Saturday, April 18, 2015

Featured Author: Graydon Miller


What is happening to the indigenous children in Veracruz?

Nobody knows why they are disappearing, and nobody really cares. Then Peter Vandervoort, a foreigner living in Mexico, snaps a picture of the wrong man in the wrong place and stumbles into a nightmare. He alone will uncover the horrifying truth about what’s happening to the children. When he meets a sex-starved French journalist trying to salvage her career, it’s hate at first sight. But each holds a piece of the puzzle that will save the children and ignite a passion as steamy as it is volatile . 
. . Open this book and you, too, will become a Hostage of Veracruz.


Grady, what’s the story behind the title Hostages of Veracruz?
The story behind the title of my thriller is so convoluted. The Hostages of Veracruz was the title of the novel, originally written when I was living in Mexico in the 90s. When I translated it into English and printed a limited edition when self-publishing was truly self-publishing, I retitled it Outsourcing. It seemed a great American title in 2003. Fast forward to 2014: The Hostages of Veracruz was finally published in paperback.

This is your first thriller?
Yes, it is. And my lifelong obsession with Hitchcock has finally borne fruit. I was tickled pink by one of the reviews on Amazon. It singled out my “Hitchcockian approach to setting up a scene using luscious descriptions then suddenly, gently, inserting an unexpected word or phrase that slams the reader into a ‘Oh, God-what’s-gonna-happen-next? Direction....” S.R. Mallery said that.

That's a great review. What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received about your writing?
The best complement about Hostages of Veracruz was “It was so disturbing, I had to put it down,” closely followed by this remark, “I was twenty pages into it before I realized my dinner was burning.”

You established yourself as a comic writer. Comments like these must be something new for you.
Amy, that’s for sure. After publishing a terrifying page turner, I’ve found there’s a certain joy in torturing readers. My preferred form or torture remains tickling.

Mine too. How did you create the plot for this book?
Bless my first wife. I was going off to teach an English class at the University of Guadalajara and left her with this short story that had a boffo, Hitchcock/Rod Sterling dark twist at the end. When I got home from my class, I expected to be showered with praise. My wife said, "There’s not enough here; there has to be more." That started me off on a long path, three more years, and things happened along the way. Like someone broke into our house and ripped off my printer. Eventually the short story turned into a novella.

How did you meet your wife? Was it love at first sight?
Downtown Guadalajara, waiting tables at her grandmother’s restaurant during Easter break. We didn’t begin dating till four years later. We kept running into each other. It was love at third sight.

Is your book based on real events?
The seed for the story came from an exposé I read the 90s in the Mexican news magazine Proceso. The story about organ trafficking was compelling but inconclusive. Here I saw this hairline crack in reality to insert fiction, which often can be the only route to the truth in certain regions. Like Latin America, Russia, and Los Angeles. In the course of writing, Hostages of Veracruz, I questioned a lot of doctors and health officials in Mexico. The bit about the boy who is dumped back in his village with corneas removed and twenty dollars in his pocket — that comes right out of my research. These intelligent people were evenly divided about whether the traffic existed. Sadly, since the 90s, the traffic may exist, but in a form much crasser than the villain of my story devised.

Wow. Are you like any of your characters?
Like Peter Vandervoort, a sort of wastrel with the soul of an artist. A strong woman brings out the hero in him. Funny how with Hostages of Veracruz, the reviewers detect what a word artist I am. Peter and I are vindicated.

How many years did you live in Mexico?

Like a good sitcom — Everybody Loves Raymond; Seinfeld — I lived in Mexico for nine years.

It must have affected your outlook.
Yes, I definitely have an émigré outlook. I see it with the vision of an outsider and insider. I know why the Germans love Death Valley and know that people in Italy pine to come to Hollywood, where I live.

So, after living abroad, where is home for you, Graydon?
Where I am. The heart can be many places, of course. I’d like to have a magical room with a work table and then when I open the door, I can step out to where the heart has been. Havana or Sun Valley or Watsonville or Guadalajara.

Where did you grow up?
In Watsonville, California. A farming town many have driven through, but few have stopped.

If you had an extra $100 a week to spend on yourself, what would you buy?
I’d get some cigars, after banking ten dollars. It’s the Scottish in me.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?
Make as many mistakes as I can and evaluate them. Gosh, I wish somebody had taught me that as a kid or a teen. It’s what I talk about when I visit schools now and give talks. Risking new things and making mistakes gladly — it’s the quickest way to learn — and having fun. It’s very important to be able to enjoy yourself.

I make a lot of mistakes, few of them gladly, but you're right, they are learning experiences. You always seem to be having a very good time. What’s your secret?
To have a good time, give a good time.

What do you love about where you live?
I’m here in the middle of Hollywood in a cottage courtyard. And I’m deepest house in from the sidewalk. My first weekend here the quiet was deafening. There are doves cooing and an occasional possum and you can hear the clink of spoons from neighboring houses.

It sounds wonderful. Right now I can hear a lawn mower. Have you been in any natural disasters?
I have been in a man-made disaster, April 22, Guadalajara Mexico, 1992. Gasoline that had seeped into the street drains blew up eight kilometers of streets. SUVs catapulted onto the roofs of houses. A gymnasium became a morgue. Herds of people panicked and ran through the main streets, away from the explosion zone. I was there the night before. The zone smelled like gas at the pump. We thought it was because subway construction was going on. The why of the disaster has never been adequately answered: corruption, negligence, an accident, who knows? I know one thing: when I smell gas or just suspect it now I call the gas company.

Excellent advice. Do you have another job outside of writing?
I manage Star Wash in West Hollywood. It’s quite a job. Because I am a well-known figure in the neighborhood, I feel a lot like Floyd the barber on Andy Griffith, who never gave a haircut. There’s a lot of gabbing at the laundromat and not much mopping.

What would you like people to say about you after you die?
There was a class act who died laughing with his boots on. There’d be no finer tribute to my life. Death is the great MacGuffin. Baruch Spinoza said “A free man thinks of death least of all things; and his wisdom is a meditation not of death but of life.” I love that.

Who are your favorite authors?

Oooh, that’s a tough one. There are so many. If I had to say, my favorite author is Graydon Miller.

And me of course, right? What are you currently reading?
S.R. Mallery’s Tales to Count On, in Kindle. I’m enjoying myself immensely and Mallery has the Hitchcock touch, especially a talent for the final twist of the knife found in the Hitchcock magazine stories. I give equal weight to the man’s films as an influence and also his magazine stories. I was eating up those devious stories by the end of high school that combine elements dark, desperate and humorous. So many great authors, Ed Hoch, Henry Slesar, Ray Bradbury, Donald Westlake.

Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?

Truly anywhere. In the car and in a café, though the café is getting harder as I am becoming more known. My house is a good place. Sometimes at my house when I’m really into it, to stretch my body and get off the chair I find myself on my knees before the computer. There may be something symbolic in that as well. Larry Gelbart, the TV comedy writer, planted the seed in me that the wee small hours are a good time to write. There’s one novel I nicknamed my “3 a.m. novel.” I switch my routine as circumstances change, and through the madness always manage to find a metabolism.

Where is your favorite library, and what do you love about it?
Beverly Hills Public Library. It’s a church for books, attended by students, indigents and millionaires alike. It’s big enough you can find about anything that pops into your head and you can wander around and make random discoveries. Second favorite is the new library in my hometown. It’s a beauty and a lifeline for submitting my humor pieces. I can’t tell you what a cruel irony it was during the lean years when the city hall and library shut down for three weeks during Christmas. These are happier times when I visit Watsonville.

You can be any fictional character for one day. Who would you be?
Vito Corleone from the book, rather than the movie. I know this man, his cult of family and loyalty to friends. The extortion and the other stuff is beside the point.

Very interesting choice. I might ask who's the first person you would kill as Vito, but I won't put you on the spot. What’s the worst thing someone has said about your writing?

I sent my first book of short stories to Gary Fisketjon, an editor. He sent back a letter saying essentially he wasn’t interested in this or my future body of work.

Ouch. But you showed him! Are you happy with your decision to self-publish?
Delighted to be a publishing maverick. Period. Just as there’s room for paperbacks and Kindle books, there’s room for self-publishing and traditional fear-based publishing. We self-publishers are the brave and the fearless. I already see a world where there’s no more stigma attached to being self-published than being a self-made millionaire.

Amen! I like that world. What are you working on now?

Being the best Graydon Miller in the world.

Book trailer


Graydon Miller grew up in the heart of Steinbeck Country on the Central California coast. More Bombeck than Steinbeck, Graydon Miller has been compared to T.C. Boyle, Joel Stein, and Voltaire. He briefly attended Columbia University in New York and came to Los Angeles to study filmmaking, but discovered literature instead, in T.C. Boyle’s fiction writing workshop at USC. In addition to A Very Grady Christmas, he has written the funny diet book, Lighten Up Now: The Grady Diet and the humor collection, Late Bloomer. His humor column, "Miller Time," appears weekly in The Canyon News.

Connect with Grady:
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads  

Other books by Grady Miller