Every issue, IN presents INside Authors, a look at authors from around the world who have significantly caught our attention and deserve a little space and recognition. The following two authors are this month's choices. Our hope is to provide a glimpse, a snapshot, an overview of some of the finest writers of our time making waves both tidal and ripple.
Gordon Grant, Novelist
Background INfo: Iíve done many things in my life ó law, U.S. Navy, trust banking, investments, commercial real estate, teaching English 101 and fiction writing, searching for less traveled roads, writing novels, designing and making furniture. Whew! I think thatís most of them.
I was bitten by the writing bug back in college and took many writing classes in undergraduate and later in law school. Upon graduation, I found myself on the horns of a dilemma. I was engaged to be married the following month, but I really wanted to put everything on hold and enroll at Trinity College in Dublin (a few of the great Irish short writers were still teaching then). After serious deliberation and the fear of losing my fiancť, family and friends, I took the easy road ó I got married. Shortly thereafter, Viet Nam came along and I entered the Navyís OCS program and spent the next three years at sea.
A couple of times during the next 20 odd years, I stopped everything I was involved in and took a yearís sabbatical to write. This was not a popular idea with my wife since each time I had to start fresh in a new career. It goes without belaboring that these sabbaticals were not good financial moves either.
Finally, in 1997 I sat down and began my first novel called, Goliathís Legacy. It took a lot of research because of its historical background (Israel in 95). I wanted to visit the West Bank where the action occurs, but it was during the Intifada and tourists were strongly advised to stay away ó especially Americans. (Iíve been told by European friends that they could recognize me as an American from a block away. It must be my shoes.) So, I traveled to the southwest coast of Ireland instead, rented a room close to the sea and finished the novel. Goliathís Legacy was published in 2002. I next wrote The Golden Mask published in 04.
INfluences: Initially, I became hooked on writing by reading the Irish short story writers together with Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald and early Capote. The Irish poets, Dylan Thomas and W.B. Yeats, were influential early on. In addition, the writers Marian Montgomery, Arthur Gordon, Reynolds Price and John Timberlake Gibson advised and encouraged me through the years to continue writing. Dr. Harry C. Rutledge, Professor of Classics at the University of Tennessee, nurtured my interest in archaeology that became a major theme of my novels. Two writers in my genre that have influenced me are Frederick Forsyth and Ken Follett.
Advice: Do not give up your writing, but I donít have to advise a writer not to give up. If the writing mosquito has truly bitten you, you develop the fatal disease called damncantevershakeit that may lie dormant for a time, but like the old jaundice, it keeps cropping up throughout your life. Occasionally, youíre able to resist it but most times not.
When youíre stuck on finishing a piece of writing, put it down. Go do something else and come back and back ó persistence rewards talent. I have an acquaintance, a best selling novelist, who was completely stuck on the ending of his breakthrough novel. He agonized for weeks on how to end it until his wife told him to get out of the house and go see a movie ó his frustration was driving them both crazy. While sitting in the darkened movie house, the ending for his novel came to him.
Internet Presence: I have a website (http://www.writinginireland.com) where I describe my fiction writing workshop that I conduct each year at Anam Cara Writerís and Artistís Retreat on the Beara Peninsula in Ireland. Also, the covers and the jacket review of my novels are shown, so visitors can order them by clicking on the amazon.com link. Iíve sold a fair number of copies through the website.
The Future: Iím writing my third novel with the working title Pharos. The action takes place in Alexandria, Egypt where Iíve spent nearly six weeks over the past couple of years researching and soaking up the atmosphere. Itís a thriller like my previous novels.
Goliathís Legacy, America House 2002
The Golden Mask, Publish America 2004
Michael Allen, Author/filmmaker/technical writer
Background INfo:I became a philosophy major after taking my first classes in logic and ethics. I then went on to receive both my B.A. and M.A. in philosophy. This was my training ground for writing. I did nothing but write philosophy papers. Even the tests were mostly essay questions. Along with philosophy, I started taking courses in Asian Studies and began studying both Taoism and Confucianism.
Tracing this back, there were early papers that I wrote applying Taoist thought to real life. I then wrote and delivered papers on the applications of Taoism targeted to applied ethics and medical ethics. And from a Zen class I was taking came the idea for an eventual book called, Tao Of Surfing, which during the course of its evolution became, Tao Of Surfing: Finding Depth At Low Tide.
Then an event occurred that brought me to realize what the book was to be written about. I wrote the book, found a publisher, and got the book published. The book received a Pulitzer Prize nomination in non-fiction and was shown at the Frankfurt book fair and picked up to be translated into Chinese. And not long after that, I knew that this book would make a great film. I got together with my brother-in-law Alex Carig who graduated in film and we wrote the screenplay together. Then, not wanting to go through the traditional complex and ineffective Hollywood route, we decided to produce the film ourselves. And now we are in pre-production and will start shooting October 1 of this year.
INfluences: Most definitely it was my three philosophy professors who served on the thesis committee for my Master's degree that provided the very foundation from which I now stand. All three, Henry Johnson, Al Spangler, and Paul Tang each helped me to become a better writer and to think more deeply about the subject matter that I wrote about.
Advice: Apart from the creative writing, I needed to pay the bills until I could become financially independent from my creative works. So I entered the field of technical writing ó another very successful move. I was able to continue writing, and although it was for various technical audiences, at least it was still writing. I knew that companies needed to have written documentation for every product they wanted to sell.
I also knew that they needed good writers who could convey the necessary information in a readable, useable format. There were always jobs, the pay was good, and I was able to hop around from company to company to write for different environments. Being a senior tech writer has served me well for many years, but now I am beginning to transition out of that as the fruits of my labor on the creative side are beginning to bloom.
To keep yourself afloat, explore the many types of writing for income: technical writing, marketing writing, screenplays, fiction, non-fiction, children's, etc. Explore different areas and see what you like, both for work and for your creative endeavors.
Internet Presence: Gaining technical knowledge as part of writing technical documentation enabled me to build my own web site http://www.taoofsurfing.com. I use it as a place to put information about my projects. I suppose that it leads to success in that I can point people to the site to gather necessary information that I want them to have. For example, people that we are considering bringing on board the film project can look over the site as a source of information. They can see that the film is an adaptation from the book, etc.
The Future: I have two children's books that I want to get published, both of which are registered with the U.S. Copyright Office in Washington DC. One is called, Tao Of Surfing For Children, which explores death and dying in a beautiful children's story full of metaphor and imagery. The other is called, The Ox And The Rabbit. Ox and Rabbit are the two Chinese horoscope animals of my wife and myself. Both books need to find not just any publisher, but the right publisher. And of course there is the full-length feature film that is now in pre-production. Information on all of these projects can be found on my web site. We will finish the film this year and it should be on the big screen in 2007.
Tao Of Surfing: Finding Depth At Low Tide
Tao Of Surfing, The version translated into Chinese (Taiwan)
Diego X. Jesus is a Dominican-born American freelance journalist and associate editor of IN who makes Toronto his home approximately half the time. Otherwise, we don't know where he might be. Email Diego X
Mark London is a Toronto based freelance writer and associate editor of IN who has been with the FWO-Int'l from the early years volunteering much of his time in assisting young writers' careers. Email Mark London