About Failure to Navigate



There is a difference between excuse and explanation. No one knows this better than Catherine Sellers as she recounts the story of her relationship with Thomas Christie to their child.

Failure to Navigate is a fictitious re-telling of a true story inspired by personal letters, authentic medical documents, and verbal accounts from those who have survived. With the late 1960s and early 1970s as a backdrop, Catherine and Thomas’s romance begins in a whirlwind of underground parties, fast cars, and drug-fueled nights. Things turn dark as Thomas sinks deeper and deeper into his mental illness and Catherine tries to navigate the emotion and violence that comes with it.

The pendulous back-and-forth nature of their relationship is as extreme as the thoughts in Thomas’s mind, swinging between the sweetest, tenderest moments of young love to the erratic brutality of abuse. Though he yearns to be “a good, good man,” Thomas’s attempts at redemption are no match for the depth of his sins.

Thomas’s first-hand account and Catherine’s perspective from both then and now together reveal the details of their equally sordid and sweet history, bringing into question the black-and-white nature of good versus evil and just how blurry the line between the two can be.


How Failure to Navigate came to be:

When co-author Jessie was fifteen, she found what is basically the coolest jacket ever manufactured. It was dusty corduroy and had tarnished buttons, but she wore that jacket daily. One day, she inquired about where the rad vintage jacket came from, and that’s when this novel was born: snippets of anecdotes about the original owner– a boy long-dead — swirled in her head for years.

In 2008, Kris and Jessie met online. Soon after, they began writing collaboratively. They discovered that not only does it suck to find your other half living on the other side of the country, but that they had an affinity for writing with each other. With their equal parts of wit and grit, they decided they might be onto something, which was fortunate as writing is all either is really motivated by or interested in doing.

After publishing many works online and sharing a brain for years, Jessie told Kris what she knew of the story of the dead boy’s jacket. Kris and Jessie agreed: this forty-year-old story needs to be told. So, they spent entirely too much time combing over the text Thomas left behind and then moved onto endlessly pestering those who survived the story for their first-hand accounts, all of which lead them to discover a tale nearly stranger than fiction. Truly, many of the anecdotes about the real Thomas did not make the cut of the book because they were deemed “too unbelievable.” Kris and Jessie added a bit of fiction, a bit of advice and a few words from their deceased subject, taking into account the perspectives of those who knew him. The final result is Failure to Navigate.


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