David Roberts IV


Studio RobertsBecoming the Author

Written by Brett Levine     

Photo by Jerry Siegel

 

“The house was started in 1928 but [was] left uncompleted in 1929,” says David Roberts IV, standing in his front yard. The home has expansive views of the valleys looking toward Birmingham; though it sits on a hill, it is not on “the” hill, not on Red Mountain. That is to say it’s not a Gatsby-esque, old-money Birmingham home. Being both in and out of the circle, being able to survey the center of the city but live just on its periphery, is an element of life that Dave Roberts really loves. This approach comes in part from his mother. “My mother was a person who really believed that people were equal,” he says. “She worked tirelessly to integrate the symphony. She focused on philanthropy and culture, but she was also connected with every community in Birmingham.” This willingness to look outside the narrow confines of traditional southern life led to Roberts’s own formative perspectives. “In many ways these experiences led me to a position where much of the work that I do, whether creative or professional, is grounded in the idea that we should always look deeply at issues that might make us challenge our own fundamental beliefs.”

This became apparent when Roberts’s wife went to enroll in graduate school in Georgia many years ago. “Imagine my surprise when she told me that she couldn’t enroll until I came and cosigned her paperwork. I couldn’t believe that her opportunities could hinge on her capacity to have a man be willing to give authority to something that she wanted to do,” he says. This prejudice toward women in all its guises led him to the character that forms the core of his debut novel, Becoming Twigo. “There was never any question in my mind that the main character would be a woman. Given the women in my life, and what they experienced, I never even considered the idea that it would focus on a man,” Roberts explains.

Writing a novel is challenging, and Roberts approaches the task with his usual combination of analysis, self-deprecation, and humor. “Becoming Twigo is my first finished work of fiction,” he laughs. “The main character, Twigo—pronounced like a twig because she wears black and is so skinny she could remind you of a burned stick—is the victim of bullying. In the course of the novel she encounters a number of conflicts, but one of the central ones involves a revelation about her main tormenter.” Without spoiling the novel further, suffice it to say that the story explores many themes, including issues of religion, LGBT identity, prejudice, and the fundamental questions of adolescence. “Becoming Twigo reads at a number of levels,” Roberts continues. “On the surface it is simply a story of adolescence. A little deeper, Twigo begins to confront some of her deeply held beliefs. Even deeper still she has to encounter and question some of the larger questions that challenge us all.”

Of particular interest is the novel’s setting, which Roberts leaves to the reader’s imagination. “Well, the story is set in Crestview,” but he is not referring to the one in Destin. This leaves readers to insert the tale into their own universal everywhere, which is precisely what he wants. “There are circumstances and situations that may be more familiar to people who live in the South, but generally Becoming Twigo is really a cautionary tale.” As he explains, Twigo has the chance to be many things: a ballerina, a student at a more affluent public high school, a wispy girl dressed in black clothes hiding someone else’s deepest, darkest secrets and trying to determine how best to handle such information, a young girl being bullied and hoping to understand how to manage such a horrible situation.

What Roberts gets, which is something outside analysis but grounded in experience, is that suffering is universal and that the process of growing up and maturing is shared. Having known and championed strong women, Becoming Twigo is simply his recognition of the fact that women remain marginalized and that through decades and generations this refuses to change. As a writer of fiction, he realizes that his characters can give these ideas voice.

So what’s next? “Well, I’m always one to root for the underdog,” Roberts says. “So I’m already working on the sequel. We’ve watched her become Twigo, so let’s see who she is.” Read Becoming Twigo, the debut novel by David Roberts IV. Then look for Being Twigo, the sequel, which one can only hope will be coming soon. Readers everywhere will want to know how Twigo grows.

One Response to “David Roberts IV”

  1. Denise Gillespie says:

    BecomingTwigo sounds excellent! I have read excepts and can’t wait to get the book! I would also like to contact Mr Roberts about an upcomg conference we are coordinating for Autism Society of Alabama: “Autism: Unlocking the Mystey” to be held on October 28th in Gardendale. We had ove 450 attendees last year with 40+ presenters and 35+ exhibitors. Children with disabilities often experience bullying and discrimination as Twigo did! I was wondering if Mr Roberts would be interested in exhibit space to sell/sign his book but can’t find any contact phone number or website for him. Can you help?
    Thank you for any assistance you can offer!
    Denise Gillespie
    laypelverb3@gmail.com
    205-612-4458

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