Adding to his long list of published books in both fiction and non-fiction, award-winning author NZ Grant celebrates the publication of his latest thriller, The Feeding, a supernatural thriller released in April of this year by Rebel ePublishers. His book Mesquite Smoke Dance won the Richard Webster Popular Fiction Award, and his book Hawks has been sold to a UK-based film production company. And writing is just one of his many talents. Grant was formerly a professional hunter, and has been a bodyguard, a TV stuntman, merchant seaman, and is a competitive pistol shooter and instructor. With his native New Zealand as his base, Grant’s real love is travel, and he describes he and his wife as constant travelers. I asked him about this and other things in our Q&A below, so read on and learn about the man behind a most fascinating read.
About The Feeding:
Indian Mountain – spiritual home to the mysterious Ontchean tribe of medicine men, has been uninhabited for over a century. This rural southern Georgia setting is the backdrop to the unspeakable, grisly death of Abel Loomis and a train of otherworldly events and murders that follow.
As you’ve written both fiction and non-fiction, do you prefer one over the other?
I do prefer writing fiction to fact. With factual writing, such as my ghosted tales on euthanasia and medical themes, you are bound very much by facts. You can take the subject’s tale and spin it any one of a dozen ways, but they’re still facts. In fiction, you have total freedom to go where you want and explore what you want with the subject matter, storyline, characterizations, etc. I do love that freedom, though it doesn’t always pay the bills like ghostwriting or journalism can.
As you’re incredibly prolific, I find myself wondering about your writing process. Are you a highly disciplined writer in your approach?
In addition to my 14 or so books, I also write for several magazines on a semi-frequent basis and one monthly publication as a staff writer covering historic themes. I also write voice material for a local radio station. Yes, I am very disciplined. In a normal working day, I kick myself out of bed into the shower, dress, have a good breakfast and am at the keyboard by about 8 am. I find that creativity is higher in the mornings. The afternoon is generally spent doing mundane writing tasks, like proofreading and research.
Your books seem to have very intricate plots. Do you outline your novels before writing them, and can you share a bit about how you do that?
I don’t outline my novels, but I do outline my non-fiction books. Those require careful plotting because we are dealing with real people and events. I generally start with an idea – something perhaps sparked by a news item, a chance remark, an encounter, or just a thought that worms its way to the conscious center of the brain. The Feeding, for instance, was first written 15-years ago in rough draft and had languished in a file box all that time. I’m a great fan of horror tales, as written by King and Koontz and their contemporaries. I wrote The Feeding as an experiment between other projects. I re-read it two years ago and decided that it had legs, so rewrote it to bring it up to date.
As to the intricacy of the plots, I let the characters dictate what takes place. They take up lives of their own. And while I know what I want the outcome to be, I let them find their own way there. I often finish a first draft and find that one or more characters have developed certain traits along the way. That being the case, on the second draft I often re-write the first third of the book to accommodate what I have discovered about the characters at book’s end.
How does traveling ignite your creativity? Do you get most of your ideas when you’re away from home?
Travel is a wonderful way to fire up the creative juices. I spent much time in our mountains as a professional hunter. That lead to my book Hawks, which has been sold as a movie project and reprinted 3 times. As a seaman, I gained inspiration for Tyler’s Gold, another novel. Death in the Kingdom was set in Thailand, a country I have visited more than a dozen times. Singapore Sling Shot was set in Singapore, my second home. The Feeding was in part inspired by the time I spent in Georgia, USA, even though Indian Mountain and surrounds are a totally fictitious landscape. But, to the reader who has never been down in that part of the world, it is real and that’s the beauty of writing fiction. However, there’s one rule to follow: know the rules before you break them. Go large if you fictionalize anything and don’t be tentative.
Even if you can’t travel, get online, get to the library, and soak up everything you can about a location so you write about it from a position of knowledge. Speak to people who have been there. Little things you and your posse see and experience along the travel pathway in real life or even onscreen can foster some great ideas.
Where did you get the idea for The Feeding? It’s such an interesting story with a somewhat typical process of investigation amid a very atypical cultural backdrop.
The premise for The Feeding came from a story told to me about a vanished tribe of Maori here in New Zealand. The People of The Mist were a tribe that supposedly vanished into the mists of one of our sacred mountain areas. That got me wondering if I could transpose that to Georgia, because I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the southern US. The forests in those states are so different from those in our country and I love being among the trees and mountains. I mountained up my fictitious south and created my southern counties and built the story from there. I wrote two collections of tales of the supernatural in New Zealand and four volumes of Asian supernatural tales so it would be fair to say I have an interest in it. I also have an ebook, In The Widow’s Shadow set on a mountain in Alaska. So I’ve definitely got a thing about spooky mountains.
What advice, tips, or tricks could you give novice writers about the writing path?
When you’re writing there will always be plotholes. I don’t worry about them on the first draft (I always print out and correct draft 1 on paper before revisiting the screen for draft 2). The important thing is to get the basic story down. If you haven’t researched everything, don’t worry. Capture the basic tale. The time for research and hole-filling will come later.
Once you have draft one, don’t show to anyone, you have 3-4 more drafts to go. Take a breather – figure out what technology, location, and research are still needed. Plotholes will suddenly become caverns at this point. Don’t fret. Take your time and solutions will come to you. Once the research is done to your satisfaction, go for draft 2. When complete, now you show it to someone who you can trust to give you a no BS opinion. I use 3 trusted no-nonsense readers, and they are genuine readers, all of them devour books like popcorn. These are the people you need to get an honest opinion from. Best friends will tell you what you want to hear and that will not advance your writing in the slightest. So, take your reader’s comments, good and bad. Don’t be discouraged and burn your manuscript. Take a deep breath and consider what they have said, then go to draft 3. And on it goes. At some stage, you should get a professional editor involved. Put your pride to one side and heed their advice. An editor is there to improve your book and make you look good.
Another thing I’ve learned is the importance of nailing the location (if it is real) or if it is created really paint a vivid picture in your mind. Sketch out salient points on a whiteboard. The mountain and valley in The Feeding only exist in my mind but I can draw it. The same with technology, weapons or whatever – nail the 2-3 main elements then let the characters navigate their through your story, knowing that the technology/terrain/detail on the important steps is covered. I love exploring a concept and learning all I can about a subject. That’s a real joy – becoming an imaginary expert on a subject or location.
One of the worst instances of this failing was a book written in a Bangkok setting by an author who was visiting Singapore. Big Fail. Bangkok and Singapore and the relevant cultures are two totally different animals. It was obvious the author had never been to Bangkok and experienced the wonderful chaos of that amazing city. Lonely Planet just doesn’t cut it. You have to smell a place to know it.
What do you like to read most?
I love American crime noir and authors like John D. MacDonald, Ed McBain, James Ellroy, Elmore Leonard, Daniel Lehane, Michael Connelly, Jo Nesbo and James Patterson.
What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m currently working on a crime thriller set in both New York and the stunningly beautiful West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand, an area I know well from my years as an airborne hunter in the area.
Thank you NZ GRANT for spending time sharing your story and experience with us!
Find The Feeding here:
Learn more about NZ Grant here: www.writerzbloc.org
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