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Monday, September 14, 2009

The Ravens Eye is On : Deborah Grabien

Deborah Grabien shows some righteous chops when she writes the JP Kinkaid mysterys as well as the otherwordly Haunted Ballad series. A true artist, Deborah weaves the story intricately with songs lyrics to create a harmonious mystery that will delight the senses. In the JP Kinkaid series, she
shows you the other side of a musicians life, the ups and downs, the sorrow and the joy, not to mention the murders and mystery.

It took you a while to feel comfortable writing about your life during the peak of the Haight-Asbury days, what eventually made you decide to do it? What did you find the most challenging?
Deborah-My Haight-Ashbury days were actually spent on the other coast! But I got fascinated by, and then acquainted with, the San Francisco bands at places like Fillmore East , Queens College, Ungano's, and the folk clubs in the Village. My sister, who's nearly nine years old than I am, was already writing about music for all the publications out there at the time: Crawdaddy, Changes, even Rolling Stone. She took me damned near everywhere with her, so I was running around backstage at 14. I decided I was moving to SF after Woodstock and Altamont, and my sister had already moved out here to Marin County, so that was a nice easy move. My parents were fine with it.
I walked away from the local scene, and everyone in it, for nearly thirty years, after a bad personal breakup. An old friend who is now a literary agent kept leaning on me to write about those days. She was there, and she knew it was eating away at me, that I needed to reclaim some of that lost history. Besides, the whole "midlife crisis" thing has a way of asserting itself. When I finally cracked and decided to do it, I wrote the first six thousand words in about two hours, and never looked back. That was the first JP Kinkaid Chronicle mystery, Rock and Roll Never Forgets. I finished it in 29 days, took two days off, and began While My Guitar Gently Weeps. That one got finished in 31 days; it comes out on 15 September 2009. I didn't so much write this series as bleed it. I'm now in the middle of book 7, Dead Flowers.

Most challenging? Two things: First, keeping the integrity of John Kinkaid's narrative voice. His voice began as the voice of the man whose memory I was trying to recapture, so it was vitally important to me, both as the writer and as the woman, to get his voice right. The second thing was the fact that his younger life partner/caregiver, Bree Godwin, is very much what I think I might have evolved into had things gone differently. Writing her, I kept thinking things like "Wow, what a pain in the ass she is!" Ouch. But you have to be true to the story.

Is there anyone, author or musician, in particular you draw inspiration from? If so, how has that influenced your writing?
Deborah-Inspiration? Probably not in the way the writers I know would define that word. There are a couple of writers I adore - Peter S. Beagle comes to mind, as does Ngaio Marsh - but my inspiration, such as it is, comes from a different place. It's an interior thing.

What book was the most difficult for you to write?
Deborah-One that hasn't been published yet: the fifth Kinkaid, Book of Days. I can't say why without dropping a huge honking plot spoiler for the first two Kinkaids - everything in this series loops around and is interconnected - but reality and fiction came together in a heartbreaking confluence at the end of that book. It just nailed me.

What sort of process do you use to create? Is there anything special you do to get in the mood to write?
Deborah-Nothing. I sit down, and either the story is there or it isn't. If it is, it pours out, I write it, I send it out to my wip-readers (that's Work In Progress), I wait for their feedback, I weigh it, I do whatever I agree needs doing. If the story isn't there just then, I walk away from the computer and go do something else. I can't speak for anyone else, but for me, I never force myself to write and I've never had to.

It is becoming more difficult to become published. Tell us about the process it took for you to get your first book on bookstore shelves.
Deborah-Oh, lord, it's a different era entirely. I did the nice traditional thing, back in 1987 or thereabouts: I wrote a book, I submitted it to an agency, they took me on and sold my next four books (that first one never did get bought, but all the next ones did). These days, it's so much harder, I can't even imagine it. While getting a book onto store shelves is a huge challenge, the work doesn’t end there.

How do you go about publicizing your work and developing a fan base?
Deborah-I'm fairly tireless about promotion, and that's saying something, because, like JP Kinkaid, I have multiple sclerosis and there are days when putting shoes on is like one of the labours of Hercules. But I have three publicists (a personal publicist and my publicists at both St. Martin's Minotaur and Egmont USA), plus a longstanding list that grows constantly. I've cultivated relationships with particular local bookstores and with several of the local media outlets. I'm especially invested in libraries.

What is the single best piece of advice you could give to a writer just starting out?
Deborah-Depends. To a writer just sitting down to write their first work, I would say, A writer writes. If you're really a writer, sit down and do it. No excuses, no stopping to read someone else's advice on writing, no fancy classes, none of that. A writer writes. To someone who's finished their work and is trying to sell it, I'd say, make sure you get a selection of fresh eyes on it, and be prepared to weigh all the advice. Learn the differences between dissonance (if ten readers all say different things, you've done your job) and consonance (if five of those ten have the same problem with chapter three, you'd better go look at chapter three). And if you have any shiny dreams about selling next week for a zillion dollars, lose them. It doesn't work that way and that isn't why you should be writing anyway.

If your life could be summed up in a song, which one would you choose?
Deborah-Hoo boy, that's a toughie. It changes from day to day, but today, I'd probably say the Rolling Stones "Can You Hear The Music". Tomorrow? Something else.

Tell us one quirky things that fans might not know about you?
Deborah-I own a crossbow. Know how to use it, too.

What book are you working on now and when can fans expect to get their hands on it?
Deborah-Two books, as a matter of fact: The seventh Kinkaid, Dead Flowers. And the follow-up to my first YA novel, Dark's Tale, which comes out March 2010, on Egmont USA. As to when? They haven't even been seen by the publishers yet - I write really, really fast!

My sincere thanks to Deborah for spending some time with me. You can purchase any of her fabulous books from the first JP Kinkaid, Rock and Roll Never Forgets, to the upcoming second in the series, out this week, While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Make sure to add the Haunted Ballad set as well, starting withThe Weaver & the Factory Maid, The Famous Flower of Serving Men, Matty Groves, Cruel Sister, and New Slain Knight. Check out her website, to find out where to buy them all.


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