Hartford Books Examiner
Estevan Vega: A young writer’s journey
Hey Estevan…I’d call/text but I’m on hold with the IRS at the moment…
As I hit ENTER and send the message via Facebook, I contemplate the wonders of the Internet. Facebook’s messenger function allows me to conduct an interview while simultaneously holding on the line for the good ol’ U.S. government.
Haha. I’m here, dude, comes his reply.
Figured as much…writers are always at their computers, I type back.
Writers are not always twice published by the age of eighteen, however. Estevan Vega, who grew up in Middletown and Portland, Connecticut, and is currently a student at Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I., has just signed a contract for his third book, Arson. He is about to take a look back…and a look ahead.
I begin with the obvious: Why writing?
Ahhh, writing. Well, I honestly couldn’t stand writing, or English. Early on, I figured I was good at math…then the math started getting complicated. In fifth grade, Vega had a teacher who required daily essays/short story submissions, a prospect that he was not keen on. (I loathed the idea almost as much as I loathed her. Isn’t that harsh?) Fortunately, his father began to play an integral role in his writer’s journey.
As Estevan explains it, He pulled me away from the TV one night and sat me down, told me to close my eyes, and he started painting my imagination with images and characters. I marveled at how well he could construct a story or concept. I was this little punk fifth grader who couldn’t be bothered, and yet he saw something in me, a possibility…that I had never seen. He showed me that writing stories could be fun.
Soon, the short stories led to a bound “mini-book” based on a story that his father helped him to envision. It was the culminating project of that fateful fifth grade school year, and it left the would-be writer wanting more. I felt so accomplished…but it wasn’t enough.
Initially, thoughts of fame and fortune filled his head. The only thing I could think about was getting a full book out to the world. He started working on that book in the sixth grade, finished it when he was fifteen, and published it later that summer.
Servant of the Realm begs the question can fate be changed or is the future inevitable? The story centers upon a troubled teen, Luke Phillips, who steals a lethal serum that, when ingested, allows a person to see the future. But Luke’s visions are of those closest to him dying. It’s pretty heady stuff for anyone, let alone a fifteen-year-old.
I was such a novice, and the books shows it, Estevan humbly admits. My father says that book wasn’t about the story or the finished product’s quality, it was about completion. Suddenly, the teen found himself a published author amongst peers whose only writing credits were mandatory book reports. Kids at Xavier used it as a way to make fun of me. Anytime they got pissed at me, they’d say, go write a book, Vega.
So he did.
A few months after Servant of the Realm was published, Estevan had completed a first draft of The Sacred Sin. While it would take another three years, and a seemingly endless round of edits and rejection slips, the book was released to mostly favorable reviews in 2007.
Estevan summarizes the “high concept” for The Sacred Sin like this: A demon killer capable of stealing people’s souls without ever touching them, while trying to battle internal demons and ‘the darkness that lies within all men.’ It allowed Vega to explore “darker, more mature” themes. The Sacred Sin was powerful for me because I tried to incorporate a deeper truth than in the first one.
I liked my ability to capture character better, he continues. Those looking for that growth need only reference Jude Foster, the book’s protagonist. An L.A. homicide detective with a drinking problem and on the brink of a mental breakdown, he is a marked departure from those who populate the pages of Servant.
Can you tell me a little about Arson? I ask, in reference to his newest character.
The response is immediate: Oh…my favoritist book of all!!!!
Arson is the writer’s current labor of love. It’s also the name of the main character, described as a seventeen year old kid who starts fires with his mind. Whenever he feels emotions such as anxiety or anger, his body heats up, and the potential for devastation is great. And Arson’s back-story is a heavy one: his mother dies in childbirth, his father abandons him, and his grandparents become the caretakers by default. Of course, the grandmother is a bipolar, vindictive recluse who loathes and loves her grandson at the same time, as her daughter died while giving birth to “God’s mistake.”
Arson’s creation was no mistake, however, and his master proudly proclaims, He is my most unique creation. I feel like Victor Frankenstein!
The story takes place in East Hampton, CT, and Arson lives in a cabin on Lake Pocotopaug. Vega spent his formative years a town over, so he has the knowledge to keep it real. He also understands that having a local angle is a good selling point. The idea came to him as he was visiting colleges during his junior year of high school, a time of tumult for any teenager that was made worse by circumstances in the author’s personal life.
Some of that angst helped to paint Arson, the consummate tortured teen. Inevitably, there’s going to be a bit of me in every character I create, but it’s just a matter of how much of me is in there. Fortunately, the character does find some relief in the form of the girl next-door, who (literally) wears a mask, which, along with Arson’s powers, may be an homage to the comic books that the author loved as a kid. That was fun to play with, Vega reflects. I love her character, almost as much as Arson. The mask deal was great fun…I hope it’s believable!
Sometimes a reporter’s instinct takes over, and I can’t help but ask whether there was a real girl next-door that inspired the character. Never had one of those girl next-door moments, Estevan replies gamely. My neighbors are either older or ornery.
Estevan Vega is clearly the antithesis of those traits, and, while classes take up much of his time these days, writing is never far from his mind-including ideas for a possible sequel to Arson. School complicates things, as does my intrinsic laziness, he admits. It’s hard to be a dedicated writer, but I can’t picture being this passionate about anything else…