On "Sylvia Says" today, I go all the way to NYC (on a virtual trip) to interview author Steven Jay Griffel about his successful David Grossman series.
SM: Welcome to Sylvia Says, Steven. It’s great to have you as a guest on my blog, and all the way from one of my favourite cities—New York City! Today, I decided to start this interview with the last question first and ask you: “Are you David Grossman?”
SJG: Great to be in the land down under, Sylvia. And the answer to your question is no, I’m not David Grossman, though he and I are often mistaken for each other. David Grossman is my best-known fictional character and appears in all of my novels, serving me as a sort of fictional alter-ego. Through David’s decisions I get to imagine other life choices, which tend to be more imaginative and daring than my own.
SM: Looking at the novel blurb in each of your David Grossman books, I see there are many life lessons learned; what would you say is one of the most important lessons of all and why?
SJG: My greatest advice to readers: Do not live a life stunted by regret. Regret is a self-inflicted poison that slowly degrades a person’s courage and self-esteem. People are generally happier when they are able to articulate their greatest regrets in order to render them null and void.
SM: The other thing I noticed is that your novels include aspects of what I might call the “paranormal.” What prompted you to do this?
SJG: Like many people, I am fascinated by experience beyond normal human understanding. In Grand View there is the mystery of the Potato Cave and communication with the dead via the Ouija board; in Grossman’s Castle there are the strange phenomena in the Castle and the appearance of ghosts; in The Deadline there is an Amazonian High Priestess who practices the dark arts of Candomblè. These examples of the paranormal add a sense of exotica and suspense to the plots.
SM: No paranormal in Forty Years Later?
SJG: There is someone who may (or may not) be a knife-wielding murderess. But I think she’s abnormal, not paranormal.
SM: Where did David Grossman come from? The idea of him, that is. I know he “speaks” to you and tells you he has more to say and this is why you wrote your fourth novel in the series. Care to elaborate a bit more on this?
SJG: About twenty-five years ago I wrote a novel called Grand View. The story takes place in a Jewish bungalow colony in the Catskill Mountains during one summer in the 1960s; the main protagonist is a young teen named David Grossman. Many years later, I reconnected with someone I knew when we were both teens. This woman is a screenwriter who had a big hit movie modelled on the bungalow colony where the two of us had once lived. My relationship with this woman inspired me to write Forty Years Later, which became my first published novel and featured David Grossman as a middle-aged man. A year later I wrote The Deadline, another novel featuring David Grossman as a Baby Boomer. Following the success of these novels, my publisher released Grand View and came up with the idea of marketing the books as the David Grossman Series. In March, Grossman’s Castle was published, my fourth David Grossman book. I never planned to write a series. I started with one book about a boy named David Grossman--and the series took on a successful life of its own.
SM: Do you ever feel locked in or limited as the author of a series?
SJG: In Grand View, Forty Years Later, and The Deadline, David Grossman is the first-person narrator. In a sense, each narrative is “limited” to David Grossman’s purview and perceptions. But In Grossman’s Castle I needed direct access into the minds of three other main characters, so I moved to a third-person narration. This point of view gives me limitless flexibility.
SM: Do readers have to read your novels in a certain order?
SJG: The novels are independent and can be read in any order, though most readers like to read them chronologically, following the sequence of David Grossman’s life: Grand View, Grossman’s Castle, The Deadline, and Forty Years Later.
SM: As novelists, we always reflect something within ourselves through our characters. What do you feel you reflect through David and your other major characters?
SJG: Emotionally speaking, I reflect my essential insecurity and my desire for a greater, more accomplished life. Practically speaking, I think I reflect my Baby Boomer culture: dying parents, failing health, unemployment, adulterous affairs, revised careers, paranormal events—all that is mundane and miraculous in life. My Boomer novels show that life after sixty is just as dramatic, sexy, and entertaining as any other time of life.
SM: Your novels are available exclusively as e-books on Amazon. Was that your decision? What are your feelings about this?
SJG: I signed with an indie publisher when the digital revolution was just beginning to transform the publishing industry. I had to come to grips with the idea that my books would not appear in a traditional paperbound format. As it happened, my first published novel, Forty Years Later, was a pretty big hit—an Amazon #1 best-seller. Almost immediately I had a sizable readership, which has continued to buy and read my books. I love the fact that my novels are inexpensive and available around the world. I’m told that my books have sold in more than thirty countries and on six continents. This is all very gratifying to me. I no longer have any regrets about my novels being available only as e-books.
SM: It seems to me that being an older author can be a distinct advantage. The lessons learned and the wisdom acquired are not things that most 20-, 30- or even 40-year-olds could write about successfully. My belief is that it’s not until we get into our 50s that we are truly “rounded off” as feeling and empathetic beings. What are your thoughts on this?
SJG: I agree with your thoughts. Being a novelist is not like a being a chess prodigy or a teen gymnast. Although there are exceptions, most successful novelists draw on their experiences hard-won over many years.
SM: Lastly, is there anything else you’d like to add?
SJG: I am working on a new novel. Yes, it is a David Grossman novel. And it may be the strangest, most exciting one yet. Suffice to say, David Grossman is involved with a cast of colorful crazies that include a gambler, a wilderness expert, Stone Age Indians, and an old friend just released from Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital.
SM: Sounds great, and I wish you every success with it! Steven, I’d like to thank you for sharing your views with us today. It’s not always easy to open ourselves up and tell the world what we think and feel, but I think we are blessed if we can do this. Many people may not learn anything, but if we can touch one heart or one soul with the novels we write, then in my estimation we’ve done a good job.
It was great having you on Sylvia Says, and at the risk of sounding like a romantic fool I’m going to confess that every time I listen to Harry Connick, Jr., I think of you and NYC!
SJG: It was great being here, Sylvia. And when next in NYC, I owe you dinner.
SM: And I'll hold you to that, too!
For more information on Steven and his books, please click HERE.
The power of friendship is important at any age. Friendship can transcend the sometimes conditional love of families and relationships. True friendship doesn't judge; true friendship doesn't place conditions on people--your friends will love you as you are; true friendships encourage you to grow and be the best you can be; true friendship is there when your whole life falls apart and you need someone to help you pick up the pieces.
No matter how old one is, friends will be with us from the moment we start interacting with the world, and if we're lucky our friends will walk alongside of us through life's bumpy journey, and until death. This is more than we can expect from some families and most romantic relationships.
So we established that friendship is extremely important in one's life--but have you ever asked yourself when friendship seems to become the most important of all? For me, and millions of people the world over, friendship is most important when we reach middle age and start sliding very quickly toward old age. For women, this is doubly important--women being the nurturing creatures they are (most of them, anyway); they bring special love to those whom they love whether it be a family member, a spouse or a friend. But why is middle-age friendship so important?
Well, let's take the case of the average female at age 50. Unless she's extremely lucky, she's probably been divorced at least twice, perhaps dumped for a younger model. Her work/career is no longer as important besides which, she's probably getting passed over for promotion by younger work colleagues and more satisfying work is difficult to find due to ageism in the workplace.
If she's had children, she's possibly an empty nester by now; and if she's divorced, her middled-aged ex is involved with a chick half his age and driving the proverbial Porsche. On top of this, the average 50-something female is going through menopause, and all those fluctuating hormones do not help at all! She's suddenly flushing every few minutes, she gets ectopic heartbeats, her moods suddenly feel like they're on a pendulum, anxiety might hit too, and she experiences panic attacks or she simply ends up getting depressed. Then, if one or both of her parents are alive, she might end up having to care for them as they are ill and need someone around.
This woman is dividing herself in 100 different directions in the treadmill of middle age, only to be spat out at the other end (if she survives) feeling lonely, without a support system, her dreams for life as yet unrealised, and she's stuck in a nightmare of a life, especially if she's also trying to deal with her own health problems. And let's not even go to her poor looks, some of which might include: frumpy, faded, overweight, grey hair overnight, wrinkles, cellulite, a pot belly and/or that dreaded middle age tyre around the middle!
Okay, so I think by now you'll agree with me that friendship's quite important, especially at this time of life, when we think living through another day is torture. Oh, and let's not forget we've also become invisible to the world, especially to men. Is the picture getting darker and darker by the minute?
But don't despair. Life has a way of making things possible if only we remain open-minded and maintain our resilience. Enter "The Power of Three".
You might ask: "Who are these women?" Well, they're women like you and me, only they got together and became a force to be reckoned with. "Yeah, right," you say. "I bet it's just a movie!" And yes, you're right, it is a movie, but it's a movie that's based on the lives of three amazing, true-life, 50-something women who decided to make things happen. So read on!
Ann Cameron, the writer of the Indie film "The Power of Three" read one of my blogs about Baby Boomers and the challenges faced particularly by women, and she contacted me to share her experience in this time of her life. Have a look at this short video regarding the film and the real women behind the film.
Ann shared this press release with me to further drive the point of what the three friends were trying to achieve: We generally think of film-makers as big budget studios or even faceless business organisations. Just coming together to make a film seems so difficult...and so expensive in today’s climate that it’s easier to just confine ideas like that to a pipe dream.
But that’s not what happened to Yvonne Deutschman , Thereza Snyman and Ann Cameron. Ann and Yvonne met at University in Canada. 30 years later (and having never seen each other during that time), Yvonne invited Ann to London. Ann was at a bleak point in her life - her mother was ill (she died later that year), her legal work was boring. In short, there was no fun.
One evening, while bitching about life in general, Ann, Yvonne and their friend, Thereza, were bemoaning how women were portrayed on film. Chick flick movies were so disappointing: it was obvious that even the ones written by women (few and far between) showed the influence of male producers. Women could have fun… but not too much fun.
They fantasised about a chick flick that breaks all the rules. Women working together instead of backstabbing each other. No script line that starts with "but I saw him FIRST". No singing into household appliances and definitely no "let's go shopping” sequences.
And breaking the biggest rule of them all - having women over age 50 driving the action!
Using Ann’s writing expertise, Yvonne’s knowledge of the film industry and Thereza’s business acumen, they went out and found their three leads: British actress Toyah Willcox, South African Brümilda Van Rensburg and Canadian, Robin Craig. Veteran performers Shirley Anne Field, Margaret Nolan, Richard Bremmer and Hilton McRae joined the cast.
Each woman invested £5,000 and found others to do the same until they had £50,000 – enough to do the shoot. Everyone came on board as a profit share and they were in business.
Michelle (Toyah Wilcox), once a promising film director, now finds her career slowly sliding backwards. Olivia (Brümilda van Rensburg), once a strong and elegant activist who makes a great marriage, now lives in the shadows of the same failed marriage that is stopping her moving forward. Lizzie (Robin Craig) has morphed from wild child into a slobby, middle-aged lawyer with nothing but her work to keep her going.
Events are set into motion when Michelle turns 50 and she is reunited with her two oldest University friends at her party. At first everyone is keen to keep up appearances and live up to their previous glory days...but inevitably the truth comes out ...and there’s no going back...only forward, and together the three women help each other achieve the dreams they had almost given up on.
The Power of Three is for anyone who has ever felt stuck or stalled. It’s a heart-warming reminder that sometimes you just need help to make something happen.
The Power of Three was released on 10th November 2011 with a DVD release that followed in January 2012. If you wish to find out more about the film, visit this site.
So where are the real life friends now? The three friends are planning another film; this one is about turning 60! Meanwhile, The Power of Three was invited to major film festivals in the U.S. and Canada: the Women's International Film Festival (Miami), the Brooklyn Girls Film Festival (New York) and the Toronto Indie Film Festival. It also secured a distributor in South Africa where the film has been shown on TV and is selling briskly.
Ann Cameron reports: The real life story for the three filmmakers is also heartening. England has now become my second home-- I just returned from a visit with Thereza Snyman. I went there in 2003 to visit Yvonne.. after not seeing her for 30 years. My mother was very ill and would die on Christmas Eve of that year. I was trying to look after my parents, look after my aunt and uncle, and working non-stop. My cousin Bill asked me what I was doing and I rattled off a litany of obligations and duties. He looked at me and said: "No, Ann. I meant what are you doing for fun?" I had no answer and it was this conversation that propelled me to visit London. It changed my life for the better.
Our director Yvonne has gone on to more projects focusing on her first love, the Caribbean. She recently completed a documentary about life in the 50s and 60s for Caribbean immigrants in the UK. http://www.hangingout.org.uk/film_project.htm
Thereza has found her dream job as head of IT at a London law firm.
As for me, although I'm still struggling with health problems stemming from an accident where I was hit by a car in 2012 plus the aftermath of my father's death, I am rejuvenated every time I visit my friends in London.
Heart-warming, funny (sometimes wacky), but mostly depicting the real life issues of ageism, growing older, and the power of friendship, this film is a must-see for anyone at any age. After all, when things start happening, and the friends become a force to be reckoned with, the most beautiful thing we see is that people of all ages, and both genders, come together to work on a great project for the greater good. Inspiring and empowering: that's The Power of Three!
Author Sylvia Massara's: