Thursday, March 03, 2011

Author Interview: CE Grundler

Hello beautiful people! It's Sharing Time, and boy do I have something good: an interview with CE Grundler. Multi-talented and a boater extraordinaire, she's written for boating magazines, and her debut novel, Last Exit In New Jersey, is not one to be missed!

Last Exit In New Jersey

Other Links:
Book Review: Last Exit In New Jersey
Mysteries For Mutts Fundraiser
CE Grundler (author website)
Twitter: @cegrundler
Original Hamster Dance

First things first. I was digging through your website, and wow were there a lot of boat pictures! How did you first get started with boats and sailing?
My parents claim ‘Boat’ was among my first words, and at the rate I’m going it’s likely to be one of my last as well. My family had an old wood fishing boat moored on the Hudson River, and I had a small sailboat I used to get around the way most kids use a bicycle. From spring until fall that’s where I spent most of my time, sailing and fishing. There have been a few boats since then, and my husband and I are currently restoring an old thirty-two foot trawler.

Some kids cycle; others sail. I love it. That explains the boating in Last Exit In New Jersey. Now for something that may require a bit more explanation: Hammon. How did you come up with the idea for his physical/mental state?

I’ve often joked that after a nuclear explosion the only things to survive would be cockroaches, dandelions… and Hammon. His character evolved and wrote himself. The burn scars and uncertain mental state are direct result of events that aren’t revealed until late in the story and I did extensive research into the physiology and psychology involved. As I wrote, his character developed beyond the initial damage he’d suffered, and his self-destructive tendencies became another part of his history. I couldn’t have him actually succeed, but each time I discovered another way that someone has survived something potentially fatal, I thought; “That sounds like Hammon.” As for his mental state, it is a combination of cumulative damage and his own perception. I made a point of never specifically pinning down any actual diagnosis – it’s clear there is physical brain damage and deep psychological issues, but as for his memory I wanted to keep his fellow characters (and readers) questioning how much is legitimate and how much is, shall we say, ‘just in his head’. That question is a key element in the sequel I’m currently working on.

Poor guy. I think I'd rather be Hazel at this point. The girl gives "independent woman" a whole new meaning. For example, just look at her handle on self defense (and offense, as it were). How did you learn about knife-fights and setting traps?

Hazel does manage to keep everyone at arm’s-length. Again, this was a case of much research, (army training manuals are handy!) as well as some very fun and entertaining self-defense classes. I knew a fellow who normally trained Police and DEA agents in fighting and defense, and I convinced him to teach me and my then teen-aged daughter. On top of learning various wonderful combat techniques, we had a blast tossing each other around that padded room, much to the amusement of our instructor. He said he’d never seen two opponents go at each other the way we did. If there’s one thing I would recommend for any mom with a teenage daughter it’s a class like that. For one, you’ll know your daughter can take care of herself, and it’s a great guilt-free way to beat the hell out of your kid, and vice-versa, which we both found to be very therapeutic.

Sounds like fun! Speaking of therapeutic activities, what is your favorite part of the writing process? Least favorite?

Plain and simple -- simply writing. I love when I know what I want to say; when I’m on a roll and the ideas just keep coming. I’ve learned the best thing is to just go with it and write, then circle back and edit later on. I don’t even mind the editing process, hunting through for any possible cuts and revisions. It’s almost like a game at that point, My least favorite point, but one I feel is vital for a densely plotted story, is the outlining process. I’m a bit obsessive with my outlines... they build into pages of flowcharts, listing events, what each character knows and does, and what is actually occurring, even if the characters (and readers) have no idea. It’s tedious but critical for keeping everything on track, and once it is done then I can get down to the business of writing.

Well the plotting definitely paid off. Everything tied together so well in Last Exit. Since you planned out each of your character's thoughts and actions, which one was most similar to you? Was it intentional?

I laughed when, in your review, you described Hazel as MacGyver-esque. My daughter tells all her friends “My mom is MacGyver,” for my ability to build, fix, rig and repair almost anything. I’m nearly as introverted as Hazel, and she certainly has my sense in fashion. It wasn’t intentional but I suppose a certain amount of any author will creep into their characters, deliberately or otherwise. You spend a great deal of time with your main character, and for me I couldn’t imagine writing about an extroverted, socially bubbly shop-a-holic who dreams of designer labels. I know little on that subject; I wouldn’t be able to write it convincingly and readers would see through it.

That makes sense. "Write what you know" and all that. Any  other advice for aspiring writers?

Perseverance, and you have to love what you’re doing. It’s a lonely process at times, alone in your head with a collection of imaginary friends and enemies. There are times you might wonder if you’ll ever pull it all together, but so long as you having fun, (at least most of the time) you can push past the self-doubt. And once you’re done, find yourself a nice ruthless editor who will tell you in no uncertain terms what is absolutely awful and needs to be fixed or cut altogether.

Sounds harrowing but necessary. At least there are other rewards, such as the ability to give back to the community later on. How did your Mysteries for Mutts fundraiser come about?
My husband and I have always been involved with animal welfare – in fact, Gary and his menagerie are loosely modeled after my husband, who is a stray-cat magnet. They just seem to find him. My daughter says her father’s really a crazy cat lady in disguise. We’re already over our quota with three dogs and … uhm… *cough* six cats. Actually we don’t have six… I have two, my husband has two and my daughter has two. J We can’t take in any more, but I still wanted to help the ones I couldn’t adopt. I promised myself once the book started selling I’d donate a portion to animal welfare and the NJSPCA was the common thread between many of the local groups I know.

A very worthy endeavor. Lastly, here is the same question that I ask every author: If you could be any character from any book for a day, who would it be and why?

Travis McGee, on one of those rare days when he’s not being shot at or recuperating from being shot, but simply lounging on his houseboat in slip F18 of Bahia Mar Marina with Meyer and the rest of the gang. I grew up reading those books and decided that was the life for me… less the bullets.

That explains Hazel's obsession with Travis McGee! Thank you very much for answering my questions, and best of luck with
No Wake Zone


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