Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Same Six Questions - Eileen Granfors

Another round of The Same Six Questions! Today, my guest is Eileen Granfors. Welcome!

Thanks, Andy! I live in Santa Clarita, California. A former army brat born in New Orleans, we lived in Germany after World War II. Our family settled in Imperial Beach, California, where my mother’s love of body surfing turned me into an avid surfer girl. I am a proud UCLA alumna, who taught high school English for many years. When not reading or writing, I can be found walking my dogs or taking them to the dog park, scrapbooking, or traveling to see friends, family, and our darling grandkids. My husband and I hope to retire to our home on Table Rock Lake (Missouri) in the coming year or two.

The Same Six Questions

1. Have you published a book yet?

I have published four books. Two are anthologies (1 poetry, 1 short stories).

My most popular novel is a YA multicultural, Some Rivers End on the Day of the Dead, perfect for learning about the Hispanic Day of the Dead while following the journey of a plucky, kind, ninth grader (Marisol) in the midst of some snarky classmates and a California wild fire.

My newest novel is Stairs of Sand (All of my books are available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions). This is the book I wanted to write from the beginning, but it took me five years to get the two main characters right: a perfectionist mother (Jolene) and a free-spirited, adult daughter (Zoozle), a woman who continues to make bad choices. The title comes from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, about how outer appearances deceive, how what’s underneath could be as false as "stairs of sand.” Readers have written to me the honesty of this portrayal and the emotional link they felt about the family’s problems. I love hearing from fans.

2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

As a child, I had a love for books before I could even read. I would pour over books looking for words I might know. All my life, my love of books has grown. The summer my mother died, I wrote a brief memoir for family members about my mom. I found that helped me with grieving her loss. Once I retired from teaching, I felt an urgency to write more, beginning with poetry and short stories and moving on to the novels. I still write flash fiction as a means to capture a scene and give it muscles.

3. What was your first lengthy piece of fiction (say, >1000 words)?

My first short story, Side by Side, was a memory of childhood in Germany where my father was stationed after World War II. I remembered our German maids and the deep forests and our big house. I focused on my busy parents. My brother and I were left in the care of our German housekeepers more often than not at a time when the Germans had no great love for Americans.

I wrote the story in 2005. I still have it, and now that I have more writing experience, I can see where the story needs editing and focus. I sent it out to a few hundred magazines. I think I’ll have better luck with it when I get time to edit and re-submit. One major literary magazine wrote a note, “Interesting, but not there yet.” I think I can get it there!

4. When was your first indication, "I can do this (write)?"

My UCLA Extension teachers in the Writers’ Program encouraged us to “submit, submit, submit.” I had two short anecdotal pieces accepted for the Cup of Comfort series, edited by Colleen Sell. The first, Bruised But Not Broken, is the story of how my first marriage fell apart. The second was published in the Military Families anthology and focuses on my father’s strict discipline. Once those were published, I could see what editors were looking for and how to achieve a stronger storyline and more vigorous prose. I also learned a lot about how my family reacts to my writing—some fans, some infuriated.

5. If you could meet one of your characters in real life, which would it be?

Wow, this is a very difficult question. I feel as if I know Marisol and her whole cast of characters from Some Rivers End on the Day of the Dead, so I’m ruling out that book. I like Chloris a lot from Stairs of Sand. She is a Somali immigrant to the United States. She works at a hospice. Her spirit of gentle strength encourages everyone she befriends. She has a charismatic humor, a beautiful singing voice, and likes to wear loud colors. I would like to spend more time with Chloris because there are days when I really need her optimism and kindness, her belief that the world can be made a better place by one person acting in a hopeful, supporting way.

6. It's a dark and stormy night...you're alone in the house...there's a knock at the door...you open it, look out, and proceed to scream like a little girl. What's on the doorstep?

On the doorstep of a dark and stormy night, I answer a knock at the door. I scream and scream and scream, each scream higher and shriller. In front of me stands Sydney Carton (from A Tale of Two Cities), holding his head in his hands (he was beheaded at the guillotine). Once I stop screaming, I welcome him in with a towel under his dripping neck, because he is the subject of my next book, a historical novel, and I really need some information from him about his cryptic words of time spent in Paris (“. . . picking up some French law, some French, and some French crumbs.”)

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Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Eileen! For more of Eileen and her writing, be sure to check out her book blog, review blog, and Amazon author page.