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A Great Read Stab Recommends

“In the Seat of a Stranger’s Car” by Beau Flemister is hitting bookshelves now.

style // May 8, 2019
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 5 minutes

If you pay attention to bylines the name Beau Flemister should be a familiar one. A former editor at Surfing, his words have been published pretty much everywhere: Surfer’s Journal, VICE, Outside, Stab, Hana Hou!, and Flux, to name a few.


Now Mr Flemister can carve another notch in his literary bedpost, as his first novel hits bookstore shelves. In the Seat of a Stranger’s Car is a funny, occasionally dark, taste of a Hawaii most visitors never see.

Rory: I had the pleasure of reading a draft of your novel a few years back. Writing an honest-to-god novel ain’t an easy trek. How long did it take for this to come together?

Short answer: quite a few. Long answer, is that I wrote the very first draft (which took me about a year) back in 2011 when I was pretty much a full-time valet parker, getting published in local magazines around town. I got a job as managing editor at Surfing Magazine at the end of 2011, moved from Oahu to San Clemente and then kind of shelved the book for a few years because I was, well…lazy. At the beginning of last year though, after securing a local publisher (NMG Network), I began working with an editor (John Paine) from NY who helped me immensely, making me confront some previous problems with the book that I had failed to fix.


There’s definitely some autobiographical elements in the book. How much of yourself do you see in the protagonist?

[laughs] While it is a work of fiction, most people that know me and have read the book automatically say: “That’s you!” And I say, quite unconvincingly, “No, it’s not, it’s a character I created!”

So, yes, I worked valet parking around Waikiki for most of my 20s, and yes, I taught summer school/substitute taught high school students at a renowned private school, but no, none of us ever found an abandoned child in the trunk of a car and attempted to raise him. Basically, I was trying to write a less ambitious, sleazier version of myself if I…aw, fuck it—yeah, that’s all me.

 

flemister 4

Mr Flemister, a few leis and a live reading.

 

You were born and raised on Oahu, but have traveled the world extensively. Why’d you decide to make Oahu the backdrop for your novel?

To be clear, I was born and raised on Oahu, minus five years in Charleston, South Carolina, during high school. Rory, you know you get cracks out here for not specifying an absence. But, yeah, the traveling and the valet parking actually went hand in hand for me. For a few years after university, I’d squirrel away a couple grand of cash tips from parking cars, then leave on a trip (often surf-related) for many months at a time, and then my very benevolent valet boss would give me shifts when I came home. Rinse, repeat.

But anyways, they say, “write what you know,” and at the time I knew valet parking quite well. There’d never been (and still sort of isn’t) a story done in the valet-world, so I had a unique idea. Also, there are not a whole lot of novels coming out of Hawaii each year and I really wanted to write something that both resonated with my generation, and also celebrated all the weird, racial, cultural, and sub-cultural nuances found in Hawaii that aren’t always portrayed in literature. Yeah, I said literature.

Want to give our readers a quick synopsis, maybe touch on your inspiration for the novel?

You know I do, Rory.

In the Seat of a Stranger’s Car is a vibrant comedy that looks under the hood at the entourage of working-class misfits you leave your car with every day. Set in the bubbling ethnic melting pot of Hawai’i, by day, an unnamed protagonist is a struggling writer who teaches at a renowned prep school; by night, he is a full-time valet, surrounded by a lewd yet lovable cast of coworkers. The gang’s normalcy is quickly shattered when they discover a young boy in the trunk of a deserted vehicle in the hotel parking lot. Afraid of surrendering the abandoned child to foster care, the valets decide to raise the child as their own—a task that proves both absurd and transformative.

There’s a real dark side to Oahu that most surfers never see. There’s a lot of suffering and desperation, especially in Town. Valeting must’ve really put you front and center to the struggle, right?

Sure, in some ways, yes. And yeah, you’re right about a side of “paradise” that’s definitely not shown in the inflight magazines. Most of that desperation is tied to Hawaii’s huge homeless community, a community that’s often overlooked, even as blatant and expansive and in-your-face as it can be over here. As lighthearted as the story can be at times, that issue plays a pretty central role in the novel. But as far as valet parking, and the nature of standing next to a booth late at night in a major city like Honolulu, yeah, you’re gonna see some shit, whether that’s solicitation, drug deals, or all the other clandestine activities that happen when ice-heads don’t think someone’s watching (or writing about) them. Naturally, I embellished some activities, like the chapter where the valets find an inter-species pit-fighting ring in Wahiawa. But also ya never know when it comes to Wahiawa…

flemister 2

Cover art by Noa Emberson.

Every writer, myself included, wants to write a book. But it’s just so many fucking words to put in a row and it’s easier to chase easy (ish) money while putting off the hard work. How’s it feel to have a novel featuring your name sitting on the shelves?

Pretty damn good, Rory. Was a long time coming. But I do know very well what you mean about easier money when it comes to writing. While I know it’s relatively easier, if not more lucrative to make a living writing copy about sandals and plant-based beverages, part of me foolishly thinks no money is worth looking like a complete sell-out to my inner-19-year-old English major, Love in the Time of Cholera-reading self. I can’t let that naïve little bitch down, you know? But yeah, I’ve always respected the medium—mine ain’t even that long (but it does the trick)—and now, I’d like to write another one.

Who did the cover art? It’s fucking gorgeous.

Yeah, no shit. The cover art, design, illustration and even typesetting was all done by hawg-heavy design-god, Noa Emberson (@joystain). Thanks to Noa, he designed something that people want to pick up, turn over and buy. Noa’s from Hawaii, too, is my best friend and was an art director over at Surfing Magazine with me before they went tits up. These days, he’s co-founder of a successful creative agency on Oahu called Onward Creative and basically employs me now. He has an art show coming up soon, too, by the way.
 
Buy the book here 

Or, here, and see book tour dates/store options.
 

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