Local author blazes his own trail
Vail, CO, Colorado
By all traditional measures, Ryan O’Reilly’s life was a picture of success.
He was 25, with a steady job working for the family auto parts company.
He had a girlfriend with wife potential and a house in the “buckle of the bible belt.”
Then one day, something snapped.
O’Reilly borrowed a friend’s Harley and cruised out of his hometown of Springfield, Missouri for what he assumed would be a weekend joyride.
“Next thing I knew, I had crossed Kansas and Nebraska and Wyoming and Montana and Idaho and I just kept going,” he said. “The farther I went, the better I felt.”
O’Reilly, whom critics have compared to a modern-day Jack Kerouac, didn’t return home for two months and by the time he boomeranged back to town, he had decided to sever his ties with the corporate world.
In an abrupt change of direction, O’Reilly began touring the country with a band.
He turned his journey of self-discovery into a novel. “Snapshot,” which debuted in August, explores the plight of the “twixter” generation ” youths in their 20s and 30s who veer from pursuing career success and marriage to travel, job hop and hash out identity crises.
Part of the novel is set in the Vail Valley, where O’Reilly’s family keeps a vacation home.
From the beginning, it’s clear the protagonist is chafing in an adulthood that falls short of his childhood expectations.
He describes a society where weddings “advanced like avalanches, and it was only a matter of time before you were caught in one.” He also bemoans his “obligatory, post-college, white-collar job.”
After discovering that his fiance is cheating on him, the protagonist straddles a motorcycle and embarks on a booze-drenched journey through American subculture.
Through loving and losing, staring down his own mortality and sampling ‘shrooms, he comes to view life as a series of “Snapshots.”
“The more advantage you take of these singular moments in life, that really makes it worthwhile,” O’Reilly said. “Those little snapshots are what you’re really going to carry with you.”
O’Reilly said he wrote much of the book on a bus while touring with the Cory Morrow Band. He served as the group’s tour manager.
“I literally lived out of a tour bus all over the United States,” he said. “Any rat hole, nasty, dirty old dance hall all over the country, I’ve probably been there. That’s where I met a lot of the people I used as characters in the book.”
One of those characters is a married woman who seduces the protagonist. O’Reilly dedicated the book to her real counterpart ” a friend with whom he shared an inspiring conversation at his family’s home in Beaver Creek.
Throughout the book, O’Reilly offers a flattering portrayal of the Vail Valley, though he takes a few “pot shots” at local landmarks.
O’Reilly on Edwards: “The term ‘Riverwalk’ was a misnomer because there was a good 25 yards worth of flashy, showy building between the walker and the river.”
O’Reilly on the Vail Valley: “If capitalism and economy were kings of the country, then Vail Valley was a jewel in their crowns; a bright, glowing showpiece whose only function was to attract attention.”
The author said he querried publishers throughout the country before a small company in Ramsey, NJ accepted the book. The novel is available at Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and borders.com.
Critics compare “Snapshot” to Jack Kerouac’s traveling tome “On the Road,” but O’Reilly said the similarities are largely unintentional.
“I didn’t keep a copy of ‘On the Road’ on my nightstand or sleep with it on my pillow while I was writing the book or anything like that,” O’Reilly said. “Certainly, it had an effect on me. That notion of a person about my age or a person at least in that time of their life sort of taking off is nothing new. It’s been written about since the dawn of literature.”
Presently 29 and living a nomadic life, O’Reilly himself is a case study on the twixter.
Rather than settling into a permanent home, he travels between Beaver Creek, Springfield and Austin, Texas, where he owns an entertainment company.
Buoyed by the success of his first novel, O’Reilly is working on two new projects: a novel titled “To Nourish and Consume,” and a travel guidebook chronicling his recent canoe trip down the Missouri River.
As for the future of his generation, O’Reilly has a positive outlook.
“I think there are potentially so many wonderful things that are going to happen in the next 30 or 40 years,” he said. “Its just whether we as a generation have the strength of character to really be able to do it.”