Stephen W. Longs Theres a Somebody grapples with themes of loss, self-delusion

Portland author Stephen W. Long will sign copies of his debut novel this week at Chapters Books and Coffee as part of August’s First Friday Art Walk event in downtown Newberg.

Due to be released in print form Aug. 6, “There’s a Somebody” marks Long’s first book, although he has previously published poetry and short stories in literary collections. When asked if there is a common theme that runs throughout his work, he said it just might be “messiness.”by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Debut -- Portland author Stephen W. Long will sign copies of his first novel, 'There's a Somebody,' this week at Chapters Books and Coffee as part of Newberg's First Friday Art Walk.

“I’m always interested in how people overcome difficulty, especially when the difficulty is of their own making,” he said. “It’s harder in a poem or even a short story to create multi-dimensional characters, but in a longer work like ‘There’s a Somebody,’ I hope to present people who are neither all good nor all bad. I want them to be people you know from work or school or who are you neighbors. That’s why I like a story’s ending to be a bit ambiguous, not wrapped up in a happy bow.”

The novel tells the story of Jim Bass, a 22-year-old failed college student who sees the world through the tragedy of his sister’s death. Having dropped out of school days before graduation, Bass leaves the woman he loves and the daughter he has yet to meet and begins a journey of self-delusion that just might lead to redemption.

Long said he was able to take a year off and write the novel thanks to a grant from The Elizabeth George Foundation. Even so, he said he knew “a year can pass awfully quickly,” so in order to speed up the process, he chose a setting (southern California, where he grew up) and an occupation (truck driving, a job he’s held in the past) that he didn’t have to research.

“Additionally, I had the experiences of starting and running a manufacturing business, and I played high school basketball,” he said. “Aside from the fact the protagonist is better at sports than I ever was, those elements came from my life.”

Long said he believes the themes and experiences in his book will resonate with a wide audience.

“In the case of ‘There’s a Somebody,’ anyone old enough to read the book has already experienced some sort of loss, made at least a few boneheaded decisions, fabricated tales to justify an unworthy action. So I think those themes will resonate with anyone,” he said. “And really, the story is very accessible. One reader said it has an ‘old shirt quality — comfortable and easy to get into.’”

Long’s next novel, which he hopes to have ready for publication by early next year, features Owen Youniacutt, a minor character in “Somebody.”

“Readers should watch for Owen’s brief disappearance (in ‘There’s a Somebody’),” Long said. “He’s off being a rascal in another book.”

Published by Rare Bird Books, through its Vireo imprint, “There’s a Somebody” is available from Barnes and Noble, Amazon and other major booksellers.

Also during the First Friday Art Walk, the Chehalem Cultural Center will host two events. Starting at 6 p.m., Marjorie Yap, of the Issoan Tea School, will demonstrate a traditional Japanese tea ceremony; beginning at 7 p.m., Mark Terry will provide guided tours of the CCC’s “West Coast Woodfire” exhibit.

For more information, including a complete list of artists and activities, visit

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