Friday, March 16, 2012

THE FIERCE AND UNFORGIVING MUSE by Gregory Norris


The man who has brought you, The Q Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer; and many other stories long and short, and the man who co-wrote two episodes of Star Trek Voyager; has a brand new collection of stories in one tome. 26 tales in all. Now out in ebook form!

Gregory Norris is here with me today.And I welcome him with  a big cup of iced hazelnut coffee. Believe me when I say, I have never been, nor will I ever be, as honored as I am today, to have such a legend on this blog. I discovered this man through a small press, and yet from day one I was captivated by his beautiful and humorous intellect. Few people in this world have the heart and soul that this man possess. How little did I know when I befriended him just how amazing his talent was.


So, Gregory, out of the twenty-six stories in Muse, which ones were your favorites?

I approached the collection as a ‘greatest hits’ and also tried to maintain an atmosphere of surprise—one moment the reader is in the present, the next in ancient Abydos, Egypt or the Everglades in 1946. I have a fondness for all of the tales, short and long; none of them was selected at random. There’s a progression from one story to the next, even a few ‘Easter eggs’ along the way.

Some of the twenty-six I’m fondest of include “Dust to Dust”, which is set in the aforementioned Egypt of long ago. The main character is a priest faced with the outbreak of a particularly ominous pestilence. I loved that character and how he responded to the horrors I placed before him. “Grinn” in the second half of the book’s 170,000-plus words resonated strongly with me. That story originated as a pitch I did to the TV show Star Trek: Enterprise way back when, circa 2002, in which a seemingly friendly alien race gives the starship’s navigator Travis Mayweather a ceremonial doll, only the doll comes alive and begins to take on his features and mannerisms.

Gregory Norris
My homage to the famous third component in Dan Curtis’ classic Trilogy of Terror revealed that the ‘doll’ was a symbiotic entity that had bonded telepathically with Mayweather in order to access the ship’s command codes and other classified information. Late this past summer while rereading the printout of that pitch, which made it onto the table by the show’s producers for possible assignment (it didn’t pan out as an episode, clearly), I realized the bones of the idea were solid and wrote it out as a commentary about the lengths some creative people will go to in order to advance up the ladder, a subject I know quite a bit about after sixteen years in one writing group. I love the climactic scene in “Unreal Estate” and the quiet atmosphere of dread in “Veneer” toward the end of the book. And along the way writing “Brood Swamp,” the historical novella at the very end of Muse set in the Everglades, my main character surprised me by revealing secrets about his sexuality I hadn’t suspected on Page One. Getting to know him and see him evolve was delightful.


Out of your favorites, can you explain why they hid so long in the Norris archives?

Not much in Muse was in hiding—of the twenty-six stories, most were written specifically for the collection. I’d been assigned to write a novella for Grand Mal Press’s MalContents anthology and wrote two. Then I was asked to pen Muse and the second novella, “Nightmare Near Highway 101” (which I dreamed pretty much start to finish one warm Sunday during a rare, disturbed afternoon nap) fit in better than the first – “The Mushrooms” – which fit better for the Grand Mal Press book.

In late October, as I was readying to turn Muse into the publisher at a then-respectable 100,000 words and thirteen tales, the news broke that The Twisted Library was canceling all but three of its anthologies. For a year and a half, I was submitting my short stories and novellas to almost everything they were sending out calls for. I had some two dozen acceptances waiting to see publication, some very long and intense projects among them. When Senior Editor Peter Giglio at EJP heard this, he suggested we go longer with Muse and double-up on the original size, make the book a real monster. So I chose eight of the most appropriate stories from the doomed Library projects and filled the book out to twenty-six in all. That said, I do have quite a few stories and novels lurking in the archives. I write longhand, every day, attempt to pen between two and four thousand fresh words, and have, as of this writing, completed 955 short stories, novellas, novelettes, novels, and tele-/screenplays.


I heard that you have some new works on the horizon, I would just love to hear more about them.

I’m fast at work on numerous new/old and new/new projects, including a campy and light romantic paranormal novel called Desperate Housewolves, a not-light horror novel called The Zoo, a script that’s in final draft editing (Bully), and about a hundred other things – short fiction, a mini-collection for another publisher, the usual.

Tell me about your connection to the lovely Kate Mulgrew (Captain Janeway on Star Trek Voyager).

I and my good pal Laura A. Van Vleet first interviewed Kate for a feature for the Sci Fi Channel’s official magazine in 1997. We donated our paychecks to the Incarnation Children’s Center, a pediatric A.I.D.S. home and hospital in New York City and a charity dear to Kate’s heart. From that point forward, she was always available to us for interviews, several dozen since that first. Then Laura and I sold two episodes to Voyager and when we were on set, she was so gracious and welcoming. Last September, I asked Kate to write a blurb for Muse and she did—one better than I could have hoped for.

"In my experience of seven years on Voyager, I do not believe I have encountered a writer for whom I have greater respect in terms of intelligence, understanding, and talent. There is no one more capable to pen such a volume as Muse and, also, to do it so beautifully." ~Kate Mulgrew, Star Trek: Voyager

In five-short-words, how would you describe yourself?

I Need My Iced Coffee.


What drew you to the horror genre?

As I state in the Muse foreword, I grew up on a healthy diet of creature double-features and great classic TV shows. From a very early age, I watched wide-eyed and mystified the strange goings-on at Collinwood in the afternoon soap Dark Shadows.

I was in love with Godzilla and all those Japanese giant monster rubber suit movies in my pre-teens; I remember vividly sitting cross-legged on the floor watching Godzilla, Rodan, and Mothra duke it out with King Ghidorah for the survival of the Earth in Ghidorah: The Three-Headed Monster in the living room of the enchanted cottage where I grew up, on our very boxy, ugly TV with rabbit-ears, electrified as I waited for the outcome. I would have been four or five years old; the house was full of Norris relatives (Norri?), uncles and cousins, but I was right in front of the tube in the catbird seat.

Movies like The Haunting, The Legend of Hell House, The House That Would Not Die and episodes of the classic The Outer Limits affected me deeply, indelibly. So when I started writing in my very early teens, spurred on by my love of the TV show Space:1999, one of the first non-fan fiction stories I wrote was a ghost story. I love the elegance of good, quiet chills. And I love it when I’m writing something spooky and scare myself—I figure there’s a decent chance I’ll make my readers cast a glance over their shoulders or check their doors to see that they’re locked.


A writer's muse is a strange thing. How does a muse keep us writers in check? From your POV?

I’m not sure my Muse keeps me in check. He’s a bit of a taskmaster, though. I love the concept of a writer having a Muse. Mine isn’t dressed in a draped Hellenic frock or a woman, as is the classic interpretation. He’s handsome, grabby, and very needy and when I don’t give him the amount of time he demands, he pouts and throws tantrums.

What I’ve found in playing this game of belief in the Muse is that I’ve had great results in terms of completed projects, fresh pages, publication, and the giddy kind of joy I remember from watching that monster movie, the kind that fills your body up with eight-pointed stars of golden light. I wake up every morning with a clear game plan, focused, and ready to court my Muse so he doesn’t pitch fits.


I have heard you say many times over again, that there is no such thing as WRITER'S BLOCK. Tell me how you came to this insight?

The Block, as interpreted, means that a physical presence is preventing a writer from writing, a dark cloud manifested in the room cuffing his or her hands at sides. That version of the Block only exists if we believe in it, like Santa Claus. And if we do, we give it power. I know this sounds ridiculously simplistic, but if a writer wants to write, he’s going to write. You put your fingers on the keyboard or the pen to paper and you write words. I understand completely that distractions can prevent the ease and flow of the words—the world loves to toss red tape and BS and obstacles in the paths of every writer. But it’s up to the writer to remove or contain distraction as much as possible so writing becomes easier.

If you’re distracted at home, write at the library or in your car with the windows rolled up. Remove excuses, along with distraction. Sometimes a piece hits a difficult junction or challenges the writer to forge forward. I love that! That’s evolution, learning to solve and resolve problems in a particular story or novel and not be stopped in place by them. A condition I do believe in is the ‘Passion Power Outage,’ a temporary state in which I simply need to recharge my batteries. Watch a movie or read a book or keep my body away from the desk until the next morning, when I wake bright and reenergized—and committed to write.


I know I ask every author I interview this question, but who inspires you? Authors? Actors? Anyone that is real.

I’m very inspired by books and try to read everything that’s worth reading. Last year, I read Kafka’s The Metamorphosis and am so glad I did. I’m presently face-deep in Sol Stein’s excellent writing manual. My name got sold onto some list and I received offers from both Poets and Writers and The Writer for hugely discounted subscriptions because of my professional writer status. I devour those magazines. I have my favorite TV shows and actors.

I do a lot of longhand writing in our living room, which is so beautiful and cozy, in front of reruns of Project Runway. I despise most television and all reality TV apart from that show and Work of Art. I love the creativity demonstrated in those two. I’m inspired by weather, by scent, by color. But mostly, I’m writing as much as I do because I don’t wait for inspiration alone to strike. I write because I love to write. I live to write.


You're a dear friend, and anyone who knows you well knows this. Thank you for being on my blog!

My pleasure, Dale—and thanks!






2 comments:

  1. What a great interview!

    Gregory Norris is the genuine article. He doesn't gloss over any aspects of writing. Most of what Mr. Norris said I can stand behind, especially the writer's Block aspect. Thank you for your insight into that concept, Mr. Norris.

    The entire interview was well-done, Dale! Thank you for posting. And thank Mr. Norris for his time as well!~Kim

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Kim for stopping by. I'm very glad you enjoyed the interview!

      Delete

Add your two cents here. Yeah yeah I know, in this economy??? Okay fine, your one cent unless you feel generous. :^)