Justine Graykin is a writer and free-lance philosopher sustained by her deep, abiding faith in Science, Humanity and the belief that humor is the best anti-gravity device. Author of Archimedes Nesselrode, a book written for adults who are weary of adult books, she is producer of the BroadPod podcast. She lives, writes and putters around her home in rural New Hampshire, occasionally disappearing into the White Mountains with a backpack.
Can you please tell us briefly a little about yourself and your writing? How would you like us to introduce you?
I write undark, anti-dystopian, genre-resistant fiction for adults who are weary of adult books. I believe that compassion and cooperation trump competition and self-interest, and humor is the best anti-gravity device. I want my readers to come away from one of my books feeling better than when they started reading it. Much better. Recommend me when they are looking for a fun read (see also rant below* about why readers might be drawn to my kind of book).
What was the biggest challenge in writing and putting out Archimedes Nesselrode? How did you overcome that challenge?
By far the biggest devilment has been the business of genre. Agents and publishers want to know what genre one writes in. Damned if I know. In fact, I try to avoid standard genres and tropes. I want to do something different from all the truck that’s been done before. But that’s the kiss of death when one is trying to peddle something. Oh yes, they want something different, but not TOO different. Something LIKE Hunger Games. Something they can MARKET like Twilight. Selling Archimedes Nesselrode was a headache. I even had an agent read it in one sitting and rave about how wonderful, magical, and unforgettable it was. She refused it because she had no idea how to sell it. Fortunately, Deron Douglas at Double Dragon saw its potential. But I went through a very long submissions list before finally scoring.
What draws you to the particular genre or style that you write? What do you think draws readers to these kinds of books?
I write the sort of books I would like to read, partly because there are so blessed few of them out there, at least that I’ve been able to find. Books that are intelligently written, thoughtful and interesting, but not challenging to the point of exhaustion. Books that are warm and whose humor isn’t acerbic or cynical, that show people dealing with life’s difficulties and triumphing over them. But triumphing in an intelligent, realistic way, not simplistically or with a magic sword or faith in God (no offense). I don’t want heart-breaking or gut-wrenching. I don’t want to wallow in tears, suffering and insoluble dilemmas. There’s enough of that in real life. I want books that offer hope, solutions, reasons to feel joy and optimism.
And I don’t think I’m alone. Patrons come into the library where I work all the time to return the latest literary masterpiece and plead with me for a “happy” book, a “fun” read, something that won’t wear them out and leave them sagging. They just want something different for a change, uplifting, a break from all that mayhem and tragedy. Sometimes they turn to YA (although that doesn’t always guarantee a break from tragedy and mayhem). But YA books are written for, and generally about, Young Adults.
What piece of advice would you want to share with other writers?
Take all writing advice with a hefty measure of skepticism. Cultivate your own voice and methods. If you think an adverb or passive tense belongs in that sentence, go ahead and use it, Famous Author’s solemn admonitions be damned. Rules were made to be broken; the difference between a great writer and a wannabe is how brilliantly they do it.
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
I have been writing for nearly half a century, although I probably only recently started writing well. Like any art, it also requires practice and craftsmanship. I have at least a dozen and a half books in various stages of completion which I am ready and eager to loose into the world. None of them is quite like Archimedes Nesselrode, but then, none of them is quite like the other. Some are SF-ish, some are Romance-ish, some are just what they are. But they all pretty much have the same qualities of optimism, humor, intelligence and warmth that I value in a book. Now that I have one publication under my belt, I hope to follow up with the next one in short order. Which is to say, I trust it won’t take me the decades it took me to get this first one into print.
What is/are your passions when you’re not writing? How do you make time for your non-writing hobbies/things you love?
There is precious little that I love more than writing. I do enjoy hiking, and try to get out for a long walk in the woods as often as possible. Aside from having fingers to the keyboard, I’m happiest with a backpack on a trail with a campsite at the end of it. Of course, much of the time I’m on the trail I’m thinking about writing. And I keep a pencil and several sheets of paper with my maps in my pack. I do have a job (librarian) and responsibilities to home, family (husband, two teen-age sons) and critters (cats, dogs, chickens) and I do my best to fulfill my obligations. But, dear lord, the state of my house! I think I created the character of Vivian Mare because I desperately need her while I play Archimedes Nesselrode.
Where can people find your work? (Besides ABSW ;)–though they should totally check here first!)
Drop by my website at justinegraykin.com to find links to access it all. But my most recent, Archimedes Nesselrode, is available as a paperback through Amazon, or as an ebook through most distributors. Check your local bookstore first, and if they don’t have it, ask why not!
How can we follow your work, share your awesomeness, or otherwise stalk you in a totally non-creepy way?
My website at justinegraykin.com is a good place to start. I do a good number of regional conventions, and lurk on Facebook (but I don’t Tweet).