As you know, we’ve been visiting with co-authors of Running Wild Press’s Anthology of Stories, Volume 2. Please welcome Suzanne Grieco-Mattaboni, author of the short story “Dawning.” Here’s the first paragraph to get us started:
The first week I met Renata, she sat in my visitor’s chair in my colorless casket of an office and laughed. She doesn’t have an office so she hangs out in mine. Her hair is this fake yellow/orange except at the roots, all wavy and flying.
“My friends tell me, Renata, you have no shame, girl,” she smiled. That first day, she told me she was twenty-two. When I asked her where she lived, she said with her older brother.
Great opening! What inspired you to write Dawning?
When I graduated college, I put a lot of pressure on myself. I’d always been a high achiever, looking to make a B-line toward success, to make everyone proud, to ascend triumphantly and swiftly up the ladder. Then you get to the real world, and you’re at the bottom of the sh*&% pile. You’re everybody’s lackey, and you realize true success is an exasperating zig-zag. That’s defeating knowledge at first. I was also just fresh out of school, which was full of parties, and care-free living, and exhilarating new relationships. It’s a hard wall to hit when you realize that things are changing. This story is about that moment, when you realize you have to tear yourself away from a post-adolescent world and move toward an adult world. There’s a friendship in the story that represents one of the universes in question here, and a work relationship that represents the other. The protagonist in the story starts to realize she’s miserable because she’s stuck between those two worlds.
What would you like readers to take away from Dawning?
It’s okay to let go of your former self. You’re not limited by whatever you were when you started out. Change is imperative, and it will propel you toward whatever it is you choose to be. The story pulls a line from Norman Vincent Peale’s work. He says, “Act As If.” E.g., however far you away you are from who you want to be, act as if you already are that person. That’s what makes you into who you become. I almost entitled the story, As If.
That sounded a little too glib without context, though. Like Cher in “Clueless.”
How long have you been writing?
I have notebooks with song lyrics in them dating back to second grade.
My first professional publication was in Seventeen magazine when I was in high school. The next year I won first place in their Art and Fiction Contest. I’ve been in several anthologies and literary magazines since then, and won a few contest. I eventually went into advertising and PR, though, because the pay was better.
Impressive! Do you write full-time? If not, what do you do for a living?
I’m a public relations consultant, so I write for a living, although not fiction. Corporate work is actually a good living, especially since I work with companies in the technology sector. I’ve always held my head up high by saying I found a way to earn presentable money as a writer. It’s given me a great edge to have a creative side, because I’m known as the PR gal people come to for the cool idea that no one else thought of. That and I literally have clients for whom I ghostwrite say to me, “It’s amazing how you’ve captured my voice.” That’s a fiction writing thing that I apply to my business.
I’ve also been a freelance journalist over the years. I was a community service reporter for Newsday and wrote for various regional lifestyle magazines on more fun topics like parenting, weddings, Hamptons travel, etc. I’ve done some blogging for The Huffington Post, although avoiding anything political. Again, more of a lifestyle focus. And I had an essay in a “Chicken Soup for the Soul” anthology, which is a best-selling series.
Do you only write short fiction? If not, how does writing a short story differ from writing a novel? (Other than the obvious length/time.)
I’m not sure how different it is, writing short stories and writing novels. I’ve learned things as I go along in one discipline, and then have gone back and apply that to my work in the other disciplines each time. I think the clash in rules maybe be more glaring between assorted genres than between short and long forms.
What does your typical “writing day” look like?
I don’t have writing days. I have writing nights. I stay up too late, typing away like a zombie on fiction, and then am a wreck the next morning. Then come the work days, where I am sucked into a vortex of press releases and reporting and conference calls. I make things happen anyway, though. I’m good at my job. Jobs.
I have no doubt. What are you currently reading?
I just finished Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You, because I had been thinking the main character, Louisa Clark, was quirky and artsy yet very determined in her goals, and was therefore maybe comparable to the art student protagonist in my own novel. It’s a beautiful book—go get it right now. That, and I also just finished Gabrielle Hamilton’s memoir, Blood, Bones & Butter, which I read because she grew up in the same restaurant community where my book takes place. I have to say I don’t know if I’ve read such lush and gorgeous language in a long, long time. I hope she’ll consider writing a blurb for me if, I ask really, really nicely!
Other than this spectacular anthology, do you have any recent or upcoming releases you’d like to tell us about?
I’m in the process of pitching a novel, women’s fiction called Excuse Me, Waitress, Is That New Jersey? Set amid the ‘80s new wave music scene, it’s an irreverent, girl-power discovery journey type of thing. It chronicles a group of college women, the first generation of girls who were told they could have it all—relationships, careers, friendships, creative fulfillment—and what happened when they tried to get it. Add a love triangle, slam dancers, a drag show, some bi-polar depression, and you’ve got the gist.
It’s not exactly released yet, but I’m forging forward with that supposition.
Act As If, remember?
Yes! I expect to see that book on my shelf one day.
What advice would you give aspiring authors?
When I finished my novel and started going to writer’s conferences in earnest, people said, “Good luck on your journey.” They always used that word. I thought, Geez, I’m trying to publish a novel, not training to climb K2. Let’s not get dramatic.
I was wrong.
My advice would be that, yes, this is an outrageously long and daunting process, fraught with abject rejection, even if you are very good at what you do. So stick it out. Hook up with several associations and critique partners and support groups so you realize you’re not the only one facing this extended road. Journey is accurate. Maybe Epic Odyssey is accurate.
Epic Odyssey sounds about right to me.
Where can readers learn more about you and your works?
I’m revamping my web site, but you can reach me or read more rantings at:
Thank you for taking time for us, Suzanne. Readers, go check her out!