It takes a humorous look at LDS culture and small town life.
Itís also a mystery.
My wife once described it as a romance, and I nearly hyperventilated trying to deny it. A romance involves sinewy arms and windblown hair, and the back cover of romances say things like ďHe was half-apache and all man.Ē That is nothing like my book. It does have romance in it (because I think all good stories do to some extent) but itís not (repeat: not) a romance novel.
My editor once said that itís a romantic comedy at heart. I guess that's probably the best description.

So, youíve said what it isnít but not what it is.

Basically, the story revolves around a twenty-something guy, whose well-planned life suddenly falls apart. Heís never had much direction to begin with, but suddenly the rug is pulled out from beneath him and he has to start over. He moves to New Mexico. Wackiness ensues. In the book he moves to a small town called Alamitos. Is this a real place?

Well, yes and no. For all intents and purposes it is a real place. On my mission, I spent 13 months in one area (either because I was doing well there, or because my picture fell off the Presidentís transfer board and he forgot about me). That area, which has become my home away from home, is Grants.
Ever heard of it? Probably not. You should look it up sometime, thoughóitís awesome.
Anyway, Alamitos is based on Grants, although it is not exactly the same as Grants, mainly because Iím lazy. There were things that worked better in the story if they were changed, so I changed them (for example, the town in the book is much more deserty). By the time that the book was finished, it was too different to really call it Grants, so I changed the name. There is, however, a neighborhood in Grants called Los Alamitos (there also might be an elementary school with that nameóIím not sure).

How did you choose the names of your characters?
Submitted by Birgitte Ruesch

They came from a lot of different places. Walt is named after Walt McRoberts, one of my home teachers. I wanted my main characters to have names that were uncommon, and Walt seemed like a good choice. Clara's character was named Mel through a lot of the early drafts, simply because that was my hometeacher's wife's name. Several months later, I met someone at the U with the name of Clara and liked it instantly.
Jenny Smith was chosen specifically because both Jenny and Smith are really common names.
The Parker Mountains and Martin Lake are both named after old mission companions, as is Dan Arrington (his name was actually Michael Arrington). Jake's last name, Winslow, was a family name of some friends of mine in New Mexico. Ben, Walt's roommate, was named after my brother's roommate (who also happens to be building this fantastic website).
The biggest correlation, I guess, is Ronnie's Cache. The bishop of the Grants Ward while I was there (and now the Stake President) was named Ronnie Cash.

How long did it take you to write On Second Thought?
Submitted by Christina Pettit

From beginning to end, about seven or eight months, although about three of those months don't really count. I started working on it sometime in April or May of 2002. It wasn't going too well, so I ignored it for most of the summer (my daughter was born in the summer, and I had a lot of things to do other than write). In the fall I picked it up again and finished the first draft somewhere around November. After extensive revision, I submitted it into the publisher in early January of 2003.

Where do your ideas come from? Is Walt based on you?
Submitted by Micah Bruner

Most of this book is based on an actual place in New Mexico. Some of the characters are based on real people, and some of the experiences are based on things I've done or heard of. That said, the book is certainly not about me, nor is it about anyone I know, and the main plot of the book has never happened (so far as I know).
Here are a few things that are true: I have actually gone on a Boy Scout camp where no one remembered to bring any food (except for me Ė- I brought a bag of hot dog buns and a box of Hostess Ho-Hos. Don't ask me why). It is also true that I never realized a Frosty was just a chocolate shake.
There are literally dozens of true things in book. I'll let you guess what's real and what's not.
Walt's personality is somewhat based on me, mainly because it was my first book and I had a hard time separating myself from the main character. His circumstances, and the whole fish-out-of-water premise of the book, are based on a real guy, though. While I was on my mission, there was a guy who moved down to Grants because he'd gotten a job at the new greenhouse. You could look at him from two hundred yards away and recognize that he felt out of placeĖhe seemed constantly uncomfortable. There was never a single time I ever talked with him that he wasn't experiencing some kind of culture shock, and my companion and I always found it hilarious.
So that's where Walt came from. There are big differences, of course, such as the fact that this guy was married, and also that, instead of finding happiness in the small town and growing to love it, he moved away.

If you have a question you'd like me to answer, email it to me at I will answer all questions promptly, and, if it's the kind of question that other people would be interested in, I'll put it up on the website.

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