Meet ‘Unlucky Lucky Days’ author Daniel Grandbois
Vail CO, Colorado
FRISCO, Colorado ” Author Daniel Grandbois is a Boulder resident who spends time in Frisco at his parent’s home. He will be signing copies of his latest work, “Unlucky Lucky Days,” on Saturday at the Next Page bbookookstore in Frisco. Following is an interview with the author.
Summit Daily News: First, could you tell me about your writing? Where do the stories come from? What is your writing process?
Daniel Grandbois: The second to last story in this collection, “The Author,” describes my process pretty well. That’s how I work, and how my mind works even when I’m not trying to write. Besides that, I could say my first drafts are usually handwritten. I type them into a computer and work with a pen again from the printed version. Then those changes are typed and printed and so on. Sometimes edits are done at the computer or, when I’m lucky, aren’t needed after that first draft is typed. Maybe a word or two will be altered later. Other times, there can be 20 or more drafts for a little one-paragraph piece, each worked as hard as the last, before it comes out right. My wife plays a big role. She tells me when a story is done or where it’s going wrong.
Through the years, I’ve learned that when I think I’ve really got something, she’ll usually show me otherwise, and when I’m sure I’ve got nothing, she’ll beam that it’s one of my best. So now when I think I’ve had a miserable day of producing crap, I’m a very happy boy.
SDN: Your writing style is described as “absurdist,” “nonsense” and “strange.” Can you describe how you came to this style?
DG: My first attempt at a book was 20 years ago in college at C.U. That book, “The Hermaphrodite: An Hallucinated Memoir,” will be released this fall by Green Integer. It was a novel when I finished it but then was edited down to a novella when I returned to it 15 years later. Still, the chapters and sub-chapters are made up of these same little one and two page prose-poem-like vignettes, so, in essence, I was writing in the same form then, but linking the pieces together to form a longer narrative. After discovering and devouring the short stories of Hemingway and Carver, I took a long detour and tried to write realist short stories. It’s interesting to me that this is also the period in which I attended writing workshops and was trying to educate myself formally. One of my teachers, a man who’d been friends with Carver and co-edited a collection of stories with him, described my writing as still having Carver scaffolding around it. I found it almost impossible, as I think many do who get Carver’s voice in their heads, to dismantle that damn scaffolding! Frustrated, I switched to poetry when applying to Bennington’s MFA program and was accepted on what was, essentially, my first batch of poems. But that, too, at least in formal study, began to feel like beating my head against a wall, so, at the behest of my then new wife, who went into an old box in the garage and dug out “The Hermaphrodite,” I switched back to my natural, surreal and absurdist voice. My first project was a book-length tale for children, which I still need to do a final revision on. And from there, perhaps influenced by some of the great children’s stuff I’d read and studied in writing that book (like Rudyard Kipling’s “Just So Stories”), I moved into these at-times fairy-tale-like, parable-like short shorts that some are calling “Dr. Seuss for adults.”
SDN: Tell me about the next book you are working on ” what’s it about and when will it be available to the public?
DG: The next book to be published will be “The Hermaphrodite: An Hallucinated Memoir,” but that was written long ago, as I mentioned. What I’m working on now is a follow-up collection to “Unlucky, Lucky Days.” I’m about halfway through it and find that, rather than being just more of the same, these new stories pick up from where the others left off and move the whole project forward, something that wasn’t planned but for which I’m very glad. After that, I hope to get to the last revision of the children’s book, which, as you can imagine, comes closer to the absurdity of Dr. Seuss and the Alice books than to anything else, though “Pinocchio” (the book, not the Disney adaptation) figures prominently.
SDN: With this interesting style, have you ever had problems with getting people to understand? And was it a difficult process to get published?
DG: Luckily, this is a pretty good time to be writing in the short forms. A lot of online journals even prefer them, and there are certainly publishers out there willing to put collections out. It may not be mainstream but the more artistic stuff rarely is. Same could be said of music and movies. As for getting people to understand, I start off my readings by asking everyone “not to try too hard to get these stories, but rather to let them get you.” These are absurdist tales, after all. They’re not supposed to make perfect sense to the rational mind but rather to resonate with some of our other minds.
SDN: How would you describe the book, “Unlucky, Lucky Days” to someone who hasn’t seen it?
DG: I’ve never been good at that sort of thing, so I would have to steal descriptions from reviewers, like, “avant-garde standup,” “between Brautigan and Basho,” “absurdist and surreal, witty and ironical … animist epiphanies,” “part fable, part creation myth,” “a darkly humorous Borges or Calvino,” and “Dr. Seuss for adults.”
Rocky Mountain News compared the book to “a peyote trip in the desert ” things seem familiar, but different. If you really immerse yourself in these stories, you might find yourself questioning whether Grandbois’ cracked perception just might be right.”
SDN: What are your reading interests?
DG: In the past couple of weeks I’ve plunged into several books that I may actually finish: “A Wolverine Is Eating My Leg” by Tim Cahill, “Musicophilia” by Oliver Sacks, “Death by Black Hole” by Neil deGrasse Tyson, “Madness” by Marya Hornbacher, and “The Raw Shark Texts” by Steven Hall. Of those, only the last is fiction, which is often the ratio for me. I tend to shy away from fiction, especially when I’m writing, which is most of the time. My reading choices tend to be scattered, too, as one of my poetry mentors at Bennington College duly noted in my records. I’ll have 20 books open at once, some of which will never be finished, while others will be finished in days and still others not for months or even years. But they’re all open and consulted now and then. One might be a children’s book, like “Peter Pan” (great book!), or “The Complete Tales of Uncles Remus” (amazing book!), while another will be the latest on particle physics or string theory, while yet another will be a history of American imperialism or Freud’s “Civilization and its Discontents” or a collection of prose poems by Russell Edson or a novel by French experimentalist Robert Pinget.