Next up in the Author in the Zone Series is, Sam Gridley.
Sam Gridley is the pen name of a fiction writer who, like his latest protagonist, has bounced all over the American landscape, from New England to Southern California. His novel The Shame Of What We Are, illustrated by Tom Jackson, is being released this fall by New Door Books.
Hey Sam, Welcome to Author in the Zone. How long have you been writing?
If you count scribbled poems in grade school, I’ve been writing for--wait, I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count on. More than 50 years, I think.
Give us a little background to your writing work to date?
After my undergraduate years at Berkeley, during which I avoided “creative writing” courses, I got serious about writing fiction. A couple of years later, I landed a Stegner Fellowship in fiction at Stanford, but still didn’t have much understanding of my themes or how to approach them. It wasn’t until age 30 that I began to publish stories in small literary magazines, and that practice has continued to this day. Along the way, I’ve also written four novels, some satirical essays, seven nonfiction books, and miscellaneous other stuff. Only the fiction and satire are published under the Gridley moniker.
Tell us a little about The Shame Of What We Are?
It’s a novel about a nerdy kid growing up in a dysfunctional American family in the 1950s and early 1960s. Or trying to grow up, because it’s not clear how well he succeeds. In tone, SHAME is tragic, comic, ironic, silly, and serious at the same time. In form, it’s chronological, but the chapters skip across years in such a way that the narrative becomes fragmented--a “novel in pieces,” I call it--and the reader experiences some of the protagonist’s own dislocation as the family breaks up and reshapes itself, jumps from one part of the country to another, and generally goes through all the confusing transitions that created contemporary America.
Who are your favourite writers?
Ford Madox Ford, first of all, the great 20th-century British stylist with a romantic 19th-century mind. Among current authors, Richard Russo, whose novels helped me learn how to write with warmth and benevolence about deeply flawed characters.
What is New Door Books?
It’s an unusual collaboration between a private company, P. M. Gordon Associates, and a group of writers, the Working Writers Group of Philadelphia. Under the New Door imprint, the company publishes “innovative fiction” chosen by the group.
What's the last book you read?
The River Between, a 1965 novel by the Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o, a tale that combines politics with a Romeo-Juliet love story. It’s set in colonial Kenya when resistance to English rule was beginning to build.
How do you market your writing?
Any way I can! Blogs, reviews, interviews like this one, readings, book fairs, press releases.
What's your view on self publishing via traditional publishing?
Since the big publishing houses have largely abandoned serious literature, it’s up to those of us who care about it to find a way to get it out there, whether through small presses, self-publishing, cooperatives, handing out poems on the street--whatever works. The publishing landscape is changing so fast that it's hard to tell where these trends will end up five years from now.
Where can book lovers find examples of your work?
The Shame Of What We Are can be ordered at the New Door Books website and at dozens of Internet booksellers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.
An earlier novel, The Big Happiness, is available as a free PDF here.
One new story is in the current issue (4.3) of Prick Of The Spindle magazine.
Another is coming out soon in Carve magazine. Finally, a number of my older stories are in the archives of online magazines; by googling “Sam Gridley” (this works best with the quotation marks included), you’ll find a number of them, including ones in Paradigm, The Piker Press, Superstition Review, and Decomp.
What advice would you offer new writers?
Beyond what everyone else says? I guess I’d stress one thing: patience. If you get some recognition quickly, that’s great, but if you don’t, and you’re really serious, you’ll want to keep writing anyway, and that’s when you’ll need all the patience you can muster.
Thanks Sam for the interview. Best of luck with everything.
Sam's Blog's here.