Today I have the honor of interviewing Elliot Grace, author of South of Charm, here on my blog.
-What inspired you to write South of Charm?
When I was still quite young, a second or third grader if memory serves, my family moved north from Sarasota, to the lesser populated Holmes County countrysides of Ohio, and roughly a mile or two south of a town called Charm. Many have written over the years of a certain nostalgia associated with growing up in quaint mid-western towns where the grass grows a bit slower, and where the retired salesman on the corner lot, is on a first name basis with the young family of four at the end of the block. My goal was to capture some of that rural magic from yesteryear, garnish it with a healthy dose of family dysfunction, and sit back, allowing them to figure things out on their own.
-Are any of the events in your book based on real-life experiences?
For every event that takes place in a story, there's a spark of personal inspiration that has somehow breathed life into the words on that page, regardless of the genre or subject matter. Danny Kaufman, the main character, is a ten year old boy whose life slowly unravels around him. As I wrote "Charm," I held his hand and walked him through some of the tough spots in the story, for many of them were snippets of my childhood as well. Memories in need of an outlet. The experience was refreshing for the both of us ;)
-How did you come up with the title?
"South of Charm" was actually the third title of the book. After deciding against the previous two, my editor and I kicked around several dozen ideas before this one snuck up on me during a production meeting at work one day. I excused myself from the room, called David from my office, whispered the words, "How about South of Charm?" into the mouthpiece, heard him squeal in delight, and returned to an otherwise forgettable meeting at the day job. I'm a fan of titles that may or may not suggest a double meaning. Charm is an actual place, a tiny inkblot on an atlas. However, there are many scenes in the story that one would consider far less than charming. It took longer to decide on the title than to write the story, but once figured out, we were confident that we'd nailed it.
-Which authors do you think had the greatest influence in your writing, and who are your favorite writers?
As a youngster, the work of Terry Brooks and Robert Cormier kept me up way past my curfew on most nights. I hold those two responsible for the late hours I keep, drumming the keyboard. Along with them, John Sandford stands alone atop my favorite list of authors.
-How long have you been writing?
I wrote my first story, "Terror Castle," during Write to Read Week in elementary school. If memory serves, it was penned in the third grade. That book earned me a face to face meet and greet with an actual writer who visited the school, and later read my story to the entire student body. I haven't stopped writing since.
-What do you find is the most important element of a book? Is it the plot, characters, setting, writing style, something else?
My tastes have changed with age. There was once a time when every book I read simply had to carry me to faraway lands, mystic planets littered with evil druids, and heroes wielding swords of flame, an ancient wizard at their side for good measure. Nowadays, it's all about the penmanship. When I open a book for the first time, it's not the story that concerns me, but how the picture has been painted. I wouldn't hesitate in reading a story deemed "utterly boring" by many, if the writing is a masterpiece.
-Is there any advice you would give to other writers?
Be willing to accept criticism. Truly listen to the advice of peers, and those who've read your work. And lastly, remember that some of the best writers are also admitted bookworms. There are no high dollar critique groups capable of improving one's work, like that of a good book from an excellent storyteller.
-Do you have any new projects in the works at the moment?
I'm currently several chapters into a YA novel about a group of boys up to no good in, "The Fellas." To be quite honest though, I've recently whispered an idea past my editor that's been nipping at my train of thought over the summer. This one's about a girl. Her name's Derby, and to be frank, she's been keeping me up at night, desperate for attention. This girl has quite a story to tell...I think perhaps I'll tag along for the ride ;)
An excerpt from South of Charm:
We're huddled in the far corner of my bedroom. Arms wrapped around our knees in the dark. The approaching footsteps grow louder. Ominous thuds. Our mother, but somehow not. She's standing outside my door. We listen to the creak of the hinges. My sister clenches my arm. "She's coming," she whispers. "She's broken."
Links to purchase:
Kindle Edition of South of Charm
And if you'd like to find out more about him, Elliot Grace blogs at So close, but.... He's also hosting a giveaway, the details of which are HERE.
Thank you so much for coming by, Elliot!
-----The Golden Eagle