I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Dr. Brandy Schillace about my first novel The Yard, my career as an author, and about the influence of historical research on fictional writing. Dr. Schillace is a medical humanist, author, teacher of literature, young adult fiction, and creative writing at Winona State University, and blogger of bschillace.wordpress.com. The following is an excerpt of this interview.
Question 1: I have always identified with the Asimov quote: “I write for the same reason I breathe—because if I didn’t, I’d die.” Does this describe you? Could you say a bit about your early writing experiences?
I don’t know that I’d die if I didn’t write. I imagine I’d become so utterly bored and useless that I’d fade into the wallpaper and be forgotten. But I’ll never know because I’ve always written and I’ll never stop writing. It’s something you do because it’s something you do, not a conscious choice. You’re wired for it or you aren’t. It’s a way of looking at the world.
When I was a little boy, my father used to collect old radio shows on giant reels of tape. He’d load them on an old reel-to-reel player and I’d listen to mystery/dramas like The Shadow and The Unexpected, Lights Out and Sherlock Holmes. Then I’d try to write my own stories for those shows that had gone off the air decades before I was even born. I knew they were old, but I had no idea radio plays weren’t a popular form of entertainment anymore. I wrote lots of stories about dinosaurs in subways (despite never having seen a subway) and vampires fighting Sherlock Holmes.
Question 2: Not unlike many an author, I come from an academic background where writing fiction is a somewhat closeted affair. Can you talk about when you decided to “write for real”—that decision to write for publication and give this work the time and energy it so deserves?
I have always always always had an eye open toward eventually becoming a published novelist. I read The World According to Garp in high school and decided that Garp’s life was the one I wanted (except for the mutilations, adulteries, and sudden deaths). I wrote two novels that were absolutely terrible and put them away where nobody would ever see them. Then I wrote two more novels that I’m actually pretty proud of and hope to see published someday. I wrote dozens of short stories. Then I got the opportunity to write graphic novels and did that for a bit (I wrote seven of them, actually). When my agent told me that I ought to write this Scotland Yard idea I had as a prose novel, it was all the encouragement I needed.
Fiction shouldn’t be embarrassing or lesser-than. Sure, it’s meant to entertain, but it’s also a tool for navigating and understanding society. If a piece of fiction is good, it can inspire, uplift, teach, or even just provide a means of escape for a few hours. There’s real value to that, I think.
Read the rest of Alex Grecian’s interview at bschillace.wordpress.com.