This week: Gregory Frost!Fantasy author Gregory Frost answered a few questions for The Writer's Pane this week. Check out his unique answers with insight, below!
Where do you find inspiration?
The only legitimate answer I can think of is, everywhere. Anything can trigger a story: an article on some topic; a physical encounter with something or someone; even a line in a poem being read at a public reading—all of those have inspired stories I’ve written. And given that is so, I would argue that it’s important to be open to experience, to be aware and “in the moment,” and to read as broadly as possible. Don’t just stay in your comfy little genre cubbyhole, or all that you’ll write will be imitations of things other people have written already.
Which character in literature do you associate yourself with the most?
Whoever the main character is in what I’m writing right now. I think writing fiction shares a lot with acting, and part of what I try to do is disappear into my characters. So, while I was writing the two Shadowbridge novels, I was deep within Leodora and Diverus, my two central characters. In that sense, I suppose I’m a chameleon and very easily persuaded when I read a good novel or story. I want to get lost in the voice of the story.
Which piece of your writing was the most entertaining/enjoyable to write? Why?
I would have to say that they’re all enjoyable and they’re all pains in the ass. Every story, every novel, has drafts or sections that become like automatic writing, where I forget that I’m there, and the story just seems to flow by some magical process. But there are at least as many days where that’s not the case, and pushing forward is a chore. Writers who finish their work, writers who are worth reading, accept this and write on good days and bad. People who only write when the muse hits never finish anything.
Was the first novel you published the first you ever wrote? What was?
God, no. And I’m not going to tell you what the first novel I ever wrote was. It has not nor will it ever see the light of day. Most writers, I think, write at least one learning novel, often while they’re students. I know award-winning authors who wrote more than three of these before they put it all together and everything clicked. Anymore, with self-publishing, I fear that a lot of learning novels now make it into existence, because the authors desperately want to have a book, but they’re really doing themselves a disservice by rushing to publication before they’ve got a handle on what they’re doing. There is a good reason that learning novels live in boxes in the basement...
When I’m not writing I’m usually…..
thinking about writing, most likely. Either I’m reading research (I’ve been writing a lot of historical fantasy in the past decade, and have come to enjoy research), or fiction by someone else; or I’m preparing to teach some aspect of fiction writing somewhere.
If you could tell or ask any character in literature or film anything, what would it be? (and where is the character from?)
I have no idea. There are plenty of writers alive or dead whom I’d love to speak with. But frankly, in general, if they’ve done their work, I am satisfied with the richness of their characters. There’s no compulsion to know more. Like, I can’t imagine going up to Humbert Humbert and saying “What the hell is wrong with you?” It’s all answered in the text.
If you had lived a different life, made different choices, what would you be doing now?
Back in high school I filled out one of those dubious aptitude tests—the “what would your perfect job be?” kinds of profiles. And my perfect job, according to that test, was forest ranger. I do like mountains, woods, solitude; a lot of my childhood was spent on a lake in northern Minnesota, where there were lots of fire towers, and I did think how cool it would be to be work at the top of one of those. But I suspect I would have entertained myself by writing stories while I was sitting there watching for smoke.
What are five things you couldn’t do without?
In no particular order...Irish whiskey, my cat, music, good friends, my wife. (I know, that’s incredibly boring, but you put down “discipline” and you start getting funny emails…)
What do few people know about you?
I used to fence épée and saber, and I’m a certified scuba diver.
Are you working on any current projects?
Quite a few. Two novels in revision. A fantasy & SF course I’m teaching in the fall. And a short story I recently workshopped at the Sycamore Hill Workshop in North Carolina.
What work of fiction made you want to be a writer?
The one that bent me toward the fantastic was a children’s version of The Odyssey written by Barbara Leonie Picard. It may still be in print for all I know. I was absolutely gobsmacked by Circe and the Sirens (sounds like an all-female band). I was probably 9 years old. Beyond that, I would say The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits made me want to be a writer—seeing how those stories unfurled.
What tools do you use for writing, organization, marketing?
I am pure 19th century technology, which is to say I first-draft with fountain pens in notebooks. And to be fair, the longhand drafts probably shouldn’t even be called first drafts. My friend and colleague, Judith Berman, calls them zero drafts, and that’s probably pretty accurate for me, too. Not even worthy of first-draft status. For transcribing to laptop, I use Scrivener. I probably don’t use 50% of that application’s capabilities, either. It’s more an all-purpose organizing tool that seems very stable. (I used to use MS Word, which ate my writing enough times back in its bloatware days that I came to despise it.) As for marketing, I am terrible at social media, and remember to post haphazardly if at all.
His collaborative novelette with author Michael Swanwick, “Lock Up Your Chickens and Daughters, H’ard and Andy Are Come to Town,” won a 2015 Asimov Readers Award, and he was a 2014 finalist for the Bram Stoker Award for another novelette, “No Others Are Genuine.” His short stories have been finalists for the Nebula Award, Hugo Award, and the Theodore Sturgeon Award.
A graduate of the Clarion SF & Fantasy Writers Workshop and the University of Iowa undergraduate writing program, he has returned to teach at Clarion four times and has been Fiction Writing Workshop Director at Swarthmore College since 2004.