a novel by JOHN GRABOWSKI

Posts tagged “novel

Encore: My wife

dana1 And now a word about someone I’ve never talked about before, but who has helped me in more ways than I can say.

My wife Dana has been my helpmate and my biggest supporter throughout the writing of this novel. For some reason, she believed I could actually do it. Now that it’s finished, and it’s headed out into the big unknown world of editors and agents, I have to pause and be thankful that, with her help and encouragement, I was actually able to accomplish something that turned out to be bigger and tougher than I’d expected.

My wife has been there through all seven drafts. She has made sacrifices so that I could spend my days finishing this thing. And she’s never complained about it. Not once.

I have, mind you, but she never uttered a discouraging word, not even when I was convinced I was a talentless hack. (That’s on alternate days that end in “y.”)

She knows when to pull me away from it to have fun, so that I don’t get too frustrated. She has arranged some wonderful vacations so that I could forget about Welsey Shaw and Callicoon.

She has taught me patience, that the best things often take time. Without her my life would be so much less wonderful. I owe her a lot.

Did I mention she’s whip-crack smart? She finds solutions to complex and difficult matters faster than many people with professional training in the relevant fields, and seeing her acumen in so many areas has made me wary (wisely, I think) of those who bill themselves as “professionals” and cite their years of experience. And she consistently demonstrates that brains beat fancy parchment every time.

Many novels, possibly some really great ones, never get written because the writer doesn’t have the support that I do. In this day and age of diminished advances and falling profits, it should come as no surprised that talented wordsmiths are quick to make a buck elsewhere. Which explains why the writing in a 30 second TV commercial can be better than that in a 300 page novel.

Because I am blessed with a patient and understanding wife, hopefully my book will be better than a lot of drek out there. If it’s not there will be no one to blame but yours truly. But if it’s good, make no mistake about it, it would not have come about without the help and encouragement and support of the person I look forward to seeing every day, the love of my life, my Dana.

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Replay: Welcome to Kollikoonkill

Much of Entertaining Welsey Shaw takes place in the small New York town of Callicoon. And I mean small. The population of the official whole town is 3057 according to the latest census, but the main concentration of that, or “census-designated place,” is just 167, down from 210 in 2000.

Callicoon is located on the edge of the NY-PA border, about two hours northwest of Manhattan and right on the Delaware River. It’s an escape. Sort of an artists colony that never took off, Callicoon is delightfully away from it all. Until a couple years ago they didn’t have cell phone service. Many people still don’t have TVs or high-speed Internet. Want to know where dial-up is alive and well? Come to Callicoon.

It was featured in the opening scene of the movie TransAmerica, I’m told. (I haven’t seen it, and can neither confirm nor deny.) I love this place. It’s got a vibe all its own and it’s gorgeous in the fall. There are farmers markets and pot lucks, and a sense of community. Everybody knows everybody pretty much. It’s quiet at night, and you feel safe.

There are no first-run movie theaters, no video stores, just one supermarket, and only a handful of restaurants. (They’re quite good, though.) There’s lots of nature. It’s particularly breath-taking in October and November. I live in California, and we don’t really get a proper autumn. I miss the golden leaves, the red trees, the crisp air, the frost, the mist, the chill in the air.

Callicoon is a very patriotic town, but it strikes me, from my limited experience, as a mellow kind of patriotism. While strolling along the grass one day, watching people walk their dogs and commune with nature, I came across this monument honoring the fallen veterans of all wars. I was impressed enough by the site to specifically mention it in my story.

The town was named Kollikoonkill by the first settlers. It means “cackling hen.” Early Dutch hunters trained their rifles on the abundant turkeys in the region. They came for the good eats, and stayed for, well, maybe for the absence of wifi.

Callicoon boasts the country’s only hydro-powered radio station, WJFF, 90.5 FM. Well, actually it’s located in next-door Jeffersonville, but it’s close enough for Callicoon to claim some credit, I guess. Power comes from a dam 50 feet away adjacent to Lake Jefferson. In my novel, my main character Daniel fills in there occasionally, doing classical music shifts. In reality I’ve never seen it, but I did do similar shifts at similar stations in my college days. That’s how I first heard the incredible Kazzrie Jaxen, a fiery pianist of wit and wild imagination, who lives in Callicoon.

The Catskill Mountains and their many spas are nearby. There are nice hotels and plenty of places to pamper yourself, though I’ve never done it. The area is so scene a whole 19th century school of nature painting, the Hudson River School, derives from it. Some of those artists worked in and around Callicoon, and perhaps there are artists who still do. The Hudson River School is noted for its depiction of humans and nature in realistic settings co-existing peacefully rather than being in a struggle. This is the philosophy around Callicoon and its environs in general. People here are very in tune with nature. They are deeply concerned that the currently active and popular fracking interests, which are buying buying up properties, will start to pound oil and gas out of the ground, destroying much of the area’s natural beauty.

Let’s hope the environmentalists win. Especially since natural gas doesn’t seem like it’s going to be the big economic boom that was forecast.

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Replay Guest post: From the Front Porch – Interview with John Grabowski

John GrabowskiThis week’s guest for From the Front Porch: Creativity Interviews is John Grabowski. John has been following my blog since the early years (I started it in 2008!), and has been a frequent commenter. We developed an email friendship as he worked on his forthcoming novel, Entertaining Welsey Shaw. On his blog he has some really interesting things to say about the phenomenon of celebrity culture, which he addresses in his novel. John is one of the smartest and well-read people I know. Please welcome him to our Creativity Interviews.

Tell us a little about yourself. Perhaps what do you do for a living and where you live?

I live in Northern California and I’ve been a copywriter, a newswriter, and a novel writer. Right now I’m on the Marketing and Development Committees of the Peninsula Symphony as we are working to attract a broader and more affluent audience to this truly excellent orchestra.

When are you the most creative? (Who are you with? Where are you? What are you doing?)

I’m a night owl. That’s when I generally get most of my ideas and do my best writing. Doesn’t matter where, really, as long as I can get my fingers to a keyboard. I tend to like the “white noise” of coffee shops, however.

When are you the least creative? (Who are you with? Where are you? What are you doing?)

Mornings. I am not a morning person and never have been. Doesn’t matter how much sleep I get or when I go to bed.

What inspires you and why does it inspire you?

Other great art. Great ideas, different ways of looking at common things.

I don’t write fantasy or escapism. Everything I write is deeply-rooted in reality—often the most mundane reality that most people don’t pay attention to. So when someone can see that reality in a fresh and new way, I am inspired and want to do the same.

Share a favorite quote:

The great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. —Emerson

 What creative project are you working on now or do you hope to work on?

Getting dressed. Seriously, it’s 11am and I haven’t gotten away from the computer yet today.

 Share a photo of something you find beautiful:

My wifeJohn Grabowski's wife

Name one of more of your favorite books. What do you love about them? If they changed your life in any way tell us why.

Of course knowing me as you do you’d expect to see a title by Deborah Eisenberg here. But she writes short stories, though they’ve been collected into books, so we can just assume at least one of these would be one of her titles, probably one of her last two, All Around Atlantis or Twilight of the Superheroes. I think she is the most important fiction writer working today because she is doing things no one else is but at the same time she’s doing it with a vocabulary that wouldn’t stump a high school student and she has probed the fringes of consciousness without resorting to any trendy new writing styles. She shows that direct simplicity can also be complex.

I also enjoy many of Alice Munro’s stories, though I do think Eisenberg should have won the Nobel for her greater breadth and insight. And you, Susan Gabriel, have turned me on to Francine Prose!

Netherland by Joseph O’Neill is probably the best novel I’ve read that’s been written in the last ten years. I also enjoyed his follow-up The Dog, though the critics were pretty luke-warm on that one, for some reason

To The Lighthouse just blew my mind the first time I read it in the way it dealt with the most ordinary events with tremendous depth.

Richard Ford’s Bascombe Trilogy impressed me in similar ways. Or the first two novels did. I thought the third sputtered. There’s now a fourth Frank Bascombe book but I’m not sure if I’m going to read it. I think I’m sort of done with Frank.

Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road is an understated tour-de-force. And I love Milan Kundera, especially The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and José Saramago, especially The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis.

Name one or more of your favorite films and tell us what you love about it/them.

In literature I am drawn to realism—you might almost say mundane realism. Robert Altman’s films, or many of them, are of a similar nature. So are Ernst Lubitsch if you want to go really far back, especially the pre-Code ones.

Yet I also love the outsized aspects of Fellini, and 8 ½ and La Dolce Vita are two of my favorite films. They use fantasy to make a bigger point about realism.

So fantasy at the service of realism is fine. Fantasy for fantasy’s sake not so much, even if there’s a “moral” to the story. It’s usually a very simple moral.

Name one or more of your favorite pieces of art (painting, sculpture) and tell us what you love about it/them.

The Milk Maid by Vermeer, though to understand why you’d have to see it in person. The best prints don’t capture the impact. That’s true of any Vermeer.

Rembrandt’s self-portraits, especially the late ones. Same story. They seem to have a history that began before you entered the room to look at them and continue after you leave.

What were you like as a child?

God knows.

Tell us about something you’re proud of having created, participated in, etc. (not your offspring, please! 😉

This is going to seem ridiculously esoteric, but I intuitively figured out the “Circle of Fifths” in music without ever having it explained to me. I also distrusted a scholarly discovery that claimed a section of Beethoven’s music had been edited incorrectly all these years and had to be revised. Turns out I was right—the copyist made the “corrections” and Beethoven considered them wrong—they are!—and put back his original. But for several years some Beethoven scholars thought the “wrong” way was right and it was even recorded this way. I was never fooled, because that’s not how Beethoven thinks; it has nothing to do with taste.

What are you grateful for? (Today or in general.)

My health. A number of friends have had brushes with cancer or other disease and I have nothing to complain about. I am in good shape overall.

From JL’s Uncle Jessie Meme:

A song/band/type of music you’d risk wreck & injury to turn off when it comes on the radio?  

Hip hop. But really most pop.

A favorite show on television?    

Don’t really have one.

If you could have anything put on a t-shirt what would it be?

The formula for the Unified Field Theory. I’d then win a Nobel in physics and be famous.

A favorite meal?

Sushi.

A talent you wish you had? 

Concert pianist.

What’s on your nightstand? 

Isn’t this a family blog?

What’s something about you that would surprise us?

Same answer.

Check out John’s blog here.

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Please take a moment to let John know what you appreciated about this interview. Be sure and check out the link to his blog, too. If you’re feeling too shy to comment, consider sharing this post with your friends on your favorite social media platform. Thanks! xo

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P.S. A quick note about the title of this series, From the Front Porch:

Here in the South, we love our front porches. They are where we get to know our neighbors and take a load off with our friends. Ideally, I would invite John here to my house, we’d sit with a glass of iced tea, and I’d interview him while a cool breeze moved through the oaks, accompanied by the sound of two rocking chairs squeaking on the floorboards. Instead, I’ll ask you to use your imaginations. I hope you enjoy the breeze!

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Susan Gabriel is the acclaimed southern author of The Secret Sense of Wildflower (named a Best Book of 2012 by Kirkus Reviews) and other southern novels, including Temple Secrets, Grace, Grits and Ghosts: Southern Short Stories and others. She lives in the mountains of North Carolina.


Moms

Brooke Shields. Jennifer Aniston. Lindsay Lohan. Eminem. Tori Spelling. Miranda Kerr. Drew Barrymore. Ariel Winter. What they all have in common with Welsey Shaw is mother issues. Severe mother issues. Despite making it in an incredibly difficult business where managing people is a key skill, they can’t manage their mothers. Most won’t talk about it, as in the above where Ellen DeGenerous tries awkwardly to get some “good TV” out Modern Family’s Ariel Winter. The young actress won’t bite. Moms can have a devastating effect on us.

Welsey Shaw’s mother is a conglomerate of stage moms (just as Welsey is a conglomerate of actresses) plus some original stuff (just as Welsey is some original stuff). Like many real celebrity moms, Lynne lives Welsey’s fame vicariously, enjoying the spotlight—the parties, the perks, the money—in many ways more than her daughter. It causes a rift between them, as daughter grows up faster than mother. When the novel begins, Lynne has access to Welsey solely though a phone number she’s allowed to call no more than once a day.

Some relationships are tricky. Lindsay Lohan seems both close to and antagonistic with her mom. Jennifer Aniston supposedly “made good” with her mom a couple years ago, after decades of estrangement. For Tori Spelling, mom Candy is still not a bestie, especially since withholding money because, claims the latter, “[Tori] would close a store and drop $50,000 to $60,000.” Tori doesn’t deny it: “‘It’s not my fault I’m an uptown girl stuck in a midtown life. I was raised in opulence. My standards are ridiculously high. We can’t afford that lifestyle, but when you grow up silver spoon it’s hard to go plastic…I grew up rich beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. I never knew anything else. Even when I try to embrace a simpler lifestyle, I can’t seem to let go of my expensive tastes.” This is sort of the inverse situation of Welsey and her mom.

More often than not, we don’t have the transparency into the mom-daughter dynamic that we do in Tori Spelling’s case. Ariel Winter has not talked about her rocky relationship with her mom, but back in 2012, when Winter was only fourteen, her older sister filed to become her guardian. She was officially emancipated from her mom at age seventeen, meaning she became an adult in the eyes of the law. While her mother has released a statement saying “the family has moved beyond the conflict,” Ariel doesn’t seem to agree.

I must say I really admire and respect these celebrities. Their professional lives are already uber-stressful, but to have parents on top of that who are non-supportive (with the exception, it seems, of Candy Spelling, who seems to be doing what’s good for her daughter)  must make it all that much harder. Family support is key to success in every endeavor, and my heart goes out to those who, for whatever reason, do not have it.

Welsey Shaw’s relationship with her mother is rocky, and gets worse. But there will be a reconciliation—and a sad one—if I ever get around to write the sequel, which I’ve tentatively titled Ravishing Welsey Shaw. As for the release date of Entertaining Welsey Shaw, well…stay tuned.

 


The price of fame: Living your life in public

Britney & paparazzi

The paps, getting a piece of her.

She’s a wildly-famous blonde superstar who’s been in the spotlight since she was a teenager, and she nearly lost her mind because of the relentless scrutiny she found herself under.

But we’re not talking about Welsey Shaw.

Britney Spears could probably identify with my blonde heroine. No matter what you think of her talents, you have to admit she must have stamina to live her life with paparazzi camped outside her door and reporters following her every move.

She recently told the magazine Marie Claire UK that for many years she didn’t know who she was or what she was. She was living a life defined by other people, unable to form her own self.

I can’t justify the craziness of the public eye for Britney’s former irresponsible behavior. She endangered her children, of whom she lost custody (since re-won, at least on a 50/50 basis with her ex, dancer Kevin Federline) and did some truly wacked out things. Shrink-type people said she was crying out for help. Probably true. If she really were suicidal she’d have succeeded.

But I find it interesting how so many stars-since-they-were-children have their childhoods snatched away from them, and make up for it in overdrive later on. How what everyone thinks they would like—fame, fans, riches—can lead to madness, depression, desperation. Interestingly, one of her most well-known comeback songs is “Piece of Me,” and it’s from an album called Blackout.

Critics have criticized Spears’ art for not being deep. That may be true, but I have a feeling she’ll get deeper. When she was younger, she didn’t know much, because she wasn’t allowed to live a life. So she couldn’t have been deep. Her rebellion might have ultimately been the best thing to happen, artistically.

Something has to set childhood stars free. For Britney it was an unlikely bumpy series of events that, after a lot of loss and pain, liberated her—or at least so it seems. For Welsey Shaw, part of it was equally-unlikely, Daniel Ferreira in a Midtown Manhattan Starbucks who lets her discover what real conversation, real people, real experiences and opinions, feel like. The road through fame is filled with twists and turns, and it’s different lengths for everyone.