Tag Archives: Hannah’s Voice

Author Robb Grindstaff Discusses his Foray into Southern Literature

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Robb Grindstaff, author of two of our most acclaimed books, Hannah’s Voice and Carry Me Away, talks about how he came to be the writer he is.

At the heart of it, most of my writing would definitely fall into the traditional category, but perhaps with a touch of the modern thrown in to enhance conflict. I’m a southern writer, even though I now live in Wisconsin. I grew up in small towns in the south, and lived most of my adult life in places like Texas, North Carolina, and Virginia. My favorite writers from my youth include Mark Twain and Harper Lee. As an adult, I’ve been most drawn to writers such as Flannery O’Connor, Pat Conroy and Cormac McCarthy, among many others. Add in a few years living in Asia (and reading Haruki Murakami), and perhaps my traditional southern stories have added a bit of modernity and globalization – just like today’s modern south.

My stories tend to be set in the small towns of the rural south, but in the modern world, highlighting the juxtaposition between old and new, the clash of changing culture, and the misunderstandings and tensions between different American subcultures. My characters are modern, 21st century folks who still live in a world with a strong focus on family, faith and community, who have a strong sense of place and roots, display an independence and a bit of pioneer spirit, and a strong ‘Don’t Tread On Me’ libertarian streak.

I’ve never given it a lot of intentional thought, but my characters and stories tend to follow these southern literary themes, although set in today’s more globalized world.

Hannah’s Voice is set in a small, blue-collar North Carolina town. The conflicts in the story pit the genuinely faithful against religious extremists against televangelist charlatans, family against government institutions, small community values against metropolitan and pop culture, the power of the federal government against one teenage girl who just wants to reunite with her mother.

Carry Me Away is set in a variety of locations around the world, but from the perspective of a biracial, bisexual girl growing up in a traditional, conservative military family with a father from the deep south, moving from one military assignment to the next. Carrie travels the world, connecting with her Japanese roots and going to university in Europe. But she always comes home to her Cajun grandmother in rural east Texas, whose deep faith keeps Carrie grounded in the midst of her crisis of mortality.

My short stories often, but not always, carry these same themes in one way or another. Sometimes, such as in “Magnolia Nights,” the setting is in the rural south, but sometimes not. In “Uncle Keith’s Farm,” the character is an international corporate executive who has to travel back to the poor family farm for the funeral of a beloved aunt. “The Missionary’s Position” has a young man spending his life savings to travel back to the Philippines, where he had lived as the child of a military chaplain, and where his heart’s only desire is to save the young girls from their lives of prostitution. In “Evolution of Love,” a young woman and man meet at a speed-dating event. She is a devout Christian who works as a pediatric nurse in a children’s cancer center, and he is an adamant non-believer, a scientist who works tirelessly to find a cure. They, of course, fall in love.

My writing – the prose – is probably even more traditionally grounded than my stories and characters. My influences (and I’m not by any stretch comparing myself to these writers) include Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Twain, John Irving, Cormac McCarthy. These are the writers I try to emulate, not imitate, in the sense that the writing counts as much as the story and the characters. The writing IS the story and the characters. Every sentence, every single word, every punctuation mark is crucial. It is through the writing that the imagery, the voice and tone, the emotions, thoughts and internal conflicts of the characters are transmitted from the writer’s imagination to the reader’s mind.

While the settings and characters may be southern, I hope the characters and the stories transcend regions. People are people, and while we may talk differently, we’re not that different on the inside.

I hope y’all enjoyed reading, bless your hearts.

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.

“Hannah’s Voice” is Compelling, Provocative, and On Sale!

LaneDiamond102_760xThis post brought to you by Lane Diamond, Managing Publisher/Editor.

Hannah’s Voice by Robb Grindstaff has people talking.

It’s no wonder Mr. Grindstaff’s book has garnered an average rating at Amazon of 4.9 Stars (30 5-star, 4 4-star, and nothing lower). Simply put, Hannah’s Voice is one of those stories, featuring an extraordinary character in Hannah Cross, that will likely remain with you long after you’ve finished it. Indeed, like me, you may be itching to read it again not long after completing it the first time.

When Robb first submitted his manuscript to us, I was buried under so much work that I was a bit burned out, and the submissions were a big part of what were wearing me down. I’d recently rejected about 49 out of 50 submissions, and I was becoming disheartened. I waded into Hannah’s Voice frustrated and jaded, thinking, ‘Let’s see how long it takes me to reject this one.’ Imagine my delight as I read page after page without even realizing that I was already 25 pages in before thinking, ‘Holy cats, this is fantastic!’

And I’d barely scratched the surface, for Hannah’s Voice did what every great book does: it started out strong, and got better with each page… right up to the end. When I finished it, my first thought when seeking to describe it was, ‘You know what? This reminds me quite a bit of A Prayer for Owen Meany.’ That great book by John Irving has long been one of my favorites, and Hannah’s Voice stands right alongside it. The stories share certain thematic qualities, and they both feature characters that are uniquely intriguing (and of course, solid writing).

Having not yet lost my mind, I moved quickly to bring Robb onto the Evolved Publishing team, and to get Hannah’s Voice into our catalog. And I’m so happy to share with readers this great book, about which I am (obviously) unabashedly enthusiastic. I simply can’t recommend it strongly enough. You will love it; of that, I have no doubt.

Hannah’s Voice is on sale for 5 days only!

You can pick up your eBook copy of this amazing story for just $0.99 (SAVE $3.00), but only through Friday, August 30th. If ever you were going to try a new author, this is the time.

Sale price available only at Amazon and at Barnes and Noble.

HIS & HERS RAFFLE: Win Signed Copies of “Forgive Me, Alex” and “Hannah’s Voice”

2 Great Books Autographed by the Authors

We’re raffling off signed copies of two of our most highly rated books: Forgive Me, Alex by Lane Diamond, and Hannah’s Voice by Robb Grindstaff.

So why are we calling it a “His & Hers” raffle? Well, as much as we dislike being slaves to stereotypes, we do recognize certain “general truths” about the audience for our books. Forgive Me, Alex, as a psychological thriller with male characters in the lead roles, will appeal to men, but we know from the reviews that women are loving it, too. Hannah’s Voice, as an up-market literary fiction with a compelling female character in the lead role, will appeal to women, but we know from the reviews that men are loving it, too.

THE PRIZES

GRAND PRIZE: Signed Paperbacks of both Forgive Me, Alex and Hannah’s Voice.
FIRST RUNNER-UP: Signed Paperback of Forgive Me, Alex
SECOND RUNNER-UP: Signed Paperback of Hannah’s Voice

So 3 lucky folks will win! And it’s easy: just click on the raffle options below that suit you. Maximize your odds of winning by selecting as many of them as you’re comfortable with, and remember: you can come back every day and select the Tweet option.

GOOD LUCK!

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