Today we have an interview with Attorney Leigh Seippel. Leigh is an avid fisherman and has incorporated his knowledge of both into his new novel. It is a book that serious readers will enjoy for its insights.
Mr. Seippel, thanks so much for taking time out of your schedule for this website interview. This is an interesting book that my wife and I enjoyed discussing, and so I am very excited about this interview.
Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself? Your educational and work background, and what motivated you to take up writing?
I am a native of Maryland. I graduated from Columbia University and Columbia Law School. I practiced finance law, co-founded an institutional private equity firm, and am now a private investor.
Specifically, with regard to Ruin, what was the inspiration behind the book?
Most specifically, I heard a bankruptcy lawyer relate the tale of his client couple who lost all in a massive bankruptcy litigation. But more generally, I felt a novel should sensitively consider the effect upon a marriage of sudden loss of economic foundation. As is now widely feared in our society. And especially, as in the real life base story, where the wife’s loss of inheritance is due to an action of the husband for which he feels great guilt.
Your lead character, Frank Campbell, is married to Francy, and we join them as they are leaving New York disgraced due to the Bankruptcy situation. Is this an accurate representation of those involved with financial misdeeds?
Bankruptcy litigation is very common in our capitalist system, and has been increasingly frequent over the past half century as large enterprise debt levels rose. A collapse of an entrrprise due to insolvency and sometime attendant bankruptcy litigation does not necessarily involve any financial misdeed. Frank did nothing worse than place trust in parties his fund was financing, who then acted fraudulently.
In overview, Frank, like a lot of business failures, suffered an unforeseen bad luck event. The core novelistic interest of Ruin is the interplay of personal strength of character and chance, and then more chance in life’ flow. Frank, an honest man lovingly faithful to his wife, has strong character. In Ruin’s complete arc that matters greatly.
From where the book begins, Frank appears to grow as an individual, but Francy just retreats into her art. Did you deliberately make these two polar opposites in their post-bankruptcy life? And as the author, do you think these two were ever really on the same page with their lives?
Frank and Francy both grow as individuals in their new harsh circumstance of isolation and unemployability. But in separate new directions. Frank in his humble hard pysicl work to regain a livelihood for Franc and him. Francy grows her independent identity as an artist freed from her prior life’s diversion of wealth. A withdrawn personality to begin, her apparent ambivalence toward Frank who failed to protect her is difficult for him… and it seems her … to quite grasp. Her art is enigmatic, and Francy is enigmatic.
Literature is a big part of this book, as Frank quotes numerous literary works throughout the book, he is portrayed as a literary dreamer, but it feels that Frank just sold out his beliefs for the big bucks of Wall Street. Is that what you intended for Franks character?
Many graduate students abandon their lengthy expensive degree search upon loss of confidence in its personal value. This in our present society is commonly a phenomenon in Ph.D literary programs. Frank lost faith as a scholar in its value. Only then did he look to join friends in a business. But that lack of grounding led to his naïve embroilment of Francy’s as well as his net worth in a debt guarantee which quickly balooned and then exploded. Frank’s failing was naïve trust due to business inexperience, not any misdeed on his part.
I, personally, love Robert who is escaping from his past in Alabama and literally bumps into Frank in upstate NY, the two of them become friends and open a brewery. Robert constantly lectures Frank on the Old Testament. Is this to point out the errors of Franks old ways or is it to show the choices that Frank has between the Bible and fly fishing introspection and growth? Or to compare and contrast religion with self-learning thanks to fly fishing?
Robert, based upon my deceased Alabama friend of his same general description, is a complex character. The special bond of Robert and Frank roots in their respective personal pain from betrayal. Robert has rather self-medicated with biblical interest. Frsnk has self-medicated with flyfishing interest. Butby their creative artisanla work together in trusting friendship, they each begin to heal from their former wounds. They each are evolving within and outside that strong friendship.
The book is over 300 pages in length, and you tell the basics of the story in about 40 pages, but most of the book has little to do with the actual bankruptcy, the relationship between Frank & Francy, and the tragedy that later occurs in the book. Why is that? And is the backstory of the couple secondary to the self-discovery of Frank through fly fishing.
The novel looks forward to what the drastic crisis of becoming really broke after wealth engenders. Francy and Frank are only 33 , much of their lives lies ahead. They are both survivor personalities. So they do not dwell retrospectively upon a lost past proven delusive, and neither does the swiftly progressing tale of Ruin. Again, Ruin is a play of the characters’ characters and how they relate to the weaving currents of chance as it flows to them
I am not a fisherman but I find it interesting that a lot of bad things happen to the fly fishermen, in this book, while they are fishing in the river. Is it as dangerous as it is portrayed?
Yes, several fly fishers die every year. Usually alone, a stream fisher walks across large slippery rocks in a fast flowing river. A loss of balance or slipping on an angle, ar ock collides the head, and drowning can occur. Chest high waders can fill with surging water and pull the fisher to drowning amid stunning rock collisions. Or one csn fall off a slippery cliffside onto exposed rocks far beloe as did Francy. This was vey merely my same final fate fishing for salmon above the Rusian Arcic Circle.
Hidden identities also comes up in the book as Francy and others used either maiden names or fictitious names to hide their true identity. Do you use this as another way to explain how there is literally more than meets the eye for most people? And I ask this because many of your characters either change personas or keep their lives a hidden mystery to others?
Francy simply uses her maiden name as an artist sensibly to escape being tied to Frank’s poor public image. Frank is resolute in keeping his true name, and wars his Campbell plaid shirt that Francy gave him all through this story. He mocks Jace’s past hidden identities with a fake confession his birth name was Soup, but he upgraded to the fancier Campbell name, a joke. It is Jace, complex and compulsive, who has covered his tracks in life with changed names. The source of his wealth is as uncertain as his actual name. Jace and Jay Gatsby ate the same type of vulnerable yet very assertive man.
I was impressed with your use of Anthony Trollope in the book. He is pretty much an unknown Victorian author here in the US, is he a favorite of yours? And, who do you prefer to read Trollope or Dickens?
Trollope by far. When younger I started a literary biography. But before much progress two more good onee appeared. Trollope is not an accidental choice for Francy’s dissertation. Ruin is Trollope-like in its close portrayal of what is making each characters click at close quarters, and their often blind entanglements in circumstances.
By the end we see Frank in London, and back in the financial industry and getting somewhat romantically paired with an apparent adversary, so has Frank learned anything through this entire process?
Yes. At tale’s end Frank has learned independent self-reliance. His business debut disaster from following others naively has been burned away in shame and then grief. Under the zennish Doctor Arbuthnot’s severe guidance Frank has learned to work hard to observantly assess open situations in nature as a self-taught flyfisher. And his basic intelligent, positive character by then has been prepared to re-enter the complexities of life for a man of 34.
Finally, is there another book on the horizon or are you branching out into other endeavors?
I am in the midst of another novel. It is a modern comedy centered on the image of iconic Izaak Walton, the mid-17th Century author of The Compleat Angler. It has printed more copies over centuries than al but rhebible and Shakespeare, though much outdated today.
Thanks so much for your time and we wish you great success with your book Ruin.