Archive for August 2015

Jonathan discusses the compilation of his musical works, Consequently, Ruthless Pragmatism.  The 40-track double album is available now on iTunes, Amazon MP3, and Google Music.  All profits will go towards funding Pomegranate Radio.

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Jonathan discusses the Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In and its inferior American remake, Let Me In.

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As a followup to our review of Monday, Sunday, we recently interviewed author Fenton Grace.

Fenton Grace was born and raised in New England. A graduate of Brown University with a degree in French, she enjoys playing piano, tennis, and keeping in shape with Pilates. Fenton has worked in the entertainment industry at several television and movie studios in a variety of business services roles. Happily married for 17 years, she is the proud mother of two children. She currently lives in beautiful Southern California. Monday, Sunday is her first novel.

1. What got you into writing? What made you decide to write a novel?

A writer friend of mine likes to call the urge to write an affliction, and I’ve been afflicted since high school. I started with poetry, and continued writing verse through college. I may have written a couple of short stories. It wasn’t until I graduated that I experimented with longer forms, starting with screenplays and then moving onto novels. I don’t know what propelled me to write my first novel, except that perhaps I felt the screenwriting medium was limited, both in terms of its form and the types of stories that could be told. When I wrote my first couple of novels, which I have no plans to publish, I had a lot of fun. I was learning the craft -- characterization, story arcs, narration, plot, structure, and many of the other basics. I found that I enjoyed the challenge. I don’t think novel writing is anything anyone can really master, no matter how many novels one has written.

2. What and/or who are you biggest influences?

There have been many. The novelists who have influenced me the most are Charles Dickens, Emily Bronte, and Truman Capote. I’ve also been influenced by Borges’s short stories and the poetry of Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg, and Adrienne Rich. As you might discern, I don’t call people influences until they’re dead.

3. Why this material? What led you to write about something so explicitly taboo?

I didn’t set out to write a story specifically about a woman who becomes involved with a teenager and his father. The story evolved over time. But I believe a writer needs to be fearless, and not balk at the terrain.

I was intrigued by the headline-making story of Mary Kay Letourneau and the young boy she fell in love with. After she was arrested and then released, she immediately went to see the boy even though she was told that she’d be put back in jail if she did. They were caught in a car and she was subsequently imprisoned, for several years. I found all of this fascinating. What a testament to their love and devotion. I wasn’t surprised that they eventually got married. People couldn’t fathom that they truly loved each other.

In the case of Monday, Sunday, I wanted to show a non-traditional love story and the complexities that can arise. We see these affairs, if we can call them that, in the news over and over again, particularly with female teachers. We want to pretend that the liaisons don’t exist, but they do. We think if a pretty woman is involved, how lucky the young man is. If it’s a man who’s the instigator and a young girl is involved, she’s the victim and he’s to be stoned. What a double standard. If we want to grow as a society and to understand ourselves, I think it’s essential to explore these themes. Otherwise, we’ll continue to live under a fog of sexual repression.

4. Did you expect the novel to be controversial?

I expected that people would have a difficult time with the subject matter. But when you look closely at it, what Laney does isn’t against the law, at least in the state of Colorado where she lives. I’m not condoning what she does. Christopher, the boy, is mature in some ways, so it’s not as if she’s a pedophile abusing young boys. He’s not twelve, like Mary Kay Letourneau’s student. Or like Nabokov’s Lolita.

I realized that people would have a hard time with a woman who becomes involved with a father and his son. Generally, these intra-familial relationships are considered verboten. So this moral conundrum, which we all feel and subscribe to, is more arduous to grasp.

5. What has been the response from your family and your friends, the people who know you?

I’ve let very few of my friends or family know about Monday, Sunday. A couple know the basic storyline, but they haven’t read the novel. I’ve generally made the work known to fellow authors, through workshops and writing groups I’ve been a member of. I don’t have any desire for people who know me to read it. What usually happens is that readers who know the author want to establish some parallel or connection to the person they know. They often have a hard time staying in the fictive world that the author has created. In many cases, their conclusions are unfounded.

6. The sex scenes strike me as shockingly graphic when compared to how restrained the rest of the novel is. Why did you choose to write the sex scenes in this way?

I think whatever you write needs to be a realistic portrayal of what it is you’re treating. So violence tends to be violent, sex tends to be graphic or erotic, unless you want to handle it in passing way, as secondary to the story.

In Monday, Sunday, when the sex happens, it marks a major evolution in Laney’s psyche and development. Sex is something she has resisted for so long, out of guilt and fear. When it happened, it needed to be big, pronounced, as she felt it, in order for the reader to understand the impact it has on her. The sex she experiences with the father is markedly different from the sex she experiences with his son.

7. A lame one, but one that must be asked so we can move past it: How much of Laney is you?

I think Flaubert said it best: "Madame Bovary, c’est moi."

8. I know better than to ask an author to explicitly interpret her novel, but I'm curious about Laney's behavior. There are any number of explanations offered and suggested throughout the novel. Did you have a specific motivation for her in mind when you were writing? If so, how did that influence your writing process?

One of the main themes of the novel is how guilt and shame can cloud our actions, thoughts, and behavior. In Laney’s case, the guilt and shame are at the extreme, and she has a history of suppressing what she feels. Through a series of denials, she puts herself in situations that force her to confront what she thinks of herself and others. She is on a journey of self-acceptance and growth, and in some ways, she uses other people to accept who she is. Is that a bad thing, or is it something we all do? If we take an honest look at ourselves, we might be surprised by the answers in our own lives.

9. Did you draw on people you know when writing your characters?

Most of the characters in Monday, Sunday are composites of people I’ve known at some point in my life. They’re different in many ways from the people they’re based on, whether it’s by age, physical features, occupations, or relationships that they hold to one another. But most, if not all, of the characters have roots in real people and what I’ve come to know about their actions, thoughts, hopes, fears, and dreams.

10. Do you have a set process for writing? If so, what is it?

I like routine and I’m very disciplined, and this has been very beneficial to me as a writer. I generally write first thing in the morning, immediately after I wake up. It’s when I’m freshest and am not preoccupied with concerns of the day. I write for about an hour. I do this about five days of the week, then I usually take two days off. I continue to do this until the first draft is complete. I generally write pretty fast. Initially, I may only write 500 words or so, but the pace usually picks up and I’ll frequently write 2,000 words or more per day. I don’t rewrite or re-read anything that I’ve written previously, except for maybe the last few sentences to pick up where I’ve left off. I frequently stop writing in the middle of a scene because then I never have trouble knowing where to start the next day. Once I finish the first draft, I spend much more time rewriting and honing what I’ve written. I’ll write for about three hours a day during this cycle. I’ve probably rewritten every sentence in Monday, Sunday from hundreds to thousands of times.

And now, the obligatory silly questions:

11. Android or iPhone?

iPhone

12. Dogs or cats?

Cats

13. Hamburgers or fish sticks?

A mean hamburger.

14. Coffee or tea?

Tea. Coffee also, but not as frequently. Decaf for both.

For more information, visit Fenton Grace's website or follow her on Twitter.

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Jonathan reviews the controversial novel Monday, Sunday by Fenton Grace. Also: first novel flaws and the controversy surrounding Jonathan's own novels Youth and Other Fictions and SINNERMAN.

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