By the way, if you’re traveling through an airport, it’s now a Hudson Booksellers Best Seller!
I’ve also had a couple of chances to talk about my fiction work. Most enjoyably, an old colleague from my stand-up days, Keith Tomasek, has a terrific podcast about the arts and the creative process, The Inadequate Life.Recently, we talked for an hour about my stand-up days and the transition to being a grownup, as well as the ins and outs of publishing. It was a blast. If you’d like to hear it, it’s here. I think it’s the most wide-ranging and probably most honest interview I’ve ever done. And for a media ho like me, that’s saying something.
I got into corporate training because when I left stand-up, I had a 15-year hole in my resume and only one marketable skill; I could stand there and talk.
To Keith Tomasek, The Inadequate Life podcast
“I like to tell people I’m the love child of Alexandre Dumas and Hunter S Thompson and let them figure it out.”
When asked by James Quinland Mervey what my influences are….
Take a look at this picture. None of it is doctored:
All my life I’ve dreamed of traveling to exotic places, seeing the world, and speaking about my passion; helping people communicate more effectively and making work suck less. This is a moment few people will ever experience (or even believe me when I tell them about it.)
I was miles from home and civilization, speaking at the Remote Work Summit, overlooking the jungle and talking about The Long-Distance Leader. Yes, the attendance was less than expected and disappointing, and yes, I was staying in a place with no air conditioning, a bathroom down the trail that I shared with 5 other cabins (and a passive-aggressive scorpion,) it was the rainy season, and when I wasn’t walking through the rain to the banos, my roof leaked. Travel logistics were a nightmare, but I got to see sights like this:
Because of my schedule, I couldn’t stay for the whole conference so I was up at 4:30 Saturday morning for a sometimes-terrifying 6-hour journey to the airport. Passing back through Antigua, I saw Monte Fuego at the end of an alley and took this picture:
Sunday afternoon, my phone blew up with messages, asking if I was safe. Turns out that lovely mountain now looked like this:
Basically the paradoxes of life were encapsulated in this trip:
I got to travel to an exotic place to speak about my work and met some amazing people, but it wasn’t the financial success I had hoped for. The story of my life.
It was a frustrating, crazy trip with a lot to whine about, but I saw and experienced things I would never have seen otherwise, and despite the mental and physical exhaustion, I’m grateful to have gone. Also a recurring theme.
I was bitching about some of the logistics and accommodations, and having to be up at 430 in the morning, and leaving the conference early. Yet I got out before a horrible disaster that has left dozens dead and many people unable to get home. I am one lucky sonofabitch.
Always nice when local press supports local authors, especially those who are indie–published. Glancer Magazine in DuPage County (outside Chicago) Gave me and Acre’s Bastard some love. You can check it out here
So I mentioned that there are a lot of Chicago area writers who love historical fiction, but that takes all forms. One of the genres that makes me a bit crazy is “YA” (there’s probably a whole rant here that you don’t care about) but anything that gets kids to read is okay in the great scheme of things. To that end, I’d like to introduce Danielle Grandinetti, author of “The Vanishing Kidnapper.”
Since 2008, Danielle has worked as a freelance editor and writing instructor, helping teens and adults become better writers. While mystery is her favorite genre to both read and write, she also enjoys historical topics, classic literature, and a good adventure. Her short stories and articles have appeared in several publications; her novel, The Vanishing Kidnapper was released in December; and her republished novelette, Choices Amid the Treeswas released as an e-book in August. Though a Chicagoland native, Danielle now lives in Wisconsin with her husband. She also enjoys a good cup of tea.
So what is The Vanishing Kidnapper all about?
Teenagers John and Kaitlyn Rivers have a simple life in their 1870s outpost, running their family’s general store for the surrounding communities and operating the stagecoach stop. But one stormy night, the stage’s visit is anything but ordinary. Kidnappings, attacks, and shady characters change a usually boring existence into a fight for life.
Confronted with their past, John and Kaitlyn begin to unravel a mystery that left them survivors of not one, but two kidnapping attempts. Their questions uncover facts different than the truth they had always believed. Now they have to decide whom to trust – and the lives of those they care about depend on it.
There’s been a real resurgence in local history writing lately, especially in the Midwest. What is it about this time period that you find so interesting?
The period after the Civil War is labeled the Reconstruction Era, in which it was hoped that deep scars would be healed and relationships rebuilt. Historians debate how well this happened and what impact those events have on the present. The tumult of this time is especially true of the Old West, or Wild West. That’s why I thought it served as the perfect backdrop to explore John and Kaitlyn’s discovery that people are not always what they appear to be.
Without giving away the goodies, what’s your favorite scene in the book?
My favorite scene in the book contains the biggest spoiler. It is wrapped around a character who fleshes out the main theme of the story. We as humans often put others into categories. The question is whether the definition of those categories really fit the people we’ve placed in them or whether people are bigger than the labels we give them.
How can people learn more about you and your books?
Gods with the heads of Dogs and Storks? Pyramids? Who doesn’t love them some Ancient Egypt? It’s also (and personally I blame Gerard Butler for this) not something that’s been explored a lot in novels or films (seriously Gerry? A Pharaoh with a Scottish accent and pasty Celtic skin?)
Lethbridge, Alberta, author Erin Chase, though, has written a romance set in the time of Ramses. Of course, I’ve spent time in Lethbridge. Fantasizing about another time and place is pretty much the local industry. I asked her what her book was all about.
What is “Behind Palace Walls” about?
Behind Palace Walls is an historical fiction set in Ancient Egypt. Sheshamun is an adopted fourteen-year-old girl living in a village along the Nile River. When Pharaoh’s Royal Wife takes a special interest in her, Sheshamun is chosen to be a member of Pharaoh Ramses’ harem. Once situated in the palace, she soon discovers the luxurious lifestyle is not at all how she had once imagined.
The strong-willed teenager must choose between family and royalty; pride and duty; honor and her own life.
What is it about Egypt that inspired you to write the book?
Ancient Egypt has always fascinated me. It’s a very exotic and unique culture that is completely different from today’s society. Between the polytheistic deity worship, exquisite structures (i.e. Abu Simbel and the Great Pyramid of Giza), and innovation of the time, I felt a need to learn as much as I could about the time period.
In 2010, only months before the Arab Spring, I traveled throughout Egypt. The beauty and complexity of the statues, hieroglyphics, and temples left me awestruck. What I had always pictured in my mind’s eye paled in comparison to what I actually saw. I just HAD to write about it!
Without giving away too much, what’s your favorite scene in “Behind Palace Walls?”
…Sheshamun was inexplicably drawn to a small, dark stall. Out of the shadows appeared a stooped, elderly woman. She opened her mouth to speak, but Sheshamun could not hear her. She beckoned the young girl to come closer. Being only inches from the woman’s face, Sheshamun could smell death and something else she could not quite put her finger on. Though repulsed, she refused to move away, knowing deep inside this old woman had something important to say. “Sheshamun, daughter of Hury and Nefra, you are venturing into great danger. Beware of those with the same blood, as all is not what it appears to be. Heed my warning and take solace in those pure of heart, or you will certainly bring forth your own demise.”
Where can we learn more about the wonder that is Erin Chase?
Another of my favorite writers has gone to…. well probably not his reward. There aren’t a lot of rewards for spending most of your life cooking, hunting, fishing, writing and drinking. Seems kind of redundant.
Jim Harrison, author of Legends of the Fall and so much more has passed. Go read something of his. Hell of a way to spend a weekend.
When the characters in your book say something despicable, stupid or “politically incorrect,” does that mean that the author is a racist, an idiot or a bad human being? This has been the topic of conversation, some of it fairly heated, at my writer’s group lately.
Historical fiction is particularly susceptible to this kind of discussion, because the characters must necessarily reflect the ethics and flavor of the time. My novel, The Count of the Sahara, takes place in the 1920s. This was a long time ago, and many attitudes have changed. Things that people said and believed then may seem outdated, wrong or even awful to us today. Don’t believe me? Get your Great-Grandma drunk and bring up the topic of race…. try not to be too scandalized by what comes out of her mouth–remember she’s old.
One of the few disagreements with Erik, my editor at TheBookFolks.com (a thousand blessings on his house and camels) was over just such a scene. Willy, a naive 19 year old German-American kid from Milwaukee walks up to the front desk and in his mind tries to place the ethnicity of the desk clerk. In the original draft, he looks at the slicked back hair and prominent nose and thinks he “must be a Jew or a Hungarian or something.” The points I was making were a) in the cities of early 20th Century America, racial identity was just part of the landscape so this was the way Willy would think and b) the big dummy wasn’t anti-Semitic, just curious about where the desk clerk was from and probably couldn’t tell the difference between a Jew and a Hungarian. It wasn’t a judgment, it was an observation. It also wasn’t a hill I was prepared to die on. Did I mention I lost that argument?
We had a similar dust-up at the Naperville Writers Group over the use of the “N” word in someone’s writing. Does the use of a certain hot-button word in your fiction condone it? One of my fellow writers actually made a great distinction: if it’s inside quotation marks, or the narrator is clearly identified as a specific character, you can get away with it. If the narrator is “third person omniscient,” then that narrator is basically you. If your character says something hurtful or insensitive, that’s one thing. If “you” do, perhaps you should reconsider.
Maybe I’m a liberal wimp, but I actually cringe a little when one of my characters says something I disagree with. It’s not being a slave to “political correctness,” I consider it common courtesy. Do I want to unintentionally cause offense to someone? I stop and think twice before writing something that I think might be hurtful to a reader, even if that’s not my intention.
Probably, though, I’ll write it anyway because that is what the character would do in that time and place. I’m not a 19 year old, big city, immigrant kid, and I don’t think like one. When I’m writing that character though, he’s not me either.
Maybe all fiction should contain a disclaimer: “Warning, opinions of the characters are not necessarily those of the management.”
Or maybe readers can just lighten the hell up a bit. Both work for me.