Mariah: Tell me about yourself.
DeeJay: My name is DeeJay Arens and I live in Bemidji, MN. By day, I am marketing coordinator for a natural foods cooperative. By night, I am a writer, co-owner (with my partner Steve) of Saarens Productions which produces film and theatre, and co-owner of a vocational placement firm.
Mariah: Do you have any unique talents or hobbies?
DeeJay: As far as talents go; I am a jack-of-all trades and a master of none. I guess my hobbies are everything I do in the afternoons and evenings. The production company allows me to be engaged with one of my first passions. I get to produce, act, direct, design sets and lighting, and , of course, write. Last year we released our first full-length film, Slip Away, for which I wrote the screenplay and played one of the roles. It was an amazing experience. We’re so lucky to be surrounded by amazingly talented people who share their time and immense talent with us.
Mariah: Tell me about your book, The View From a Rusty Train Car.
DeeJay: “Rusty Train” follows the relationship of Jared and Luke. They become fast friends at a young age and their feelings for each other evolve into something deeper. They are trying to understand and deal with their own feelings for each other in a time when that simply was not acceptable at all; society and their families make that abundantly clear to them. They end up on completely different paths, but what they feel isn’t easily ignored. No matter where they are in life, there is a bond between them that can’t be broken.
Mariah: I've read that this was a hard book for you to write. Tell me why it was important to you, to write this book.
DeeJay: That is true. Knowing, from personal experience, what it is like to be gay, coming out, the differing ways people treat you, and the expectations of society, I had to go back to some dark places. It was for me, like so many, a difficult journey. There are many emotions and experiences that are unpleasant to revisit, but to tell an honest, emotional story it was imperative that I go there. Again, this is not something unique to my personal experience. I wanted to tell it in hopes people struggling with the same issues could hopefully relate and perhaps it would help them through a difficult time knowing they are not alone. My intention was also to help the people
Mariah: The View From a Rusty Train Car has won two awards. Did you ever imagine that would happen? What was it like?
DeeJay: Absolutely not. There are hundreds of thousands of books published every year. The thought that my little book would be recognized never even occurred to me. The nominations alone floored me. Then to win… there aren’t even words to explain the emotions. I feel very honored. Sometimes it doesn’t feel real still. I am lucky to have an amazing team behind me at Writers AMuse Me. It is a testament to their support and work on the book as much as it is to the story.
Mariah: Did writing this book help you in any way?
DeeJay: Absolutely. Like any dark experience in life I think there are always some residual feelings that follow us through life. Writing the book helped me come to terms with those. It was a catharsis in many ways.
Also, this was my first book. Like I mentioned earlier, working on it with Mary (my editor) was like getting a Master’s Degree in creative writing in a very short time. I learned so much and I can’t begin to thank them for all of their time and for sharing their vast knowledge with me. I hope I do them proud in my future endeavors. Hopefully that means they won’t have to put so much work into it!
Mariah: What was the best thing about writing The View From A Rusty Train Car?
DeeJay: The entire experience. I honestly can’t name just one thing. It was a dream realized being published. It deepened my love of writing. Living with the characters through the journey is like nothing else. They become such an important part of your life. They become real. Meeting other authors and watching them work on their craft and supporting each other is inspiring. The awards, which honestly were not anywhere even a thought of the whole process, were truly an amazing experience. Finding a truly amazing team with which to work is the biggest gift of all.
Mariah: What are you working on now?
DeeJay: By far the hardest question! Well, let me see. I am working on a sort of prequel to Rusty Train. It’s a book on the life of Ellen. I wanted to see how she became who she is. I’m also working on a mystery which is really fun and challenging at the same time. I needed something lighter so there are some elements of comedy from the main characters. But don’t be dismayed, it has its moments of drama, suspense, and intrigue for sure! Well, I hope so anyways. I’ve also started a sort of family drama set at their summer cabin where adult siblings are having a reunion. Some long buried family secrets are revealed and some relationships may never be the same again.
I am also working on a play about a chance reunion of old friends and a screenplay that finds the main characters in a fall-out shelter. Yeah. I have no lack of projects at the moment.
I am always glad to hear from people so feel free to connect with me!
Slip Away can be seen on YouTube in 3 parts.