A fun chat with “This is Writing”

Author Interviews: Roy Madison Griffis and his By The Hands of Men

Roy Griffis Author InterviewsFor those who don’t know you, introduce yourself, your writing and books

Given name Roy Madison Griffis.

Roy for my mom’s father.

Madison from my dad’s father.  He was born in deep south, and his birth name was Marion Madison Griffis, but my own father had an inkling such a name might cause me trouble in the growing-up-and-surviving department, so he opted for the middle name.

All that being said, most people call me “Griff.”  I was in the Coast Guard about 30 seconds before I became Griff for the rest of my life.

My writing?  Along the way, I’ve written plays, poetry, short stories, and screenplays.  Last ten years or so, I drifted into novels.  Prior to that, I’d been making the rounds in Hollywood, and gotten really tired of facing the committees of MBAs who gave “notes” on your scripts.  The turning point was probably when I’d written a screenplay set in the Korean War, and it had––unsurprisingly for anyone who knows anything about history–– Chinese Communists as antagonists.  One MBA said “Hold on, I need to make sure it’s okay to have the Chinese as bad guys.”  Dude, it’s the Korean War, about a million Red Chinese soldiers dropped by one winter day to give a .50 caliber raspberry to Doug McArthur and the UN troops.

Oh, then I got good news.  I was informed it was okay to have Chinese villains.  I stopped trying to schlep my screenplays shortly after that, which was just as well, since people stopped being interested in reading them.

The next couple of years were focused on being Dadman to Adventureboy while grumbling to myself about how I was a failure.  One day, I had a a personal epiphany about my writing.  It didn’t matter if I was ever “successful.”  All that mattered was I’d tried.  That seemed like a much more important thing to model to my son than “You’re nothing if people don’t throw money at you for doing it.”  I realized I’d rather die thinking “By God, I did my best” than whining “I wish I’d had the guts to try.”  (remind me to tell you later how Drama Geek in High School went on to become the 61st USCG Aviation Rescue Swimmer.  But that, as they say, is another story…)

Anyway, I just started writing a story one day.  It had been a long time since I’d written prose (screenplays are so structured, they have to be kind of planned), but I heard this voice say “Must be kind of lonesome to be George.”  That eventually became my first professionally published novel “The Big Bang:  Volume One of the Lonesome George Chronicles” which is a jaunty little alternative history that imagines what America would be like if Al Qaeda and their franchisees ever got it together enough to carry out their relio-pathic fantasies and strike the Great Satan at the same time.

I wrote that for myself (no MBA committees in sight).  Got a bonus at work one year, and used it to self-publish about 100 copies (this was just before the miracle of Amazon/CreateSpace/Kindle freed the ink-stained Israelites).   Co-workers read the novel, and they liked it…or they were just afraid I would key their cars in the parking lot if they didn’t.

Well, with one novel under my belt, I wasn’t sure what I was going to write next.  But then that weird, strange alchemy took place (you writer-peeps know that which I am trying to describe):  two ideas, two images from conversations that happened over twenty years apart…lined up.  They were like those concepts we file away (physically or mentally), the image or the event or even an imagined conversation seems compelling, but, in my case, I wasn’t sure what I’d do with the two of them individually.  As I said, one day, they very quietly slipped into place:  the oldest idea would be the beginning, and the newer was the end.

So I sat down to write “By the Hands of Men,” which begins in the trenches of France amid the First World War (which was known optimistically as The Great War prior to 1939).  I knew where it started and I knew where it was going to conclude and I knew my major theme was (spoiler) the fact that men’s hands can make of the world a heaven or a hell.  Knowing all that, I thought it would be a single novel.

Well, I never said I know everything.  Book One became “The Old World.”  It was followed by “Into the Flames,” and then “The Wrath of a Righteous Man.”  I’m working on Book Four now, which I pledge will conclude this part of the story of Lieutenant Robert Fitzgerald and Nurse Charlotte Braninov.

 

The interview continues here.

(Thanks, Scott!)

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