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Speculative Fiction with Alex Grass

George Grombacher May 20, 2022

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Speculative Fiction with Alex Grass

LifeBlood: We talked about writing speculative fiction, the writing process, how editing works, where ideas come from, and how to stay organized, with Alex Grass, Kindle Top 100 Author.  

Listen to learn why you should be wary of exotic advice!

You can learn more about Alex at, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn.

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Our Guests

George Grombacher


Alex Grass

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:00
Come on

Bob Leffler. This is George G. And the time is right to look at today’s guest strong and powerful Alex gras. Alex, are you ready to do this? I’m ready all day, up and down, left and right. Let’s go. Alex is the author of three books that are broken into the Kindle top 100. Prior to becoming an author, he’s been a thrash metal band. He attended mortuary school law school, he competed as an amateur boxer and powerlifter he worked in the Sinai desert. His titles are the influencer Black River lantern, direct and most recently, a boy’s hammer. Alex, tell us a little about your personal laughs more about your work and why you do what you do? Sure, I mean, the easiest way to tell you about my personal life? And why I do what I do is to go back and

Alex Grass 1:04
No, sorry, four years ago, I was like a pretty, pretty bad alcoholic. And I went down to rehab in Florida. And while I was there, I met all kinds of different people, really amazing people. You know, I won’t get into specifics, you know, but I want to keep let them keep their anonymity. But there were people from all over there were Rhodes scholars. There were there was a former senator who was there from long enough ago that I feel comfortable saying, okay,

and there were, you know, like, see, foes and CEOs. And the one thing that I learned from that was that, like, nobody looks back on their life and says, you know, like, I really wish that I just played it safe. And you know, did some, you know, good old fashioned economic satisficing and walk down the middle road. And while I was down there, I just had a, like a complete, you know, rotation around the world, personal philosophy flipping moment. And I took a hard look at what I was doing. And at the time, I was writing op eds, editorializing in places like Washington Examiner, and Forbes, and, you know, a couple other places. And I enjoyed it. But I found that, you know, and this is well before, I guess you’d call like, the like the, the the widening gap and civil society, it’s just a lot of tension to write about that stuff. You know, there’s never a moment where you’re not, in some way, being a flunky for one ideological side or the other. And while I was down in Florida, I learned more about Stephen King and I found that Stephen King had, you know, that he’d never really been into anything else other than specula fiction, but he had wrestled with his own demons. And I read a book of his, that was very much recovery centered. The main character is Danny Torrance, he’s the kid of you know, Jack Torrance, from The Shining fame. You know, many people want to read the book, but certainly like home, I mean, at a certain generation, everybody’s seen the shine, my dad, before I started my dad hated heart, he’d seen the shining, you know. And there’s just something that struck me in a very, very deep seated way, you know, like, at the, you know, where it’s like, I guess physically, the comparison would be like, if you ever if you ever had like the cops behind you, and you feel something that’s like, like prickles at the back of your neck, that also it’s like tugging on your bowels and like hitting your heart, but in a pot, but in a positive way. That’s the feeling I had, you know. And I just, I really fell in love, like, head over heels love with speculative fiction and, and horror and bit like very good horror. And it’s really something to do, like, when you’re when you’re, you know, middle age and you’re coming around, and you found find, like, a new passion. And it happens while your whole life is changing, you know, and it’s all changed for me. It’s all changed for the better. It’s like it’s It’s remarkable. It’s like, you look at as like dumb luck like, wow, yeah. So like, it feels so like no ad. It doesn’t happen. Anybody but it happened to me. I was so happy about it. Yeah.

george grombacher 4:55
Well, I think that’s amazing. Serendipity, dumb luck. whatever term you want to use. It happened. So that was three, three half, four years ago. More than more

Alex Grass 5:06
than four years ago, actually, now I’m thinking about because I, I’ve counted I’ve candidate out with my old man, you know, we’ve talked about this all the time.

george grombacher 5:16
Got it. Nice. I appreciate that. So, it sounds like sounds like you, you obviously have a writing background. So So is it fair to say that you knew how to write or that you’re a good writer?

Alex Grass 5:29
Oh, yeah. I mean, I don’t mean like, oh, yeah, like, Oh, yeah. Right. No, no, no, no, I mean, I, I come from so. Okay. So that here’s a little anecdote this, this tells you how I found levels where it’s like, I used to go up to my dad starting at like five or six years old. And I’d be like, you know, hit that what is contemptuous me? Actually, a lot of the time I’d go after he yelled at me, he’s like, Here, your behave the way you behave. i Why are you so contemptuous of being your mother? Like, what does that mean? We had a big dictionary, you remember, like, back in the day you had, like, people would come they saw you? Like the site? And yeah, exactly. So we easily get like a new huge dictionary, you know, the, like, the big one, the library binding every three or four years. And I remember it, like, my dad forced me from young age to go and look up words. And then who knows why this happens. You know, cuz I got three younger brothers. And none of them are like this. I mean, they’re all there. They’re all in their own way. Very remarkable. But I would just start, like looking at the dictionary, you know, and sometimes my brothers would make fun of me, you know, because I wasn’t, I was not that guy. I was not a book nerd. You know, I was not. I mean, I thought I wasn’t I read a lot. But in school, you know, like I liked. You know, like, for example, in high school, like, like, I started a poker game and a gym game, and like, we get in trouble because we had like a gambling in the school. You know, like, I was always smoking in the bathroom. And like, I was not that guy, you know. But I did fall in love with words, I’d be like reading the dictionary, you know, like 1011. And it was on this list. Like, this rostrum kind of, like almost like a, like a cherry podium, and I’d go up, and I’d be flipping through it. And then, you know, like, the brother closest to me and age. He’s like, What are you doing? Nothing. Nothing. I wasn’t learning for the sake of learning.

george grombacher 7:37
That’s certainly not happening. Yeah, exactly.

Alex Grass 7:42
And, you know, I came, it’s, I’m also I’m very, very lucky that I came from a family where it was, you know, writing was very important. My grandfather. My grandfather is on both sides. My mother’s father was a law professor. And he was a beautiful writer. I mean, they never ended up writing fiction. But you know, I’ve seen correspondence, and there’s this amazing video of him, where he, and I showed it to my youngest brother, Harrison, and he looked, and he said it perfectly. He said, How grandpa speaks like a book, you know, he just, it was like, pure flow, you know, like, just seamless narration. Like, like you were hearing everything described in my grandfather’s life. Like it was a Morgan Freeman reading of the Shawshank Redemption, you know, amazing. I love it.

george grombacher 8:44
So as as, as you’re writing now, where where do your ideas come from? Or the constantly coming? How do you how do you decide what you’re going to write your next book on?

Alex Grass 8:57
What so I think that you, like a, someone who’s regularly writing this is at least this is my experience has probably like 50 ideas for every one good one. You know, and you definitely hear stories about authors who just leave a vast correspondence and a lot of unfinished projects behind. Usually, what happens is that when like, it’s the idea, you know, like a really good idea. It becomes very, very clear. And, you know, all the books that I’ve written that, uh, you know, just been of that caliber, the higher caliber have been finished in about like a month, or maximally, you know, like, six weeks, you know, like the late the latest one a boys hammer, some between 120 130,000 words, it’s a 600 page plus book and it and it was written in, you know, about six weeks. That now listen, I’ll get back, sir Back to answering the question, but I should just say like, if you’re a writer out there, that should not be your standard, those six weeks are miserable. That’s a lot. Yeah, there’s three days out of the week, I’m not sleeping. And you know, like very bad personal habits. It’s just like, I just, it’s how I can do it, you know, but the ideas, they can come from anywhere. And I think the best, the best way to have new ideas is to, to experience life and be attentive to what you’re doing at the time until, you know, like, just, you know, not to sound like, you know, like the old curmudgeon, but like put down your phone, sort of watch what’s going on, and the ideas will come to you. You know, the idea for dreht came from I was sitting in, my wife had to go to an orientation for hospice care service, because she was getting in clinical hours if she’s at med school right now. And this is prior to med school, but I sat and there was this guy who gave a lecture on, you know, his job matching people, to hospice patients. And the, the whole outline for draft came out in about like, an hour while I was sitting there, and I was writing it down. But I was also drawing from the speaker, you know, like I was, it’s really interesting to like to be an adult and to take notes on something that you’re really listening to, and the notes are for nothing else other than what you want. Cuz because you see in school, like, there’s two, there’s two reasons people take notes. Okay, one, because they’re a gunner student, and they’re trying to transcribe everything, right? Or two, because they want the teacher to see that they’re taking notes. And I was doing it for neither.

george grombacher 11:59
None of those was going on there. That’s awesome. So you said 600 pages, do you say 120,000? Words?

Alex Grass 12:07
100. I think the final count was 120 323,000.

george grombacher 12:11
Words. That’s, I think that that’s hard for people to and that would be hard for me to get my brain around. Other than I started writing again, five months ago, and I write 1000 words a day. And I just did, I just did 100 posts. And so it took me five months to write 100,000 words, and it took you you know, four weeks. That’s crazy,

Alex Grass 12:37
by the way, that your habit is like that’s a really excellent habit. 1000 words a day is really excellent. You know, one of my favorite, dark fantasy authors is a guy named Joe Abercrombie. He writes amazing books, and he hits about 1000 a day, you know, the other thing is, like, I think your your writing on economics and finance, right? Yeah, yeah. Okay. So like, it’s not quite, you know, totally different, but it’s totally different. I mean, like, I would say, for every 1000 words, in economics and finance, that That’s as hard as writing, you know, like, 3000. In fiction, I think, you know, in fiction writers won’t, won’t like to hear that. But, you know, they have a pretty high you know, they’ve pretty high self regard even though they’re self loathing. It’s a paradox, but that that’s the way all creative people are, you know,

george grombacher 13:30
yeah. So how they think that that’s awesome, have a high self self regard and perhaps an equally high sense of self loathing. So you you frenetic? I don’t know if the term is fanatically, you are impressively writing for four to six weeks, hundreds of 1000s of words. And you’re I think you mentioned you were communicating with your editor right. Now, how does that process work?

Alex Grass 13:58
So we’re, it’s become a pretty unique relationships. So my, my editor, she just changed the name of her company. I wish I could remember it. It was it was originally holy Mel edits. And now it’s, um, hold on one second. Hey, Eric. Not in vain editing. Thank you. So it’s, she she created a company and her husband Eric is the project manager. And also, they have, she has a twin sister. Sadie had not invented that Mel has a twin sister named Carol. We were all born on the same day. That’s wild. Isn’t that wild? I didn’t even know that until about a year ago. But we have become very close like I’m here. I’m just visiting. You know, like we just finished a boy sandwich We’re working on something right now. But we, you know, I’ve just k, I came here to, you know, hang out. And we talk, I would say me and Eric talk a couple times a week, you know, cuz he’s the project manager, but he’s also really amazing, like a really amazing details guy. And a very quick learner. And he, you know, he has the mind for it. So I just check in and, you know, he’s unflappable. So like, I can just check in and see what’s going on. And the truth is in the editing, you know, a good editor, or an author who knows how to work with an editor will let them do their job, you know? So the answer is really, I’m only interacting for work, when they need something from me, you know. And, until this last book, there was like, really never any pushback from me. And then there was, and then there was, and then I was totally wrong. And I ended up doing everything that Mel wanted me to do. And then I got to start a review from Caracas, the first one ever. Nice. So so, you know, I actually called her up. And I said, I just want you to know, you were totally right. I was, I was completely wrong. And my wife is sitting across the table from me, and listening, because she’s, she’s in med school, but she’s doing doing like, a lot of it remotely. And Mel is very self effacing. My editors, very self effacing. She’s like, No, no, it was a group effort. And my wife cuts and she’s like, don’t tell him that. You don’t know. Don’t don’t take that away. You tell him. He’s wrong. That’s awesome. But I think that’s the last thing I would say is like, I think that’s really important in everything. If you want to succeed, you have to get rid of your ego, you have to kill your darlings, you have to listen, you know, because, especially if you trust somebody, they’re not trying to hurt you. You know, they’re and you’re not the you’re never the genius you think, you know? Like, I’m not and it’s it’s so rare, you can almost almost all of us can rest assured that we’re not the genius that can veto, you know, the editor or the co worker, or the colleague, who gives us some, you know, some helpful advice.

george grombacher 17:34
Yeah, I appreciate that. You said that you get your first review from from some thing or someone?

Alex Grass 17:41
Well, first star review. So like, I’m in like, a starred review from Caracas is sort of like, you know, it’d be like, I don’t know, like a

george grombacher 17:54
Michelin star or something. Yeah, maybe

Alex Grass 17:57
something like it. Yeah. I mean, the Michelin star is pretty serious. I know. Cuz my wife’s brother’s a chef. It’s,

george grombacher 18:04
let’s just say it’s real. Good night. You know? What, congratulations.

Alex Grass 18:07
Thank you very much. And you

george grombacher 18:09
can attribute all of that to Mel the editor.

Alex Grass 18:13
Not have not in vain editing. That’s right. plug plug.

george grombacher 18:19
I love it. So do you, as these ideas come, you’ve got 50 to one and you are able to see yep, this this one is we’re definitely going with it. How do you have a plan for how many books you want to be writing over a set amount of time, like, like, in a year or something like that?

Alex Grass 18:42
Um, it’s ended up being about three a year, you know, a COVID was sort of a strange time. It wasn’t that I wasn’t writing it just happened that so I guess it’s fit. Maybe it has been a year? Or has it been two years? I would say probably the norm, you know, moving forward would probably be about three a year. You know, because the, the editing processes, you know, like editing is much, much, much more work intensive than writing, you know. And, I would say, about three a year and then along with those three, there’s probably like two books worth of stuff that will never see the light of day, you know, just different projects that have started stopped or, you know, like, I’ll write something and go back and just, you know, even with my personal bias, I’ll be like, Man, this is just trash, you know, this is just like dumpster This is trash panda in a dumpster fire. You know? Wait, yeah, I think three a year. And that’s like, that keeps me busy. But also a lot of like a lot of time to myself.

george grombacher 20:12
Yeah. Busy and saying at the same time, right? Exactly. All the things, all the things, all the things that Julia Cameron would say you need to take care of, of your inner author. I don’t know if she would actually say that or not. Anyway, by Alex, people are ready for that difference making tip, what do you have for them?

Alex Grass 20:38
I think the difference making tip is that be wary of people trying to give you exotic advice. Usually, doing very well is as simple as you know. Very common sense. People have said in the past past my my favorite quote, one of them is from Thomas Edison. opportunity is missed by most people, because it’s dressed in overalls, and it looks like work, you know. So the difference making tip is work very hard. And I would attend to that the thing I said before about editing, like, and know that your work isn’t precious. You know, it’d be humble about it, work hard and be humble, because you will be wrong most of the time. And even if you’re, you know, end up being one of the, the elite of elite in your field. It’ll only be because you’ve spent a lifetime striving and failing. And slowly getting up above the 50% mark. You know. That’s, that’s it. That’s not one tip by the end. Oh, shit. Oh, shoot. Sorry.

george grombacher 22:08
I think that that is, those are great stuff that definitely gets come. I love it. Be wary of exotic advice. I’ve never heard it put like that before. But I think that that is 100% Correct. Work hard and be humble, solid. Well, Alex, thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you? Where can they get your books?

Alex Grass 22:26
Books are all available on Amazon. Just type in Alex grass, Alex regular spelling grass, like the green grass. My old man used to say that when he answered the phone all the time. And you could follow me on on Goodreads, which is the only place but I mean it’s a very it’s a really great place for readers really great place for authors. It’s very open and I’ve heard from authors and readers it’s a fantastic if you love reading Goodreads

george grombacher 22:59
Excellent. Well if you enjoy this as much as I did show Alex your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas go to Amazon pick up all of his books pick up the influencer Black River lantern direct and his newest a boys hammer all under Alex grass and then also find them on Goodreads and we’ll link all those in the notes. Next get Alex. Thanks, George. And until next time, keep fighting the good fight. We’re all in this together.

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