When I first started writing TRAVELER'S REST back in 2005, it wasn’t my intention of writing a book. I had spent the last year and a half writing scripts for an Atlanta production company, my first paid gig as a writer. I enjoyed writing scripts, but I longed to writing stories. Given, the similar ruthlessness of both the book publishing and film-making worlds, I felt prepared.

A screenplay doesn’t really come to life unless it is produced. If it isn’t produced, the script might as well not exist. A book or story on the other hand, as long as it’s read, fulfills its purpose. So I set out to write a few short stories, starting with what is now the third chapter of this book, “Raul & Laura." My intention at the time was to write an anti-romance that looked at a loveless, manipulative relationship and the psychological ties that somehow kept it going. It was an easy story to write -- at the time I was reading Nietzsche and was particularly intrigued by his take on how choices make people slaves. I wrote another pair of stories along the same line, and a book started to take form, entitled appropriately enough, SLAVES.

The more I wrote, the more everything began to connect. I had one story, “Drifters” that was my ode to THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES and ON THE ROAD, so I re-made that story the centerpiece, and its hero, Tony, the connective tissue for the various storylines. After a few drafts, the book morphed on its own from a book of short stories into a cohesive, yet non-chronological, narrative. However, I wasn’t at a point in my life where I was able pull it all together, and after several rejections from publishers for DRIFTERS as a whole, I started submitting separate chapters to contests and anthologies. In 2006, one chapter, “The Revolutionary” was published in an anthology called THE SHORTCUT: 20 STORIES TO GET YOU FROM HERE TO THERE. Inspired, I tried again to get the whole book published, and, after receiving more rejections, decided the book was a failure and put it aside.

In 2009, I started to work as an editor for Savant Books and Publications, where I met Zachary Oliver, whose book FALLING BUT FULFILLED (Savant 2010) I still consider the high point of my work as a Savant editor. Zach and I became good friends, and later when he became a Savant editor, then Editor-in-Chief at Savant, I decided to ask him to have a look at SLAVES/DRIFTERS and tell me if I should continue working on it. To my surprise -- I had begun to hate the book -- he loved it and asked me to let him edit it. The result, TRAVELER'S REST is my first wholly-authored work [I had since co-authored COMMUNION (Savant 2011) with Jean Blasiar]

TRAVELER'S REST represents a merging of various influences. When I first wrote it, my favorite books were ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac and THE BOOK OF DISQUIET by Fernando Pessoa. It would take many pages to explain the effect that Kerouac and Pessoa had on me, but suffice to say I count myself as one who had gone through stagnation and hopelessness.

Another influence that became fully apparent only when the work approached publication was Che Guevara’s THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES. Guevara’s work was about two privileged young men who initially set out looking to have some fun and score with women, but who, in the process, became socially and spiritually awakened to the suffering of the poor, the disenfranchised and the oppressed they meet along their journey.

At the beginning of Traveler’s Rest, Tony and Charlie are both figures out of Kerouac. They oppress themselves seemingly out of a desire to be interesting. The insights into Tony’s heroin addiction are largely those of an overgrown child and egomaniac. The same is true of Charlie’s existential despair. By the end, however, Tony becomes more of a Guevara figure, seeking to dedicate himself to a cause greater than himself.

That cause, Puerto Rican independence, and the safeguarding of Puerto Rican culture, is one that is near and dear to my heart. Much like Tony’s family, mine came to the States from Puerto Rico and struggled to strike a balance between retaining our culture and assimilation. The characters of Charlie and Tony represent these two aspects, growing up as the children of immigrants. Charlie is largely assimilated. He becomes an Anglo-American. Tony, on the hand, is caught between the cultures and the sensibility. The ties are nostalgic, but he also has a realistic view of the island as it is today. Being caught between two worlds, however, creates considerable confusion, and is at the heart of his inability to connect with his family, which has largely been assimilated.

The struggle for independence I depict is fictional. There is no Boriken movement, though it was inspired by the Macheteros, a real guerrilla group on the island. The struggles depicted in “The Revolutionary” are also fictionalized, though there was a senator named Barbosa who tried to turn Puerto Rico into a State by helping the Americans suppress our culture and language. Thankfully, he was unsuccessful, though people like him continue to harm the island and its people. Today, groups like the Movimiento Independentista Nacional Hostosiano (or MINH) are uniting Puerto Ricans of all political and social stripes to better the lives of everyone on the island. But the independence movement is constantly being splintered by the more militant and more diplomatic.

In many ways, TRAVELER'S REST is a dreamscape, a story of chaos and the human need to attempt to control it. But more than that, it is about everyone's need to control him or herself, and finding freedom in control. Like any dream, I hope TRAVELER'S REST expresses more than what is merely on the surface, and, that like the best of dreams, the book will stay with readers long after the last page is turned.   

Jonathan Marcantoni
Author of TRAVELER'S REST (Savant 2012)
Co-author of COMMUNION (Savant 2011) - winner of both a New England and Lost Angeles Book Festival Award