Today, I'm introducing you to Gregory Spencer, author of Guardian of the Veil.
On one level, all writers must always do this: find in themselves the humanity they hope to create in their characters. Perhaps this is one reason writing can be so painful. On another level, some specific aspects of my life have made their way into Guardian. I grew up “short,” like Len. My parents were alcoholics, like Lizbeth’s mom. In fact, a scene in Guardian is something I always wanted to do in my own family, but never had the courage to pull off. For me, this fictional event was a kind of “healing of memories.” Len and Angie’s grandmother “Dear Abby,” is modeled after my own mother-in-law in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. I dedicated the book to her.
I've always been short, so I understand. What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Answer this question? There are too many quirky things to rank them in some definitive order. At a big variety show all-dorm event at Westmont College, I was recently one of the emcees. We joked about loving Sonny and Cher all night. Then we came out dressed as the duo and sang “You Got Me, Babe.” Very cool stuff.
I would have loved to have seen that. When did you first discover that you were a writer?
In fourth grade, I wrote a thirty page story. Then my brother threw it away when he “helpfully” cleaned out my desk. I wrote poems in high school, a play in college, and various parables before tackling The Welkening. The first chapter felt like moving a twenty pound lead pen across the page. So many worries about failure!
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I’m usually reading fiction, non-fiction, and devotional literature at the same time. I like light fiction such as Andrew McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency and heavier works such as Shusako Endo’s Silence. I love some classics, Les Miserables, and not others, Middlemarch. I recently finished McCullough’s John Adams and deZengotita’s Mediated. Both terrific. I enjoy Thomas Merton, Ann LaMott, Henri Nouwen, Dallas Willard, and many other devotional writers. Right now, I am finishing an old Puritan classic that is very rich: Jeremiah Burrough’s Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment.
Sound like most of us should read that last one. What other books have you written, whether published or not?
My first book was A Heart for Truth: Taking Your Faith to College (1992). The Welkening: A Three Dimensional Tale (2004) is the precursor to Guardian of the Veil. I am currently working on a book called Living the Quieter Virtues in a Noisy World.
Let me know when it's going to be published. I'll have you back for an interview. How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
Who said I was sane? I try to spend some good time on my front porch at least every other day, reading and praying and not rushing anywhere. I don’t have a cell phone.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
Very carefully. There’s just too much to say here. Each town in Welken has an earthian counterpart—and the names are drawn from that area. For example, the Prester Highlands come from a legend/reality about a nation in northern Africa that some thought would provide a southern flank during the Crusades. A Portuguese sailor discovered the Kingdom of Axum (near present day Ethiopia) in the 1500s. The kingdom was not a military power but all their kings were called Prester John, hence my character’s name.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
The “publications” that are my daughters: ages 20, 21, and 23. All wonderful! Besides this “accomplishment,” I am “proudest” when my students take ideas they’ve learned and carry them with them after graduation.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
My daughters think I am already an animal. In this moment, I will say meerkat. These animals are alert, highly social, quick and downright silly.
What is your favorite food?
Depends on the time of day, etc. How could anyone answer this? I love fresh cinnamon rolls with good, strong coffee (with lots of cream and sugar!). I love food!
Every day when I write, I have to “send the demons away,” all those voices in my head that I am a loser, a fraud, a terrible writer, not worthy to be called a novelist. Then I can begin writing. Also, the raw emotion of “going where the writing takes me” sometimes leaves me feeling quite needy and depressed. I’m so glad my wife Janet is a stable force in my life.
I, too, have a spouse who is important to me on many levels, but also as a stable force. What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
The best advice I heard comes from Francis Ford Coppola: GET TO THE END. The world is filled with would-be writers who don’t start or never finish. I follow the Rumplestilskin method: Write straw and later turn it into gold. Just write. Get to the end.
What would you like to tell us about the featured book?
Buy it! Oh, you don’t mean that. I am excited about the way the characters have to face their “enemies,” how they negotiate their temptations toward revenge or their temptations to make themselves into fortresses. I also love the theme of “the thinness of veils.” There is the veil between Skinner, Oregon and Welken, but also what it means that the veil between mental health and mental illness is thin, as is regular health and sickness, or the natural and the supernatural, and good and evil. Don’t you want to know, now, what it means to be a Guardian of the Veil? Hmm?
Of course, I do. This book just jumped to the top of my to-be-read pile. How can readers find you on the Internet?
Gregory, thanks for spending this time with us.
Readers, as always, please leave a comment if you want a chance to win a copy of this book.
There's also time to leave a comment on these interviews:
Elizabeth Goddard - Seasons of Love
Cheryl Wyatt - A Soldier's Promise
Susan Page Davis - Frasier Island
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