Bec: Welcome to my blog once again, Greg! Please start out by telling everyone about you –
Greg: Greetings, Ms. Besser – it is always such a treat to be featured on your square of virtual real estate. My name is Gregory L. Norris and I am responding to you and the world from one of the platinum sofas in my living room, in an old New Englander house in the mountains of New Hampshire’s North Country. The house is called Xanadu, and it’s my favorite place on the planet. Here, I write stories short and long, in a variety of genres. I’ve been published – and produced a few times for TV and film – since I started sending my work out into the universe. Writing I’ve often said is the heart that beats within my heart. As we speak, writer pals from my local group are on their way over for a write-in. It’s still National Novel Writing Month as of this interview, and I am deep into a fantasy novel called KINGDOMS BE DAMNED that has transported me far into the past, to Iliyand, one of the four kingdoms descended from a lost grandfather kingdom called Jiddoe. I’m part Lebanese; Jiddoe, not coincidentally, is Lebanese for ‘Grandfather.’ I never knew my Jiddo on my father’s side of the family, but my Sitoo – my Lebanese grandmother, her name was Lovey – was one of the coolest, smartest people I’ve ever met. She wrote poetry as a young girl, and I have every one of her original manuscripts safely archived in my home office here.
Bec: What is your most recent release(s)?
Greg: My soon-to-be-released latest is TALES FROM THE ROBOT GRAVEYARD. It’s a collection of three novellas that is due out from the fine folks at Great Old Ones Publishing (www.greatoldonespublishing.com). Each of the novellas concerns a facet of humanity’s relationship to the robots we’ve made in our image. The first, “Ghosts and Robots,” has at its heart the theme of family. The second, “Robot Kind,” explores religion. The final, “The Long Frost,” touches upon mortality and even sexuality/reproduction and survival. There’s a nifty bit of bling attached to TALES: it features an inaugural poem by my good friend, the widely-published poet Esther M. Leiper-Estabrooks, a cover by Eric Chu, the conceptual artist on the recent Battlestar Galactica that ran on the SyFy Channel, and a blurb by Amy Howard Wilson, who was the voice of “Nova” on the brilliant Japanese import from 1979, Star Blazers – that series helped define my world as a writer when I was young and struggling to discover my place on Spaceship Earth. I also think robots are ridiculously cool. Always have!
Bec: Tell us your favorite part of your most recent release –
Greg: There’s a scene in the opening of “Ghosts and Robots” that talks about the longest day in history, the last day as well as a coordinated attack by the mechanical men we’ve created ends the world that was and starts the world that will be. I had the scene visualized – in the old Underdog cartoon from my childhood, there’s a memorable episode I love where giant robots with glowing light bulb heads storm into a city. My version is considerably more visceral, as humans across the globe resort to huge sacrifices to win the war. But during an afternoon when a TV crew was visiting Xanadu to do a segment on my career, the show’s host asked me to free-write on the spot. I wrote that scene under the glare of the spotlight, and absolutely loved the results. It kicks off the first novella in the collection.
Bec: How do you plan to spend Christmas this year?
Greg: We host a Christmas party for our writers’ group friends every year. We have three big all day salons a year – May, September, and December. In September, all of the partygoers were invited to select a prompt from a box. All of the prompts were different. Those prompts are the theme for the reading portion of the party. I got “You’re digging in the garden when you find…” – my story, “Legerdemain in the Valley of Flowers,” is partly complete and I should have a first draft in time for the party. We always do a huge buffet spread, and our Christmas tree covered in German glass bulbs and family heirloom decorations will be up for the Yankee swap. At last year’s swap, I briefly held onto a year’s subscription to Poets & Writers Magazine. This year, Santa already bought me a subscription, so no fear on having somebody else swap me on that count! As far as Christmas itself, we host an open house on Thanksgiving with a huge dinner and homemade desserts, and last year a new tradition of spending New Year’s Eve at a fellow writer’s house with a sit down dinner and readings was born. For Christmas, my husband and I enjoy a big dinner of prime rib and watch movies with our rescue cats. And, of course, I write.
Bec: What is your favorite holiday food, and why?
Greg: That aforementioned prime rib! It’s luscious and decadent. Up here where we now live, there aren’t many choices for where one shops. But we have a fantastic local butcher who provided the most amazing prime rib ever for our writers’ group’s September retreat, which was to a house set beside roaring waterfalls. A second favorite are candy canes. A few years ago, I snagged a couple of candy canes following the Christmas party and found myself enjoying them while I was working on finishing up various stories and a novel. At this time of year, they just add that extra bit of joy when you’re writing!
Bec: If you could have one wish granted to you this Christmas, what would it be and why?
Greg: To be able to enjoy time with my other grandmother, who will turn 98 in 2015! My Grammy Rachel once wrote for the magazine Highlights For Children and was mentioned in The Writer’s Yearbook for her literary excellence. I used to visit her regularly, but since moving there’s a long distance between front doors – however, I’m heading south in just a few days for a visit!
Bec: If someone was going to buy you a book (or ten) what titles would you like to receive?
Greg: Well, I’m a huge fan of so many of my fellow contemporaries. I just got a copy of David Greske’s Dark Tales For Darkest Nights – which is as disturbing as it is fantastic. I read a little bit of everything, from copies of The New Yorker that my library puts in the ‘please adopt’ box at the front door to Harlequin romance novels to free reads online. The first week of NaNoWriMo, I devoured one of the skinny Stephen King paperbacks from when he serialized The Green Mile way. Last year at this time I ate up your novel, Nurse Blood, which was uncommonly good. So I guess to answer your question, anything and everything!
Bec: If I were a Christmas fairy, do you think I would be a good or evil fairy?
Greg: I think your identity would depend upon the time of day, and whether the moon was full!
Bec: What is your most magical memory of Christmas from your childhood?
Greg: My Grammy Rachel always had numerous Christmas trees in her home, a magical house on Foster’s Pond in Massachusetts that no longer exists. There was a tiny fake tree in her kitchen, another on a credenza, a small live tree, and then a huge live tree in the living room, covered in lights. I always thought that was such a neat celebration, spread out over various rooms. One year when I was young, she handcrafted a stuffed lion for me. She’d started work on a stuffed dog but claimed she messed up the pattern, and wrapped him up for me anyway. Those two stuffed animals are still with me, sitting with the other teddy bears from my boyhood in my wonderful office, constant companions over these many years.
Bec: Is there anything I haven’t asked you about that you would like to share?
Greg: Not really, you’re such a fantastic interviewer – and always such a treat to be interviewed by. I will say this. When we first moved here, I briefly attended another writers’ group. Well, referring to that group as being for writers is a generous nod. Mostly, people sat around and behaved cattily and waited for the business portion to be over so they could wolf down pastry. Writing didn’t have much priority there. One of the people in that group apparently didn’t take kindly to my presence and told people it was because she found me ugly. To my husband and my Muse, I’m a centerfold. Just saying. I guess the point of mentioning any of this is that I love being a writer. I love the writing. Even at its ugliest, the writing is still beautiful.
Bec: Thank you for sharing a little bit about you and your book(s). Have a great Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year!
Find out how to stalk Gregory Norris:
Read my review for Gregory L. Norris’ book: The Fierce and Unforgiving Muse!
©Rebecca Besser & Gregory L. Norris, 2014. All rights reserved.