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The Subculture Club

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Author Robb Grindstaff discusses a subject that informs much of his writing.

CULTURE: The ideas, customs, and social behavior of a particular people or society. – Oxford Dictionary

SUBCULTURE: A cultural group within a larger culture, often having beliefs or interests at variance with those of the larger culture. – Oxford Dictionary

One of the questions all writers hear frequently is some variation of, “What’s your book about?” or the more general version of that question, “What do you write about?”

A brief synopsis of the plot might be in order—the elevator pitch that you would give an agent or publisher who wants to know the gist of the story in thirty seconds or less. Maybe the questioner is inquiring about the basic theme of one book.

At a higher level, the big-picture view, it can be a question that’s deeper than about one book. What does an author write about? What overarching elements or messages pervade a particular writer’s books? Mark Twain wrote about the Mississippi River and characters who inhabited that locale during 1800s America when slavery was legal. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about the upper crust of society in the roaring twenties and the disillusionment with the American Dream. Jane Austen looked at the natural tension between individualism and the individual’s responsibility to society, romantic imagination versus rational reality.

In a recent interview, someone asked me what I write about—that bigger picture, overarching view that drives my short stories and novels. I stumbled through an unsatisfactory answer. That question has banged around in my mind ever since. One story of mine might not have anything in common with another. Different characters, different settings, different plots. Nope, nothing in common.

A few months after that interview, the “a-ha” moment hit. I thought of the right answer when I realized the common thread that runs through most of my work.

I write about unique, and uniquely American, subcultures. Whatever the plot of any of my stories might be, I tend to set these stories in some particular American subculture, and populate the stories with characters from that group.

For a more in-depth definition of terms, I turned to Kim Cochran Kiesewetter, associate professor of sociology at Sandhills College in North Carolina.

In Sociology In Focus, Ms. Kiesewetter writes, “Culture, in a nutshell, is everything that is not nature. Culture is the common beliefs, values, traditions, symbols, and behaviors a group of people in a given society share. Culture is big…and kind of vague.”

She goes on to describe subculture as “smaller groups of people with unique-to-them beliefs, values, traditions, symbols, and behaviors they share with one another that still function relatively smoothly within larger culture.”

In my novel Hannah’s Voice [Evolved Publishing, January 2013], a young girl grows up in a small, rural community in North Carolina within a traditional if somewhat fundamentalist Christian church. Even within that particular group, differences arise over Hannah’s situation. As the story progresses, Hannah eventually appears on a national television news program, and attends college in Washington, D.C. The differences between the larger culture (New York, the nation’s capital, TV journalism, university life, politics) and the subculture (rural south, Bible belt, close-knit families and communities) rise to the surface. Conflicts erupt between different groups of people who view the same situation through polar opposite subcultural lenses.

In my next novel, Carry Me Away [Evolved Publishing, September 2013], the main character, Carrie, is the biracial, bicultural daughter of a U.S. Marine officer and a Japanese mother. Carrie grows up as a military brat—living most of her youth abroad, on military bases and in the military environment, and also coming to terms with her Japanese roots and cultural identity. Sonoran Dreams, my self-published collection of short stories, is built on the rugged individualism of the people living in the Arizona desert.

I’ve had the great fortune in my life to live in different places, in and out of the U.S. I have lived among, and been a part of, several different American subcultures. I would argue that there is no singular “American culture” as such, but a collection of subcultures that live together in various degrees of harmony and tension, give and take, ebb and flow. Each is a colorful piece of cloth. They’re all stitched together into this marvelous quilt we call home.

Having been a part of several subcultures, I strive to dig a little deeper than the stereotypes and caricatures we often see in popular entertainment. Each subculture is made up of human beings, people with big hearts and giant flaws, wonderful, loving and kind people, as well as the selfish and greedy and deluded.

So to answer that interview question from a few months back: What do I write about? The overarching quest that drives most of my stories is to shine a light on the intriguing lives of various American subcultures.

The American quilt is complex and beautiful. Each square is a setting for a thousand stories, and contains an infinite number of real characters.

Sometimes, however, a quilt may become frayed and start to unravel.

~~~~~~~~~~

Robb Grindstaff’s second novel, Carry Me Away, officially launches on Monday, September 23rd, but is already available at most online retailers. For more information, CLICK HERE.

“Forgive Me, Alex” Has a New Cover

The New Face of Lane Diamond’s Psychological Thriller “Forgive Me, Alex”

To learn more about why this change was made, see Lane Diamond’s Post at his website.

Evolved Publishing’s Wednesday Double Feature – June 12, 2013

Grab some popcorn, pull up a chair, and enjoy Survivor Roundup and Secret Storm.

EARLY FEATURE: FOR ANYONE 13 YEARS OLD AND UP

Survivor Roundup by Angela Scott is the second book in her Zombie West series, and a sequel to the highly-rated, multiple award-winning Wanted: Dead or Undead (which, by the way, is only 99 cents as an eBook at all retailers). Survivor Roundup features the continuing Old West adventures as the characters battle the undead and seek to find a new life after the apocalypse. If you love stories steeped in great characterization, a strong romantic element, and of course, zombies, you’re sure to love this book.

DESCRIPTION
Red always knew she would have to face the man who nearly destroyed her. She just didn’t figure it would happen so soon . . .

With the plague sweeping across the nation, destroying many and turning others into walking corpses, survivors head West in search of a chosen land, a place designed to keep the infected out, while sealing survivors inside. In theory, the idea seems the only way to keep humanity alive. In practice, it doesn’t matter whether a person is on the inside or the out—there is no humanity.

. . . And even though John Gatherum hunted her down and instigated their reunion, Red’s no longer the passive girl he once manipulated. This time, she has a hidden agenda of her own.

Kill him. Save her family. Save herself.

You can get your copy of Survivor Roundup at these fine retailers: Amazon, Apple iTunes-Books, Barnes and Noble, BookieJar, Diesel, Kobo, Sony, Smashwords, Amazon CA, Amazon UK
 
 
LATE NIGHT FEATURE: FOR ADULTS ONLY

Secret Storm by Amelia James is the second book in her college romance series, featuring more of the characters from the bestseller Tell Me You Want Me (which, by the way, is only 99 cents as an eBook, at Amazon and at Barnes and Noble, for the entire month of June). If you love to escape into a happily-ever-after romance, you’re sure to love this book.

DESCRIPTION
“I want to let you in, Jack, but I…. Oh hell, I just want you. I know you’re not what I need, but I don’t care. Take me to bed now and we’ll sort the rest out later.”

The last thing Sara Jensen needs is another risky relationship. She wants Jack, but she’s been hurt too many times to trust him, even though he’s more than a friend. Jack won’t trust her, and that hurts more than her ex’s betrayal.

Jack Wheeler wants Sara. His long-denied lust burns barely contained. But a dangerous secret comes back to haunt him, a secret so horrible he can’t trust anyone with it, not even the woman he desires more than anything.

For the first time since they met, they’re both available, but the timing couldn’t be worse. Sara’s not too eager to trust a man again, and Jack refuses to reveal his secret. Getting involved right now is complicated, but Sara and Jack have waited long enough. Neither one of them can control their desires.

But there’s a storm approaching, and as hard as she tries, Sara can’t run away from Jack’s past. Jack won’t accept her help, and Sara doesn’t know how long she can wait for him to realize that he needs her.

You can get your copy of Secret Storm at these fine retailers: Amazon US, Apple iTunes-Books, Barnes and Noble, BookieJar, Diesel, Kobo, Smashwords, Sony, Amazon CA, Amazon UK

We hope you and yours enjoy this week’s double feature, and we thank you.

Evolved Publishing’s Wednesday Double Feature – June 5, 2013

Grab some popcorn, pull up a chair, and enjoy Hot Sinatra and Poppy the Proud.

FOR THE ADULTS

Hot Sinatra by Axel Howerton is getting some rave reviews, as well it should. It features a lead character in Moss Cole that is someone we can both root for and worry about. Surrounding Moss is a unique and often hilarious, rag-tag group of characters who help bring this quirky, noir detective story to life. Whether you’re a fan of the old Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett novels, or the slightly newer Mickey Spillane or Robert B. Parker novels, you’re sure to love Hot Sinatra.

DESCRIPTION
Moss Cole is a private detective, the kind you thought only existed in old movies and afternoon reruns. He’s smart, talented, sometimes even charming. You’d think he could find a better gig than carrying on his grandfather’s legacy as a ‘Private Dick.’

Cole is out of money, out of ideas, and out of his league. That’s why he’s stuck looking for a stolen Sinatra record… a record that may be just a figment of an old man’s imagination.

Of course, if that were true, Moss wouldn’t have so many people busting down his door.

A vivacious redhead, a foul-mouthed Irish rock star, and a whip-smart little girl only complicate the job, when all Cole wants is a good cup of coffee and some Hot Sinatra.

If only he can stay alive—and in one piece—long enough to find it.

You can get your copy of Hot Sinatra at these fine retailers: Amazon US, Apple iTunes-Books, Barnes and Noble, BookieJar, Diesel, Kobo, Smashwords, Sony, Amazon CA, Amazon UK
 
 
FOR THE KIDS (AND THEIR PARENTS, OF COURSE)

Poppy the Proud by Emlyn Chand has been a favorite among parents, when speaking of books from the Bird Brain Books series. It’s a new twist on an old, but always important, lesson: we mustn’t judge others solely on the basis of what we see on the outside. What lies inside each of us is the truly important thing, a lesson every child must learn. Poppy the Proud gives kids as young as 3 and as old as 8 that opportunity in a fun and visually appealing way, featuring wonderful color images by artist Sarah Shaw.

DESCRIPTION
Poppy is the prettiest peacock in the entire garden, but one day his privileged existence is upset when an all-white peacock is born and promptly named the most beautiful by a smitten flock. Intensely jealous, Poppy no longer knows where he fits in and decides to reclaim his title as the fairest bird in all the land, no matter what it takes.

In a desperate attempt to regain the admiration of his peers, Poppy steals items from the humans that visit his park. He wraps himself in a beautiful silk scarf, wears a series of ornate bangles around his neck, and even tries to dye his feathers with colored dust from a festive Holi celebration. Unfortunately, each of these attempts not only fails to improve his appearance, they actually make it worse. What’s a poor bird to do?

In this compelling tale of self-esteem, pride, and learning what makes each of us special, Poppy the peacock discovers that true beauty lies beneath the feathers.

You can get your copy of Poppy the Proud at these fine retailers: Amazon US, Apple iTunes-Books, Barnes and Noble, BookieJar, Diesel, Kobo, Smashwords, Sony, Amazon CA, Amazon UK

We hope you and yours enjoy this week’s double feature, and we thank you.

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