Please welcome Richard E. Gropp to the blog today! His new book, Bad Glass, just came out this week, and he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. Also, I’ve got 3 copies of Bad Glass up for grabs, so check out the details at the end of the post!
Richard, your new novel, Bad Glass, just came out! Have you always wanted to be a writer? Can you tell us about your journey to publication?
I’ve pretty much always wanted to be a writer. Ever since I stumbled upon the fantastic work of John Bellairs and Zilpha Keatley Snyder as a little kid, I’ve been fascinated by stories and their ability to transport and ensorcell. I wrote my first novel when I was 16 (a terrible dystopian SF story), and I’ve been writing, off and on, ever since.
My big break came when Bad Glass won the Suvudu Writing Contest in 2011, beating out nearly 700 other novels. The prize was $200 worth of Del Rey books and an editing pass from legendary Editor-in-Chief Betsy Mitchell, but Del Rey liked the book so much they wanted to publish it.
That was a pretty good day.
Will you tell us a bit about Bad Glass?
In Bad Glass, something strange has happed in Spokane, Washington, but no one knows exactly what. The government has come in and quarantined the city, locking down the borders, but strange rumors, videos and photos still manage to leak out: the mayor disappears into thin air in the middle of a televised press conference, cell phone videos show physics gone awry, and there are rumors of strange animals wandering the streets. Dean Walker, an aspiring photographer, decides to sneak into the city to document what’s going on, in the hopes of establishing a name for himself as a photojournalist. Naturally, as tends to happen in this type of story, everything goes wrong. He hooks up with a group of young holdouts and they fight to stay alive – and sane – while the world crumbles down around them.
It’s a pretty dark story. Definitely not comedy.
How did you celebrate when you found out Bad Glass would be published?
At first, I couldn’t really believe it. I figured that there’d been some kind of mistake, and Del Rey would call me back and tell me that they’d changed their minds. After the reality of the situation started to sink in, however, I think I went out for a nice dinner with friends. Pretty boring, really. I didn’t buy a private jet. No drunken debaucheries.
What are some of your biggest literary influences?
At the moment, I’d have to say my biggest influences are Raymond Chandler, Stephen King, Philip K. Dick, Samuel R. Delany, William Gibson, Caitlín R. Kiernan, and Haruki Murakami. But that list is constantly changing. Ask again in an hour, and I’m sure I’ll have some new names.
Is there anything that helps you write? Anything in particular that gets the creative juices flowing?
Hmmm … I have my habits, but I’m not sure they really contribute to my productivity. Twitter certainly doesn’t. I guess you could say I’m an early-afternoon writer – that’s when I’m at my most productive. And I need space and privacy so I can read aloud (I’m constantly reading over everything I write, listening to the sound of my words, the rhythm of the syllables). And I guess it helps to have my German Shepherd, Rebel, nearby. She’s a bit of a muse.
Bad Glass is a fusion of horror and fantasy. What do you find truly scary?
For some reason, I’m affected by weird body horror. If I looked down and saw a pulsing growth sticking out of my abdomen, maybe moving around with a mind of its own, that would probably freak me the hell out (you can see this kind of mutated body-horror in the early films of David Cronenberg, or the chest-burster scene in Alien). I also find human psychology absolutely terrifying. I’m always worried that there are strange, unconscious parts of my brain trying to sabotage my efforts, trying to lead me to my doom. (As Raymond Chandler notes, in The Long Goodbye, “There is no trap so deadly as the trap you set for yourself.”)
What are some of your favorite fantasy/sci-fi reads?
Again, this is a long, and constantly changing list. Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany is always near the top – it’s not for everyone, I guess, but it really opened my eyes as to what SF can do. Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves is another big one for me. I’ve been reading and re-reading William Gibson’s newer, “modern day” novels (Pattern Recognition, in particular, seems to speak to me). Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly. Jeff VanderMeer’s A City of Saints and Madmen. KJ Bishop’s The Etched City. Caitlín R. Kiernan’s The Dry Salvages. Patricia Geary’s Strange Toys. Stephen King’s The Gunslinger and The Stand. M. John Harrison’s Viriconium series.
What do you personally like to see in a good book?
I love it when a book absolutely consumes me, when it sucks me in and drops me into a living, breathing environment. And the stranger, the more perplexing that place is, the better.
What makes you want to set a book aside in frustration?
The most frustrating thing for me, I think, is when clumsy writing gets in the way of a great story. I can be in the middle of an exciting action sequence, turning the pages with trembling fingers, and then hit a passage that knocks me back to the real world. I’d almost prefer it if the book were uniformly bad, because whenever that happens there’s always a sense of regret and missed potential (“This would have been so great, if only …”)
Of course, I can be a pretty brutal reader, and I’m sure my own writing suffers from plenty of cack-handed choices.
What are you reading now?
I just finished Brian Evenson’s Immobility – a sparse, bleak, beautiful book. And I’m about to pick up M. John Harrison’s Empty Space.
When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
Lately, I’ve been honing my cooking skills. I make a mean chicken marsala, and a rather friendly bacon-wrapped meatloaf. I’m also an amateur photographer and an intermediate wakeboarder, although I haven’t been devoting nearly enough time to either of those pursuits… And then there’s bourbon, of course. (And, yes, I just stole that from Jay Kristoff’s interview. But when you’re right, you’re right.)
What’s next? Is there anything you’d like to share about upcoming projects or events?
I just got back from a research trip to Vancouver, BC, where my next novel takes place (fingers crossed). I’m still pretty early in the process, though, so I don’t want to talk about it too much. I’m also hoping to devote some more time to short fiction in the coming months. We’ll see where that goes.
Thanks a lot for having me on My Bookish Ways, and keep up the great work!
Keep up with Richard: Website | Twitter
Author comments are in a darker gray color for you to easily identify the posts author in the comments