Jumping out of helicopters into the open ocean to save people…sounds like a superhero to me! Read on and find out more…
According to Wikipedia, ‘a superhero is a type of heroic character possessing extraordinary talents, supernatural phenomena, or superhuman powers and is dedicated to a moral goal or protecting the public.’ Sounds like a writer to me!
Join me as another one of these unsung superheroes invites into their personal ‘batcave’.
If you were to write the ‘origin’s episode’ of your writing what would be the most important scenes?
The day I discovered the power of “coffee.”
Almost as important, this, straight from my basic bio: When I was ten, I was sent to my grandparent’s house in Tuscon, Arizona when things were tough at home. I was pretty damn lost, as my grandparents were largely strangers to me. My older brother, a more taciturn type, refused to discuss what was going on. Fortunately, like so many kids before me, I was rescued by literature. Or, at least, by fiction.
In a tiny used bookstore that was just one block up from a dirt road, I discovered that some good soul had unloaded his entire collection of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “John Carter of Mars” series in Ballantine Paperback. Moved by some impulse, I spent my RC Cola money on the first book, “A Princess of Mars.” I think what struck me was how these books were possessed of magic: they were able to transport me far from this dusty land of relatives who I didn’t know and relatives pretended not to know me to another dusty land of adventure, heroism, nobility, and even love.
It was the first magic I’d encountered that wasn’t a patent fraud, and when I closed the stiff paperback with the lurid images on the cover, I decided it was the kind of magic I wanted to dedicate the rest of my life to mastering. And, thus, I was saved.
What did your early efforts look like? Are they still around to be used as bribes and blackmail material?
On reflection, I realize I’ve been writing since before then. I recall something written in second grade (oddly by coincidence, in Tucson, as well) about being part of a pack of coyotes, so clearly the power of the written word was calling to me even as a wee lad.
Most all of the early efforts (before age 25) were thrown out in a fit of existential despair when I was, er, 25 (my mid-life crises arrive every 25 years…I’m precocious that way). I’d been rejected, yet again (back when you printed up your story and emailed it to your target magazine of choice). Hurled a bunch of files across the room, aiming for a black plastic trash bag. I did save a couple of stories, and those still show promise.
All superheroes have their mild-mannered secret identity, what is yours? I promise we won’t tell.
I’ve worn many disguises to pay the bills, like all the usual starving artist jobs (waiter, truck driver, bookstore sales clerk, janitor). One time I went fully public with my super-hero persona, when I took the leap (as it were) to become the 61st Aviation Rescue Swimmer in the Coast Guard. Jumping out of helicopters into the open ocean to save people is great way to deal with any lingering manhood issue that might be bothering a guy.
Who are your partners in crime? What are their superpowers?
There’s the cats of course. But they’re more like independent contractors who only show up when they think they should. (Deus ex Felina)
My associates at the RightWingRiot (political satire site), Ms. Always Right and Scary Smart. Superhero names explain it all.
My wife, Alisa. Has a very big heart and is a much nicer person that I am.
Where do you get your superpowers from?
Failure, mostly. I have learned a lot more from falling on my face than from landing on my feet.
Where is your secret lair and what does it look like?
Typically, dark and cool. Good sound system (must have music when writing). Lots of books. Good keyboard (Microsoft Natural saved my wrists). Lots of books nearby. Pix of the family. Coffee close at hand, with room for the cats to drop by for their silent critiques.
What kind of training do you do to keep your superpowers in world saving form?
Bike rides, mostly. Both my main partners are currently hors de hospital. One (the Distance Dude) just had open heart surgery. My wife (The Rib) just had knee surgery, but she’s slowly building up to more distance and challenges.
Bike riding is great time to be alone with my thoughts and God. Do a lot of gratitude praying on the bike rides.
How do you insure they are used only for good?
I avoid writing nihilistic “People are awful and life is terrible” crap. Most of that stuff is, I’m convinced, just an effort by the writers to avoid taking responsibility. Yeah, there’s a hell of a lot of terrible stuff in the world…that people have allowed to happen. You can bitch about it in your artwork, or you can do something about it in your own life.
Griff personally might not be able to do something about rhinos being poached in Africa (okay, I’ve kicked in a few bucks toward stopping that), but I can rescue a cat from the pound (Felix). I can say “yes” when my wife scoops up a scrawny, wormy kitten in a parking lot in the ‘hood (Ava). I can say yes and grudgingly paint the spare room so we can house the 8 or 9 homeless students of my wife’s that we had live with us over the last decade.
You can outsource your compassion (and outrage), or you can do something with your own sweat, toil, and money to change the world around you right now. It’s up to us to make God real in the world. We are God’s hands and feet, we are the miracles He promised.
Granted, you probably don’t’ get to wear your superhero costume a lot, but if you did, what would it look like?
Something with matching shoes, belt, and handbag, I’d imagine.
What is your kryptonite?
Clutter. If my work environment is too cluttered with papers, notes, random racing children, I find it difficult to work. Also, working hungry is never good.
What are the biggest challenges faced in your writing?
Getting my ego out of the way. I had to mature emotionally (and spiritually, perhaps) to get past the lies I was telling myself. Really destructive garbage like:
“I’m nothing unless I’m a published writer.”
“Unless I’m successful, I’m worthy of being loved.”
Completely and utterly poisonous lies like that gave my power away to other people. Fortunately, I found a fellowship that helped me see past those lies. It wasn’t an easy journey, nor is it complete, but it helped me a lot. And once I let go of my self-worth being based on whether or not anyone ever bought a story/book/screenplay of mine, I was much more free to just create.
Granted, I would have hated to die a failure…I would have hated worse to die wishing I’d had the guts to try(see: “Drama Geek in High School decides to sign up for Rescue Swimmer School, the second toughest course in the US Navy”)
What was the supervillain that threatened to stop your latest project and how did you vanquish it?
The day job. Or, as it was at the time, the Graveyard Job. 12 hour shifts.
And sleeping during the day was miserable as hell. (Almost the only thing everyone trapped on that shift would talk about was how tired they were)
I had to dig pretty deep into the discipline piggy bank to get anything done during those months. Fortunately, the majority of the text was written, so I was doing more analytical work in the editing/revising. The energy drain made having any meaningful amounts of creativity on tap a real gamble.
What important lessons have you learned along the way?
Everything costs. Simple enough.
You can have/do almost anything if you are willing to pay the price.
When my son, Cameron, was little, I had one goal as a father. I wanted to give him good memories and I figured that “stuff” would go through the whole “where moth and rust doth corrupt” thing. I wanted him to remember his father as someone he had cool experiences with, not as some distant figure sitting in a chair watching.
So that meant there were some nights I’d come home from the 75 mile commute (California, what are you going to do?). All I’d want to do is veg. But he’d want to go sledding in the National Forest that was, literally, just across the street. I’d make a cup of coffee for myself, and he and I would hike through the snow. I’ve got some great photos of him “moonlight sledding” and he had great memories.
So, yeah, it cost me some time being a slug. But my son knows his father loved and loves him.
Same with writing my first novel. I was getting up at 4am in the morning to write, having discovered that I had energy then, rather than trying after 8 hours of work with the 2.5 hour commute added in. I wanted to write, wanted to write well, so I had to pay for it with some sleep.
You want it? Figure out what it will cost to get it, pay the price, and go on your merry way.
What have been the best/most memorable experiences along the way?
Creatively/Artistically? There was the time I flew back from the CG Air Station in San Francisco to a Play Festival on the East Coast. My play was closing the festival (to allow me travel time). At the end of the drama, the audience just sat in silence for a moment…and then burst into loud and sustained applause.
Personally: Finishing Rescue Swimmer School. Changed my entire perception of myself, taught me that we are so much more than we believe we are, and that we are capable of so much more than we think.
If you did this again what would you do differently and what would you not change?
I don’t know if I’d change anything. I’d not have my son in my life, nor my wife if I changed something (going all “Butterfly effect” here).
All the wrong roads, all the screw-ups, all the crummy beliefs got me here. So, no, I’d not change anything.
What is the best (writing or otherwise) advice you have ever gotten and why.
Old Hollywood screenwriters: “Seat of the Pants to the Seat of the Chair.”
You aren’t going to write if you’re not writing. And for me, I found that if I sat down, day after pre-dawn day, pretty soon the words were there, whether I felt inspired or not.
Tell us about you new book and why we need to drop everything and get it now.
It’s the third book in my epic Historical Fiction saga By the Hands of Men. I’m going to cheat, and let my reviewers tell you for me:
“This isn’t just a love story, nor is it really that much of a war story — it’s both and a lot more. You’ll chuckle, you’ll “awww,” you’ll get ticked off, you’ll be moved. Pretty much, if you name it, Griffis’ characters will make you feel it.
“The research is there, but you get the idea Griffis wouldn’t let historical data get in the way of his story (which is the way it ought to be in historical fiction). He also doesn’t overwhelm you with details the way so many slip up and do in early works — just enough to provide atmosphere and add an air of authenticity.”
What’s in store for you in the future?
Shoulder surgery…the peccadillos of a youth misspent trying to be Errol Flynn having caught up with me.
Concurrent with that: deep into research on the concluding volume of the series, Book Four (I swear it’s the last one).
Do you have any other big projects on the horizon?
I recently turned in the revisions to the second book in my professionally published series The Lonesome George Chronicles. Hoping to hear back from my editor on that soon. Book Three of that series is also written, but I need to conclude it with Book Four, as well.
Thanks for having me, Ms. Grace!
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