'Punk' author has some grown-up literary dreams
With his ripped jeans, messy hair, earring and tennis shoes, author Anthony Pate is the first to admit he’s kind of a punk.
“I guess I don’t look like a writer,” said Pate, a sophomore at Chugiak High.
But looking like an author and being one are two different things, and Pate already has the former down cold.
Pate, 15, recently published his first novella, “Within this Mortal Coil,” through Damnation Books, an independent publishing house based in Santa Rosa, Calif. The 63-page book is a “psychological” thriller that tells the rather creepy tale of a man who wakes up one morning in a bathtub with his wrists slit. Then things really start to get bad.
“It ends up in a loop, so he’s stuck,” Pate said of his novella’s main character, Corey T. Aston.
Pate said the book isn’t geared specifically toward teens. In fact, it’s rather graphic and is peppered with language that would likely earn him detention if uttered in class.
“I’ve had people tell me it’s really shocking, gritty, something you wouldn’t expect to read, let alone from a high school kid,” he said.
The book was published in September, and is available both online (damnationbooks.com) or at the Book Shelf in Eagle River.
An avid reader who began writing fiction while in fifth grade, Pate said he’s already written two other novel-length stories, along with a couple dozen short stories. Getting his novella published was a big step in his career because it means he’s now got something to show off to prospective agents as his career moves forward.
“Even if this novella doesn’t go anywhere, I still have this under my belt,” he said.
Pate said his favorite authors include Stephen King, Richard Matheson, Isaac Asimov, Harlan Ellison and John Steinbeck. Like many of King’s stories, he begins his novella with a quote from a rock-and-roll song — in this case, Slipknot’s “Wait and Bleed.”
When word that he’d had a book published began to circulate around the hallways at Chugiak, Pate said many of his peers reacted with disbelief.
“Most of ‘em didn’t believe me at first,” he said. “I’m in a garage band, so people know me as that crazy metalhead dude.”
But as more and more people have either read the book or seen Pate’s online bio, he said he’s beginning to get a different reputation.
“A lot of people at school are starting to know me as that dude who wrote a book,” he said.
Pate’s other love is music. He and his friends recently formed a new punk and metal band, and he said his primary focus recently has been on playing with them and writing new songs to try out.
“Music is on a par with writing for me,” said the former Mirror Lake Coyote. “Those are the two things I live for.”
Pate also used to wrestle, but he said he’s given up competitive sports to focus on his artistic pursuits — much to the chagrin of the coaching staffs at Chugiak.
“The coaches are so angry at me right now,” for not wrestling, he said.
But Pate said he’s grown out of the competitive athletics culture, and said people who fault him for not going out for sports are being short sighted.
“People are saying, ‘Being in a band’s not going to get you anywhere, writing’s not going to get you anywhere,’” he said. “But for the most part, wrestling and playing football isn’t really going to get you anywhere, either. So you might as well do what you want to do.”
Pate said he puts just as much dedication into his writing and music as he would any sport. When he’s working on a project, he said it’s not unusual for him to spend nearly every waking hour honing his craft. Such was the case with his novella, which he said took just five days of near-constant writing to create.
“I just got an itch and I started writing,” he said. “I’d come home from school and I’d start writing and I’d eat dinner and I’d come back and write some more and I’d go to bed.”
Pate said his parents — dad Tony and stepmom Kim, along with mom Paji and stepdad Eric — have been supportive of his writing in spite of its sometimes-graphic themes.
“I think it took ‘em a little bit of time to adjust,” he said.
Pate said he gets decent grades in school, but not spectacular.
“I’ve never been a school kinda guy,” he said.
He recently told an English teacher about his novella — which may have been a mistake, he said.
“Now he’s going to hold me to a higher standard,” he joked.
Pate isn’t currently working on any new books (“I need some time to sort things out in my head,” he said), but said he definitely wants to make a career out of writing and music. But he’s no dummy, either, and said he wants to go to college to get a degree in teaching.
“That way I can write and do music on the side,” he said.
After high school, Pate said he wants to leave Alaska to travel and see the rest of the country. While many of his classmates like to do outdoorsy stuff, Pate said he’s more into an urban lifestyle.
“I’m more of a city boy,” he said.
He’s still got alomost three years left at Chugiak, however, three years he said he plans to dedicate as much as possible to his two loves of music and writing.
“It’s just a way for me to process things,” he said. “My mom’s always said I’ve been a good storyteller.”
Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727 or [email protected]