The Writing Life with Authors Leif and Jason Grundstrom-Whitney

Leif Grundstrom-Whitney is the proud co-author of the epical satire The Hidden Chalice of the Cloud People; the wicked and witty character known as Facinorous contained therein is a product of his multifarious mind. He has been published in several obscure poetry journals (hold your applause). To say that he is an edacious reader would be an understatement worthy of Hemingway. If he had a spirit animal, it would probably be a raven who knows how to play a Hammond B-3 organ.

Jason Grundstrom-Whitney has been a Social Worker and Substance Abuse Counselor in the State of Maine for many years. In this time, he has introduced meditation (tai-chi, qigong, yoga, and meditation) groups to teens when told he would fail. This was one of the most successful and long lasting groups. He developed a Civil Rights/Peer Helper course that won state and national awards (for High School) and has worked as a civil rights activist. He has also worked as a long term care social worker and now works as a Hospice Medical Social Worker. Jason is a poet, writer, and musician playing bass, harmonica and various wind instruments. Lover of all styles of music he has played classical, jazz, rock, funk, country, blues, and rap. He is very excited to play bass with his brother’s band and his son’s. He is very proud to have co-authored The Hidden Chalice of the Cloud People with his son Leif.

What’s inside the mind of a Young Adult Fiction author?

The idea that the impossible can become a reality is exciting! The notion that we can empower with the words we use and the stories we write. I think that Suzuki Roshi perhaps said it best when he said, "Zen Mind Beginner Mind." This means that everything is a beginning. If we look at life as we did as children, everything is new and fresh and filled with possibility. I think a major goal of our writing is to bring this awareness and sense of possibility to Young Adults (and everyone else). We also have a very zany understanding of humor which drives the satire.

What is so great about being an author?

The idea of the ideal that your mind from stillness is creating spurs us. Everything comes from this stillness. When you think about it, you start with a blank piece of paper; what unfolds is coming from this deep well of silence and latent creativity. Whatever you create is from you and your relation to this moment which is filled with the experiential past and the pregnant possibility of the future. To be a writer is to have this sense and to be "the touch point of calligraphy" as they say in the East.

When do you hate it?

We hate when we don't have the time or other commitments take us away from our craft. Writing is very sacred; it is an exercise of the soul that needs its hygiene of daily care; without it, it is hard to not feel lost, adrift in the day-to-day normative nature of life.

What is a regular writing day like for you?

We enjoy writing in the early morning and afternoon. A typical day is to sit at the living room table with a beautiful pastoral view across from each other and working out the details of a blueprint, story line, revision, or edit. It is a joy working together. 

Do you think authors have big egos? Do you?

You have to believe in yourself. In many ways the writer's life is a life that is simple, humble, ego-less. In order to develop a story line or perhaps a new sense of cogitation within a passage, a writer must listen deeply within to cull from the experiential and learned knowledge of the past and strive from this to create a work that is new and exciting. To us if your ego is too big, perhaps you will not see the subtle nuances that go into creating a new piece of literature. In our case you also have to consider you have two people working, so there has to be a sense of common purpose and collaboration. 

How do you handle negative reviews?

With the same sort of vicious ferocity that a raccoon demonstrates when cornered. We respond with a savagery unmatched in the realm of human affairs! However, having said that, it should be mentioned that we take any criticism that is honest, authentic (i.e. based on a thorough understanding of the material), and constructive into serious consideration. At least one-third of this answer is serious. You choose which third. 

How do you handle positive reviews?

Positive reviews are handled in an understated manner befitting the innate class, dignity, and nobility of our characters. This usually involves rowdy bacchanals that threaten to tear the framework of the sky asunder. So, you know; events where temperance is the guiding principle.    

What is the usual response when you tell a new acquaintance that you’re an author?

The usual response is either one of abject horror or utter indifference. Seriously though, one of us has worked as a musician for many years and the response generally for any of the arts is, "Well, that's nice; what do you do for work?"  I blame a culture that is not supportive of their artists for this. Consequently we have seen such a drop in the level of creativity in all art. When culture tells you that art is an avocation, then subliminally and overtly you constantly question, "Am I good enough? Can I really do this?" So we have a culture of artists who work in the arts as an avocation, not a culture that fully supports the arts where artists can professionally work at their craft. 

What do you do on those days you don’t feel like writing? Do you force it or take a break?

Write no matter what you feel! On some days it may not be the best of what you do, of what you are capable of writing, but write anyway. The process of writing is important. Think about someone who would like to be an Olympic athlete. The athlete takes steps each day to reach his or her goal. Day by day, week by week, the athlete gets better at his/her event. Some days the athlete might not want to run or lift or practice, but it must be done to reach the goal. Writing is the same; we must practice daily! 

Any writing quirks?

Veering rather haphazardly into the realm of deeply personal questions, eh? That depends on how you define a writing quirk. One of the defining peculiarities of our writing method is its nonlinearity. Sections of the narrative and whole sequences of action or dialogue are written in an unusual natural progression-defying fashion; either starting from the end and moving back to the beginning or starting from the middle and working to the end and then back to the beginning or some other variation on this style.      

What would you do if people around you didn’t take your writing seriously or see it as a hobby?

One of us would likely shout to the offensive detractor: “You better check yourself before you wreck yourself!” In all seriousness, is anyone able to determine what his or her hobbies are? Van Gogh painted for years and only sold paintings to his brother; are we to seriously consider that he did painting as a hobby? There is so much cultural misunderstanding about art and artists! 

Some authors seem to have a love-hate relationship to writing. Can you relate? 

Sometimes when you look back at a piece of work, you may cringe as it is not at your current level. We might have thought at the time we wrote a brilliant poem; then two months later we want to burn it. This has to do with a more objective view you now have of the work which is facilitated by time’s gradual dulling of the passions utilized and sublimated during the creation process. Does it mean we should burn it or throw it in the waste bin? Absolutely not! The work we have always stimulates something from within you as it is you. Later you may wish to refine or revise or edit, but don't throw away!

Do you think success as an author must be linked to money?

We all need food, shelter, clothes and the necessities to live; so in one regard, yes, we have to make money in order to thrive. It would be a blessing to be able to sustain our existence on the income derived solely from an artistic dream job. This doesn’t necessarily mean that success as an author has to be linked to money though. Writing is its own reward. If the world stood against us and we were greatly constrained by the horrors of impecuniosity, we would still write to satisfy the gnarring need for creative expression.     

What had writing taught you?

Writing has taught us about the universe of creativity within. We are really remarkable as human beings, able to take experience and knowledge and use symbols (writing in this case) to relate this depth of inwardness. We have learned that the universe of creativity from within is endless. We have learned that we can tap this well and ride the current.

Leave us with some words of wisdom.

We leave you with some simple words of advice (this is geared towards all the aspiring authors amongst your undoubtedly charming audience): Take your art seriously; refine your abilities, hone your skills and develop a habit of writing on a quotidian basis; not necessarily a piece of art that inspires the pneuma and rattles the firmament but something that is at least adequate or decent. Practicing your craft plays a crucial role in maintaining the well-being and the liveliness of your mental character as well as improving your writing abilities. Let the sensitive fabric of your psyche become pachydermatous and persevere through all the vicissitudes that adversity can muster.  

Title: The Hidden Chalice of the Cloud People
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Author: Leif and Jason Grundstrom-Whitney
Publisher: Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing

About the Book: The Hidden Chalice of the Cloud People is a young adult fantasy comedy novel written by a father and son writing duo for an intelligent general audience. It is the first book in an upcoming tetralogy. It is a darkly humorous, fast-paced, action-packed celebratory unification of the world’s rich cultural lore through the lens of an inventive fantasy concept that stands both as an occasionally subversive satire that satirizes the YA genre and an anachronistic experiment on the fusion of storyline narratives (differing stylistically and compositionally). 

When Tommy Dana is abducted into a fantastical realm called Lethia, where the worthy stories of humanity are granted a physical reality, the social media-averse thirteen year old must plunge through a multi-varied meta-fictional adventure in order to save his, and the entire human world’s, imagination from falling into the thieving clutches of the witty supernatural villain Facinorous.

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