Last exit to Montauk
Last exit to Montauk by Philip Vega takes place in the late 1980s on the North Shore of Long Island. This romance novel would appeal most to a mixed audience of young adults and adults who wish to be taken back to their high school lives and to enjoy books that take place in the 1980’s. First and foremost, this is a coming of age romance tale of young love with older teenage characters.
It all began at a local market in the summer of 1987 when a young Hispanic 17-year-old was sent by his mother to drop off some mail at the local post office. Being low on gas, he decided to take his Bicycle and he ended up stopping in a local grocery store where he met the woman that he affectionately calls My Blonde. One conversation about the smell of fresh fruit sets the two young adults on a path for a summer romance.
I personally found Last exit to Montauk by Philip Vega to be very entertaining as it really developed the two main characters and allowed them to form a realistic bond. This was not one of those fake feeling love at first sight stories; instead the two characters did experience a bit of instant attraction, but that was not the basis of their relationship instead it built upon their shared enjoyment of spending time with the other. My favorite moment in the book was when the two of them had a competition to see who would end up paying for pizza; the competition ended up being bowling. I just really enjoyed that moment because it showed the more playful nature of the two characters. Their relationship took me on an emotional roller coaster that had me laughing and crying throughout the novel!
I really enjoyed the fact that Philip Vega shared the male characters thoughts in italics within the story as it allowed me to truly understand what he was thinking and feeling. The fact that the book begins in the future and the majority of the book is a flashback made it intriguing; especially when I learned that a lot of the book is based on the authors own summer memories. I liked the way that he kept the setting of Long Island real with how the young couple visited real places like Stony Brook, Smith Point Beach, Port Jefferson, and the West Meadow Beach.
I like the overall feel of the man looking back at his teenage life from an adult perspective. However, my favorite character would have to be B I liked the fact that she was both a very intelligent person while still being down to earth and not snobby.
- What inspired you to write this book?
One rainy Saturday afternoon in August 2015, I came home from grocery shopping with my wife, and after putting the food away, she and the dogs went in to take a nap, while I sat on the couch with my iPad and surfed the TV, only to find there was nothing on.
So, I opened Pages in my iPad, and started typing. Before I knew it, I had the first two chapters finished and a spark was lit. I had to finish writing this story. Six weeks and close to 800 pages later, I finished my first novel, which of course has been fine-tuned and whittled down to less than half that, thanks to my editor and publisher.
- Did you ever consider writing yourself into your book? If yes did you and if no why did you refrain?
This is a funny question If you were to ask my siblings and some close friends, they’ll tell you that I’m the narrator. The fact of the matter is, I’m not the narrator. I refrained, because of the narrative of the novel. It’s first-person. I want the reader to read it and experience it, as if it were his/her story.
When I wrote Last Exit to Montauk, it first played out in my mind’s eye like a movie. Oddly enough, this is how all my stories are playing out these days. I first see them in my mind’s eye like I’m watching a video of the actual events. I merely transcribe the events as I see them.
- Which part was the hardest for you to write and why?
(Spoiler Alert) The chapter titled “Shattered.” Again, when I wrote this, I watched it play out in my mind’s eye. Not only did I experience them as the narrator, I also experienced them as the author. Very emotional stuff. As I sat there, typing away, tears flowed down my cheeks. I had to stop typing a few times, just to compose myself, because I was experiencing the emotions so vividly.
- Which part was the easiest for you to write and why?
The parts where the main characters first met and fell in love. The words just poured out of me, very natural. This was my first attempt at writing a novel, so I’ve never experienced this before. I’ve written reports for work, reports for school many moons ago, but never something so personal.
- Which character was the hardest to write and why?
The protagonist to the main character, Kyle Ferguson, was the most difficult. Over the years, growing up on Long Island in the 70s and 80s, as a Hispanic person “of color “, I’ve dealt with my fair share of Kyles over the years. So, he was a familiar character for me, yet I found it challenging to write about him. That said, just like the rest of the novel, the scenes where he played a part just flowed from my heart.
Again, it took me six weeks to write 800 pages. Thankfully, I have a terrific editor and publisher, Janet Fix at thewordverve, who helped me “cut the fat” and focus on the heart of the story. Again, this was all new to me, and her guidance, patience and wisdom were and are still invaluable. To this day, as I write, I can still hear her in my mind saying, “is this driving the story forward?” She’s the best!
- Which character was the easiest to write and why?
That’s easy. The girl, B. I’ve never actually met anyone like her, yet as I wrote this story, I felt like I knew her. Like she was an old friend and lover whom I was completely head-over-heels with in my teen years. Writing about B became the easiest part of my process. I see her so clearly.
- Who was your favorite character and why?
That’s like asking which child is my favorite, and I have four sons. I love them equally—my children and my characters. Even the protagonists. The main characters were easy to love. Ma was a gem, as were the main siblings. And who couldn’t love Belle? B and the narrator both are a given in terms of favorites. The twins were terrific and very easy to write about.
The Ferguson clan, the protagonists, while challenging to write, I felt for them as well. There was something so painful about their story. I just wanted to take Mary, Kyle’s sister, into my home, and have my wife and me provide her with a loving environment. I felt for her. There are so many Marys out there, who are lost and need love, guidance, and encouragement. I think we all have a little Mary inside us; at least I do.
- Were there any characters that you did not like?
Not really no. I wasn’t a fan of Kyle, as I previously mentioned, but he too was in pain, and his lashing out was how he chose to express himself. No one ever taught him how to properly deal with his emotions. Like Mary, he lacked proper love, guidance, and encouragement. The 80s were challenging years. People were beginning to gain access to more information.
The information age was in its infancy. All of a sudden we went from 13 channels, and the TV going dark at 1 AM to a multi-channel 24-hour cycle explosion. You could now watch R-rated movies in your home. I can remember having Murder by Death playing on HBO at the same time as it was in the theaters.
- What made you choose to write a book on this topic?
I wish I knew. It just seemed meant to be, what I was meant to write about for my first novel. It became an obsession. I had to get this story out of me. There were nights I’d start typing at 10 PM and finish writing at 8 AM, without realizing I was up all night writing. My wife would walk into my home office and ask if I’d even gone to bed. I’d lie and tell her yes, even though she knew I never came to bed. Again, it was a completely new experience for me, and one that I’m still learning to cope with. I now have 16 other stories in various stages. Like I said the floodgates have burst. At this point, I’m just the vessel, trying my best to transcribe the words as I see them play out in my head.
10. Did you base any of the characters off of real people?
Another funny question. Again, if you were to ask my siblings and some friends, they’d say yes. They’d tell you this wasn’t a novel, but a memoir, even though they know that B never existed. The events never happened. I’ve never had these conversations with anyone. No, the characters were all fictional, regardless of what some may believe.
11. What made you decide to become an author?
It was accidental at best. Again, a rainy Saturday August afternoon . . .
In November 2015, my wife and I were having dinner with close friends. We were doing the “What’s new in your world? How are the kids? How’s the job? Etc.” thing, you know? And as we were catching up, in between the kids and the job, I mentioned that I wrote a story. My friend, Carol, was like “hold on, back up. Go back to that you ‘wrote a story’ part.”
I shared what I had done, and she asked me what my plans were, what I was going to do with it. I told her, honestly, I had no idea. I never planned on writing a story. It wasn’t on the “road map.” She asked if I planned on publishing it. And again, I told her, I didn’t know. She then put me in contact with a friend and fellow author, Russ Elliott, who then put me in contact with Janet, my editor and publisher, who told me, at the time, that she wasn’t taking on new clients, but would review at my story, as a favor to Russ.
A few days later, she emailed me and asked me to work with her. She told me about the visceral reaction she had as she read it, and even offered to publish it, once we finished editing. I thought she was nuts, but the rest, as they say, is history. Fast-forward to May 2, 2017 and my first of many novels to come, Last Exit to Montauk, debuted online at Amazon and every other book retailer, in paperback and digital formats.
12. What advice would you give to your readers?
I recently read a review online from one of my readers, and I just loved what she wrote. I couldn’t have put it any better, so I’m going to defer to what Patricia Parker wrote in her review on Amazon: “Beautiful story . . . Cuddle up and read beginning to end.” If you’re looking for a book to cuddle up with, at the beach, on a rainy afternoon, on a quiet night, then pop open a bottle of wine, sit back, and enjoy this journey of first love.
13. What type of person do you believe would enjoy your book the most?
I’d love to say, just women, 18+, but I’ve had men, in the same age group, read it and fully enjoy the story. The demographic is broad. I guess it will appeal to the type of person who enjoys a love story, filled with all the pitfalls and humanity associated with it. Also, anyone who grew up in the 80s, particularly on Long Island, but that’s certainly not a prerequisite, as I’ve had readers who’ve never been to NY, let alone to Long Island, who have enjoyed the book.
14. What/Who inspired you to write this book?
What inspired me? Love inspired me. First love. The kind that comes along once in a lifetime, captures your heart and soul, makes an impact and helps transform you into the person you are today. That, and B, my mystical blonde in the story.
Thanks for the interview. I loved your questions and your interest in my novel.