Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Guest Author Interview - Daniel Grotta

Welcome to the latest guest author interview. Today we meet Daniel Grotta, read what he has to say below:

Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
My name is Daniel Grotta, and I have been a successful full-time freelance writer for over 44 years. During that time I have written literally thousands of articles, essays, columns and reviews for scores of American and British magazines and newspapers. I have also written or co-authored about a dozen books. My other editorial credits include works as a consulting book editor, literary critic, classical music reviewer, and general magazine editor. Although I have worked as a war correspondent, investigative reporter, features writer and travel editor, I am best known for my technology and digital photography books, articles, columns, essays and reviews, for most of the major technology, computer and photography magazines. I’m also known for having written the first biography of J.R.R. Tolkien, which was in continuous publication for over three decades.

You've written for most of your life, what inspired you to start writing fiction?
As a photojournalist, I was frustrated by not being able to put words to the pictures I was taking. Then, as a journalist, I became frustrated not being able to write my own opinions and perspectives to what I was reporting. Fiction was simply the inevitable evolution of  this process of discovering the world and wanting to make some sense of it. Creating my own stories is my attempt to understand human nature and my own place in the universe.

Did your experience in writing non-fiction help when you started your stories?
Of course. I not only use the editorial skills I developed and perfected over the years, I simply extended the reality of what I saw and observed by asking the question “what if” and letting it take me where it would. One of the more important lessons I learned from journalism is that it’s the small details that make a story come alive; that’s true for both non-fiction and fiction.

If you could work with any author, who would it be and why?
A difficult question to answer, since I admire many different writers. However, the fact is I am not a particularly good collaborator, except, in non-fiction with my wife Sally. When it comes down to it, writing is a solitary enterprise that is best done alone, without reference to anyone else’s work, style or approach.

You work with Sally (your wife) on non-fiction, but you work separately for fiction - why is this?
With non-fiction, typically, one of us takes the lead and the other supports and edits. Sally is the software maven, while I generally handle hardware-related articles and reviews. We also have a macro/micro perspective, where I tend to look at the overview and perspective, Sally focuses on the small nuances. It is a division of editorial labor that has served us well for nearly three decades of collaboration. Fiction, however, is an entirely different matter, since it emerges from our individual imaginations and not from external stimuli. We each pursue our own visions and stories,  though recently, we have created and share common characters and locales in our Black Bear, Pennsylvania stories.  

What do you enjoy most about writing?
Reading my completed article or manuscript.

And the least?
Actually writing that article or manuscript, word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, page by page. I do not do rough drafts and rewrites. Rather, I write and write and write until I am finally satisfied with what I have completed. Then I move onto the next sentence or paragraph or page. It’s an exhausting, sometimes excruciating process that can involve re-doing a page 40-50 times until I am satisfied and then move on. But once I am finished, the piece is generally finished and needs only a light edit, not a rewrite. It’s hard work, but satisfying once completed.

What advice would you give new and aspiring authors?
Don’t give up your day job. There are far fewer opportunities for freelancers than when I began writing, plus more competition. So, either you must be very good, able to excel in a niche market, or diversify your income until you can develop reliable paying editorial gigs. Sorry to sound negative, but the Internet has changed everything, and at least in the short term, not for the better as far as freelance writing is concerned. But if you’re determined and you persevere, talent, hard work and a  little luck may finally help make you that breakthrough that will allow you to write and make a living at it.

What are you working on at the moment?
I am completing my first full-length Black Bear, Pennsylvania novel, titled Adam V. It should be  completed sometime in February, and published in Autumn, 2013.

Tell us about your latest work and how we can find out more.
My most recent published work is a collection of short stories, called Seven From Haven. My publisher, Pixel Hall Press, describes them as “gentle ghost stories with an O’Henry-like sensibility, charm and humor.” The collection is available as a paperback from any bookstore, and as an eBook from Amazon.

Thanks to Daniel for sharing his thoughts with us, on Friday we welcome Matt Weaver to the hot seat.

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