Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
I’m Greg Jolley and I’m older than I’ll admit to and approach life with the delight of a twelve-year old.
Fiona: Where are you from?
Lived most of my life in California (US), and currently live in Michigan and Florida (US).
Fiona: A little about yourself (i.e., your education, family life, etc.).
I am the author of sixteen suspense novels and a collection of short stories about the fictional Danser family. I received a Master of Arts in Writing from the University of San Francisco. Outside of the writing and out in the Real World, I enjoy surfing, exploring new towns, haunting book stores and coffee shops. I have two amazing sons, who are the spark plugs for my life.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
On August 10th, the new Danser novel was launched: Murder in a Very Small Town. The book is getting a good amount of positive buzz and it pleases me to have the first of five Wiki Danser novels off into reader’s hands. I’m also researching a novel based, again, on the movie industry, spending many good long days on the movie sets of “Memoirs of Wroth City,” being filmed in different locations in Michigan.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
A few thousand moons ago, being an avid, passionate reader, I had they errant, but compelling thought, “Why not try to write a novel?” That question had a dare in it and I liked that. I spent three weeks tossing the question around which led to the real question that still guides my days and decisions, “If not now, when?” The manuscript box from that first novel, Distractions, is filled with the tools of the day: the book itself on legal pads in Number Two pencil, a tower of index cards and the second draft off a typewriter.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Typing “The End” on the last page of Distractions did it for me. I still delight in typing those two fine words.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
The craft and worlds of W. Somerset Maugham, John Cheever, Richard Brautigan, Nathanael West, Truman capote, Peter S. Beagle. It wasn’t really that far of a leap to say, “I want to play, too.”
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
For the latest work, I knew I was going to run with …In a very small town and that was the working title through the first three drafts. Murder was later appended as a natural choice, a nod to genre.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I admire and am comfortable with the Elmore Leonard “school” of nonstop story being the focus of the write. The economy of his novels, as well as his ear and touch for dialogue are a constant inspiration. I am a student of people’s thinking and motivations and language. My on-going challenge is to give voice to character emotion, which I believe are a temporal, fleeting experience, not nearly as interesting, to me, as decisions and thoughts and action.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Outside of my researched and experienced very small town of Whitmore Lake, MI, on which this novel is based, the characters and their story are from that wonderful play land of imagination.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
Yes, and that is another invaluable part of being a novelist. For various Danser novels, I’ve been to Mexico and the Caribbean, as well as Northern California, Florida and many small towns in Michigan. Travelling with notebooks and pens and a camera is always a delight, as the seeing, smelling and tasting of the “real world” gives so much.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My amazing publisher, Blue Harvest Press, does my cover and interior designs. They generously let me have a vote on both and for the cover art, send me three options. An admitted dunce at what cover design is most effective for marketing, I nonetheless love having the opportunity to provide my two cents.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Each Danser novel explores the various heartbeats, themes, if you prefer, of good and evil motivations. For Murder in a Very Small Town, I chose to delve into the mental poison of revenge. In other works, I’ve taken on greed, madness, and that most common of evil in these times, the sick desire to control others.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
During the past two years, I’ve been reading and learning from (and enjoying) James Ellroy, David J. Bell, Erik Larson, Mardi Link, historical works of the 1800’s and the magical South American novelists. I have no favorite writer, but cherish those mentioned and others who open up and share their knowledge, intelligence and wit.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Wasn’t my parents (laughter). As far as entities, it’s the mind. Where imagination and creating and a passion for words reside, as well as a love of story. This same entity is where I get the motivation to continually learn about people and improve my craft and challenge it.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes. I write seven days a week, 5AM to 11AM, and after an extended midday break to get out and enjoy, I spend two to three hours with editing, correspondence and research. Makes for a pleasurable life.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No. If left to my own designs, I could possibly still be editing the first novel, Distractions, at draft number two hundred and forty-seven (laughter). I’m not a proponent of perfection in books or in anything else that humans build. I do have a strong belief in the importance of giving our best effort and aiming for meaningful, relevant ideals, but there comes that moment in each book’s life where, like an adored daughter, I need to nudge her off the front porch – well dressed, good shoes and a pleasantly odd hat – to have a life of her own (and allowing me to focus on the next write).
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Tons. I love to research and learn and challenge and surprise my thinking and assumptions. Research is one of the finest pleasures, even when it’s maddening. For Murder in a Very Small Town, I fired a few new types of handguns, explored ice fishing huts, drove the unpaved roads during a snow storm, haunted pawn shops, interviewed a local sheriff, surfed Lake Michigan and ate (half of) a fried pickle.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
A twenty-something Meg Ryan for Wiki Danser and a forty-something Tommy Lee Jones for the crazed ex-sheriff, Welsey Lorenzo.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Don’t talk about, don’t discuss it, and for a few years, avoid writer’s groups. Instead, like that brilliant Nike advertisement states, “Just do it.” Also, while inspiration is vital and one of the best parts of having a writer’s mind, it is the craft that matters if you want to complete a write. By craft I don’t mean the mechanics so much (they are extremely important), but making story telling a daily effort rather than waiting and hoping for the mood to strike you. Also, work with a professional editor. No exceptions. Finally, “Yes, the bad news is that there are rules about writing. The good news? Each of us gets to make up our own.”
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Yes, the reason the Danser novels exist and continue to be written is for you, the reader. My relationship with my readers is a large part of my daily motivation. Not the sales, not the PR side of this curious business. I am constantly encouraging my readers to let me know what they think of the books and ideally, why. And if they get to page four and the book is tossed out the window, hearing about that is just as important to me.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
The South American novelists, research of historical events and crimes of the 1800’s, Lapham’s Quarterly, true crime, and other non-fiction about: the US Marshals Service, WITSEC, Café Motorbike racing, and criminal psychology.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I was a library ghoul as a child, the kind of tyke who found it normal to read the Webster’s Collegiate dictionary from front to back. That and, of course, one of the finest literary works ever published, “Go, Dog! Go” by P.D. Eastman.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Only harm to my sons could make me cry. I live a decidedly low emotional life, seeing them as little more than waves that approach, pass over us and wash to shore. I’m working on my degree of empathy, both for my novels and to be a more companionate human.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
I would like to hang out with James Ellroy for a lunch spilling into dinner. That is a mind I would love to experience.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Hanging out on film sets and during movie production, surfing, guitars, book stores, espresso bars and Jeep dealerships.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Noir. Anything by Justin Diemert, Tarentino, Kubrick, and documentaries, as well as the occasional Horror film (I’d watch more of these for the study of suspense, but really, most are just dreadfully bad).
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Food: diners and taverns. Music: Nickel Creek. Alison Krauss, Jack and the Bear, The Allman Brothers and movie soundtracks. Colors: My favorite pallets are: summer and winter. I’m exploring fall and enjoying that learning for the current and planned next Danser novels. Yet to find an affinity with the colors of spring.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Eat, Sleep, Surf.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
“Well, that was interesting.”
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
FB – author page: https://www.facebook.com/gfjolle/
All the Danser novels are available at select bookstores and:
September 19th, 2017
Thank you, sincerely, for letting me go on (and on) during this interview. When I first realized that there were thirty-one questions, I was feeling a bit daunted, but once I wadded in, I had a wonderful time.
All the best,
Greg Jolley – The Danser Novels