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Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Interview with Jesse S. Greever, Author.

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

Amazon Kindle e-book reader being held by my g...Image via WikipediaI actually have a Ph.D. in Chemistry, and I have worked as a teacher, a government researcher and a high-technology sales professional.  I have always had a keen sense of curiosity about the world in which we live, and I take that curiosity and use it to craft stories that address these curiosities.  My first published story, “A Summer Wedding” is an unusually short flash-fiction piece available from Untreed Reads publishing, and has enjoyed enormous success in the United Kingdom.  My recent release, “5”, is available at most United States eBook retailers, and will be coming soon (in the next few weeks) to United Kingdom retailers. It is also available through Amazon.co.uk as a Kindle ebook.

Tell us about "5" in a few sentences:

"5" tells the story of a man frantically trying to contact a quality assurance inspector at a clothing factory after he finds the "Inspected by #5" slip in his new pants pocket with a mysterious message written on the flipside.  When he learns the truth of the message, he finds something entirely unexpected.

How did you come to write “5”?

I was actually sitting in a hotel room in Albuquerque, New Mexico on a business trip, and had some time to kill (as is often the case when I’m away from home).  I remember, as a child, occasionally finding these little slips of paper in my jeans pockets announcing that the pants had been inspected by someone, usually indicated by a number.  I had always been curious about whom these people were and what they must be doing, and as a result, I set up a situation where a man seemingly received a slip with a cry for help on it.  Interestingly, as I molded the story, I found the main characters guiding me towards a resolution that even I didn’t initially see coming.  What started as a story of paranoid intrigue evolved into something quite unforeseen.

How do you set about writing a piece?

I was educated as a scientist, so I have always had an inquiring mind.  The “seed” for a story generally starts with a “What If?” type of question.  In the case of “5”, I wondered about the lives of these seemingly anonymous inspectors at clothing factories.  In the case of my previous story, “A Summer Wedding”, I built upon a question about teenage love and how our emotional intelligence evolves as we become older and wiser.

What do you think makes a successful writer?

Well, I’m not sure I’m what you would call “successful” in any conventional sense.  I define my success by actually having established a relationship with a publisher (Untreed Reads) that found my stories compelling and agreed to publish them.  I guess, looking at my stories and the stories that I like to read, I believe what makes a writer successful is the ability to either tell a compelling story effectively, or take a solid story and telling it in a compelling manner.  For instance, a story that is inherently compelling can be told poorly or fantastically, depending on the writer’s skill.  Likewise, a wonderful author can take any situation and tell it in a gripping manner that makes you want to keep turning the pages.

How long does it take you to write your works?

5That, of course, depends on the length of the work.  When it comes to short stories and flash fiction, I generally try to write the first draft in a single sitting.  I don’t start writing until the story line is complete in my mind, although, sometimes I find that as I develop characters, they start to bend the story to their will.  For instance, I wrote the first draft of “5” in about two hours.  It’s not a terribly long story, but as I was writing it, I found the story evolve around the main character’s loneliness.

In the case of longer works, such as my forthcoming longer story, “The Annex”, it took me about seven or eight hours, split up over a week, to come up with the first draft.  I am also working on a Novella that is about 50 pages in length that required about three weeks to fashion a rough draft that told the story I wanted to tell.  Another three or four weeks of revising and rewriting was required until I was happy with the manuscript.

Overall, I guess the simple answer is it takes as long as it takes.

How do you know where to begin a particular story?

For me, a story starts with a single idea or a curiosity.  But in order for me to start writing the story, it has to be built around a character.  Characters drive the story.  I know that no matter how fabulous an idea is, without the proper cast of characters, the story can go nowhere.  So, when writing, the story begins and ends with the characters.  It begins with the character exploring the story idea, and it ends when the character has followed the story to the logical conclusion.  As I said before, sometimes, I let the characters dictate the story to me, as they become more real during the development phase.  In those cases, the story is finished when they tell me it’s finished.  I don’t know that I could fully explain that, but I just get a certain feeling that the character is satisfied with how the events have unfolded, and when that occurs, it’s time to “put down the pen”

What are you working on now?

I’ve submitted a manuscript called “Morningstar: Dawning” to Untreed Reads that I’ve been working on for the past few months.  Hopefully, if it is published and well received, it will be the beginning of a series of novellas that explores an idea that I have been incubating for the past few years:  What if the Devil decided to make himself known to the world, and ostensibly give up fighting the battle for humanity?  It’s probably my favorite work that I’ve done to date, simply because it allows me to tell (what I believe to be) a fascinating story, all while exploring deep metaphysical and spiritual concepts.

How much manuscript revision do you do before submitting to a publisher?

For me, if a story is read out loud, and flows both grammatically and logically, then it is finished.  It is amazing how different my stories sound in my head as opposed to being read out loud.  I find all sorts of issues with my prose as I say the words aloud, and I find it to be one of the most effective revision tools in my arsenal.

How did you come to work with Untreed Reads publishing?

Untreed Reads is an exclusively digital publisher, and I decided that if I were going to find a publisher with which I could form a relationship, digital publishing was the way to go.  I realized that most traditional publishers would be less likely to take a chance on an unknown.  However, digital publishing requires considerably less overhead, and I surmised that those publishers might be more willing to try out a new author.  Untreed Reads accepted my first story, “A Summer Wedding” gladly and worked with me to polish it and get it ready for publication.  As I worked with Jay Hartman (editor), I found that I would much rather focus my energy on working with a single publisher and forging a solid relationship, and so at this point, I am publishing solely and exclusively with Untreed Reads.  They have a tremendous distribution network, both in the United States and abroad, and in fact, through their fabulous marketing efforts, “A Summer Wedding” has consistently been on the short story bestseller list at Waterstones.com.

Is there any aspect of writing that you find particularly frustrating?

I am not, by nature, a very patient person.  Writing has taught me patience.  Many times, I sit down with a story idea, and I want to regurgitate it onto the screen as quickly as possible.  However, once I’m in the middle of writing, impatience can actually work against me.  I have to slow down and develop the setting and characters carefully.  Once I take the time to address those facets of the story, the story begins to unfold on its own, far more effectively than if I tried to force the story out quickly.

Beginning writers make many mistakes; what do you think is the most harmful and what advice would you give?

In my view, the biggest mistake a beginning writer can make is believing there is no room for improvement on any given story.  When I wrote “5”, I thought it was as close to perfect as it could be.  When Jay returned the story with suggestions, I quickly realized that by adding a few paragraphs near the end of the story, the poignancy of the tale reached a new level.  The best suggestion I can give a new writer is this:  be open to suggestions.  Generally, if an editor is making suggestions, it means that they are interested in the story.  Even if you disagree initially with their assessment, try revising to address the questions and concerns.  It is surprising how much a story can improve just by doing that.

Links to “5”:





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