Write what truly moves you: Shirley Jackson Award nominated author T.E. Grau chats to Kendall Reviews.

T.E. Grau is the author of the books They Don’t Come Home AnymoreTriptych: Three Cosmic TalesThe Lost Aklo StoriesThe Mission, and The Nameless Dark, which was nominated for a 2015 Shirley Jackson Award for Single-Author Collection. His first novel, I Am The River, will be published in October of 2018 by Lethe Press. Grau lives in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter, and is currently working on his second collection and second novel.

The coffee is ready, and very strong…

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KR: Could you tell me a little about yourself please?

I’m a writer who lives in Los Angeles.

KR: What do you like to do when not writing?

Hanging out with my wife and daughter, watching movies and whatever obscenely good television series is streaming at the moment, listening to music, reading, fussing around in the garden, scanning the sky, praying for rain, and avoiding the preponderance of the human race.

KR: What is your favourite childhood book?

Professor Wormbog in Search for the Zipperump-a-Zoo, by Mercer Mayer. That or Susan Blair’s 1963 woodcut edition of The Three Billy-Goats Gruff. That troll and his spiral eyes scared the Bible out of me.

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KR: What are you reading now?

The Secrets of Ventriloquism, by Jon Padgett. Brilliant stuff. I also just picked up some Willa Cather and Toni Morrison that will be getting my attention soon.

KR: What is your favourite album, and does music play any role in your writing?

That’s a tough one, as I love so many and have a running list of perfect albums. Probably something by Tool. Lateralus, maybe. Or Aenima. It changes by the hour.

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I always write to music. Usually it’s a lot of heavier post-rock stuff (Pelican, Russian Circles, Red Sparowes, etc.) and various doomy outfits like Sunn O))), Earth, Sleep, Forming the Void, Hemelbestormer – bands in that vein. The less lyrics, the better.

Over the years, I’ve listened to everything from movie scores to country Blues, stoner rock, Baroque classical, Armenian duduk, and marathon Iron Maiden sessions. Music helps me focus, lock in, and transport my thoughts.

KR: Who were the authors that inspired you to write?

Earlier in my teens, it was Margaret Weis/Tracy Hickman and David Eddings. In college, when it all turned serious, Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson convinced me to change my major and officially hobble my future job prospects.

KR: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?

Depends on the project, the length of it, and the complexity of the plot and structure. Sometimes a story doesn’t need it, as I just write what comes to me, building on the sentences prior. But that’s rare.

Mostly, I do outline as much as I can, writing down ideas, bits of dialogue and exposition as they pop up in my brain. At some point, the actual writing overtakes the outline and swallows it, but I try to outline and pre-write as much as possible, even if much of it doesn’t make it into the finished product. Outlining is my way of having a conversation with myself about the story and the things populating it, expanding on ideas, working out kinks, and testing storylines and plot runners, taking them as far as they can go to see if they hold up. It’s the best mechanism to discover the voice of a story.

KR: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I research mostly online, but also via our local libraries. I probably don’t spend as much time researching as I should, or want to, as I find research to be one of the most enjoyable, interesting, and rewarding parts of constructing a story that needs it.

KR: Describe your usual writing day?

It always varies according to my schedule. These days, I write when I can, wherever I can. I’m not as regimented as I used to be, nor as selfish with my time, when it was Friday night ’til dawn almost every week. I wrote most of my collection that way.

KR: Do you have a favourite story/short that you’ve written (published or not)?

I’m really proud of “Clean,” because it’s my wife’s favorite story of mine (she has exquisite taste in all manner of art), and because I wrote most of it in one sitting before lunch. I feel like I found a good balance between what could be real and what really doesn’t seem to be.

My favorite short story to me personally is probably “Tubby’s Big Swim,” because it turned out exactly the way I envisioned it. I’m also fond of my novella They Don’t Come Home Anymore, and have come to appreciate its protagonist Hettie Wexler through the reaction of readers.

KR: Do you read your book reviews?

Yes, I do, when I come across them, as I like to know if my work is resonating, and if not, why it isn’t. And also due to genuine curiosity as to what others think of my writing. I think all creative types who release their work into the public sphere are narcissists to some degree, and enjoy validation when it’s available. I’m certainly no different.

KR: Any advice for a fledgling author?

Read more than you write, and write what truly moves you. Very few authors will turn pro, and there’s no real marketplace anymore to support a book that will generate life-changing sales, so make sure you enjoy what you’re writing, and that it satisfies something inside of you that inspired you to write in the first place. Entertain yourself, first and foremost. Have fun, because it should be. Readers will sense that enthusiasm, and respond to it.

Also, don’t forget to live while you’re writing, or waiting to “make it,” however you define that concept. Being hyper-focused can be productive creatively, but harmful personally. Days are precious, and shouldn’t be wasted by living entirely inside your own head. Find that balance early on, and don’t deviate.

KR: What scares you?

Anyone or anything threatening my wife and child. Lack of physical control. Imprisonment. Being bound. Small spaces. High places. Very, very large living things. Degradation of my faculties.

KR: E-Book, Paperback or Hardback?

Paperback. Hardcovers are great for the shelf, and for posterity, but unwieldy to cart around. I’m a 70s dime store pulp kid.

If I ever read a book on my phone, slap the device from my hand and rush me to the nearest urgent care center for a cranial MRI.

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KR: Can you tell me about your latest release please?

My latest completed project is my debut novel I Am The River, which will be published in October of 2018 by Lethe Press. I’ll provide the official blurb below:

During the last desperate days of the Vietnam War, American soldier Israel Broussard is assigned to a secret CIA PSYOP far behind enemy lines meant to drive terror into the heart of the North Vietnamese and end an unwinnable war. When the mission goes sideways, Broussard is plunged into a nightmare that he soon finds he is unable to escape, dragging a remnant of that night in the Laotian wilderness with him no matter how far he runs.

A fever dream with a Benzedrine chaser, I Am The River provides a daring, often surreal examination of the Vietnam War and the days after it, burrowing down past the bullets and battlefields to discover the lingering horror of warfare, the human consequences of organized violence, and the lasting effects of trauma on the psyche, and the soul.

KR: What are you working on now?

My second novel, titled Salt Creek, as well as a short story or two.

KR: You find yourself on a desert island, which three people would you wish to be deserted with you and why?

You can choose…

a) One fictional character from your writing.

Israel Broussard from I Am The River. We’d have a lot of interesting conversations while waiting to eat, be eaten, die, or get rescued.

b) One fictional character from any other book.

Drizzt Do’Urden from R. A. Salvatore’s Forgotten Realms books. It’s been a few years since I’ve visited him, but based on memory, he remains one of the most interesting badass outcasts in fiction.

c) One real life person that is not a family member or friend.

Ray Bradbury. I think we’d have a pleasant time, regardless of how it all ended.

KR: Thank you very much Ted.

You can follow T.E. Grau on Twitter @TedEGrau

To find out more about Ted please visit his official website www.tegrau.com

Please visit Ted’s author page here

During the last desperate days of the Vietnam War, American soldier Israel Broussard is assigned to a secret CIA PSYOP far behind enemy lines meant to drive terror into the heart of the North Vietnamese and end an unwinnable war. When the mission goes sideways, Broussard is plunged into a nightmare that he soon finds he is unable to escape, dragging a remnant of that night in the Laotian wilderness with him no matter how far he runs.

A fever dream with a Benzedrine chaser, I Am The River provides a daring, often surreal examination of the Vietnam War and the days after it, burrowing down past the bullets and battlefields to discover the lingering horror of warfare, the human consequences of organized violence, and the lasting effects of trauma on the psyche, and the soul.

You can buy I Am The River from Lethe Press Books,  Amazon UK & Amazon US

The Nameless Dark debuts a major new voice in contemporary Weird fiction. Within these pages, you’ll find whispers of the familiar ghosts of the classic pulps–Lovecraft, Bradbury, Smith–blended with Grau’s uniquely macabre, witty storytelling, securing his place at the table amid this current Renaissance of literary horror. A collection of dark fiction that should not be missed.

You can buy The Nameless Dark from Amazon UK & Amazon US

“Find a safe place to die. And make sure it is away from the people and away from the sky.” 

Shirley Jackson Award-nominated author T.E. Grau delivers a tale of obsession, alienation, and a teenage girl in search of something beyond the reach of death. 

But sometimes, when they journey too far, They Don’t Come Home Anymore.

You can buy They Don’t Come Home Anymore from Amazon UK & Amazon US

 

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