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Interview with Brad Grochowski!
By: The Myth Master


M.M. Welcome, everyone. It's the Myth Master here, and we have a special treat for you today; an Interview with Mr. Brad Grochowski, author of "The Secret Weakness of Dragons, and Other Tales a Fairy Whispered in My Ear." I would also like to welcome Mr. Grochowski personally to "The World of Myth." Brad, if I may, was good enough to share one of the stories from his book with us this month--the title story, in fact, "The Secret Weakness of Dragons."

So, Brad, how would you classify the stories in your book?

B.G. Oh, that's never easy, is it? I call them "sort-of" fairy tales. One of the four is what one might think of as a traditional fairy tale; a boy, a dragon, a princess and a castle - you know, all of the standard fare. But the other three are quite differently staged. There is a boy android, a tale of the origins of the world - according to a tribe of rats, and a tale about a girl who can manifest anything that she imagines, which could take place today.

For most people, when you say "fairy tale," it evokes a very particular array of sets and props. But really, I feel that a fairy tale is more about the symbols, the language, and the events. Around the time I was putting these stories together, I was thinking a lot about what it would mean to set a fairy tail in a modern urban setting. You have all of the elements, they are just offered through a different lens. Old crones, mountains, dungeons and forests become street urchins, derelict buildings, sewers and mazes of alleys.

None of the stories in this book do that, exactly. But that is what was in my head. I was also spending a lot of time watching the rats in my back yard. This kind of explaining the rat story, I guess.

One thing I do not consider these stories to be is "kid's stories." Though they serve fine as such - I have read successfully to rooms full of 4-8 year olds - they, as most fairy tales really were, were written as much for adults. There is a darker side, I think, to the stories that only adults would have the sophistication to appreciate. Oh I mean, I'm not cutting a would-be princess's feet off to make a glass slipper fit or anything like that. But all four of the stories deal, in their own way, with loneliness. Also, I'm not afraid to illustrate the confounding perplexing-ness of humankind on the one hand, and the utter greed and thoughtlessness on the other.

These are themes most "kid's stories" would prefer to leave alone I think.

M.M. What made you decide to write a book of such 'fairy tales?'

B.G. Heh, well. As I said - I was thinking a lot about them. What is a fairy tale, what makes a fairy tale what it is, are they still relevant, why aren't there many "new" fairy tales?

In some ways, fairy tales are the most important stories we have. They cloak all of the fears and wonder and mystery that humankind has known, in tight little stories that are easily shared, easily retold. That is really important.

They are very much folk stories as well. They are very proletariat, from the salt-of-the-earth, you know?

So the fairy tale form was very interesting to me.

I think we have lost a lot of what role the fairy tale used to serve. We really do think we are so sophisticated now. But, for all of our technology and advanced society, we still get that shiver when the lights go out. We are still afraid of being lost in the forest - urban or otherwise - and we are still afraid of falling off the edge of the earth.

I felt - and still do feel - that we should welcome fairy tales which address these issues through a contemporary lens. To a degree, that is what I have attempted to do.

M.M. How long ago was the book published, and how is it being received by the public?

B.G. It was released in June of '04. That is a lifetime ago in a traditional publishing sense.

I'm glad I am free of the values of the Traditional Publishing World. For those of you uninitiated to the cruel world of publishing, if you don't sell 10,000 books in the first year, you have failed. I, on the other hand, feel like I have all of the time in the world. Fairy tales after all, are timeless by definition.

And interest is definitely growing. The more I get out there with the book, the more word spreads. It's really exciting. I find that people who have read the book come to me and have taken the most interesting things from it. Things that may have been in my mind somewhere, but I hadn't intended to be a point or an issue. I guess it's true that once abook is released to the world, it begins to live its own life. I'm not the first to say that. I read it somewhere recently, but it comes to mind now.

M.M. In your 'About the Author' notes, you state you never really considered yourself to be a writer. Would you rather consider yourself a 'storyteller?'

B.G. That's so true! I'm not a writer. Writers go to school for writing. They sit at a word processor and write and rewrite, and then throw it away. They scour the depths of their soles, put it on paper, and then put it in a drawer. A writer can never write good enough. They cannot live without writing, cannot breath without writing. To a writer, writing is life.

I was an actor. I went to school for acting. Some of my best roles, I won't even tell you about. You put everything you have into your craft, and it's never enough. So, I know what the life of a writer must be like; painful, and frustrating.

But storytelling is a completely different animal altogether. In a way, it is the opposite of writing. It is personal style, a wink and a funny voice. Good writing, of course, incorporates good storytelling. But the inverse is not necessarily true.

Story telling happens all the time. At least in my world it does. What did you do this weekend? "Oh, not much." That's lame, but it's a story.

You made a choice in how you described your weekend. The answer could have just as easily have been, "Well, fortunately my basement flooded. We hadn't gotten a chance to try out our new canoe, so we were really glad to get it in the water. Good thing too - we found out that the thing leaks like a cheap diaper!"

Of course, the ultimate story we tell is our life itself. I try to live that way. What is the story of my life? When faced with a decision, which of the two choices will provide the most interesting story line? When you look back on your life, what is the story it tells. What kind of character were you? Once you start to live that way, you turn off the teevee box. You try new things. You look for other interesting characters to help you write your story. You begin to write books and music, and to paint.

We are all hypnotized into thinking things must be a certain way, or else they didn't really even happen. For instance - you are getting married. It's your wedding, don't you want to wear a wedding gown? Don't you want to have a big cake? We are always afraid that if you don't have all of the proper (again with the) sets and props, it did not really happen.

I have been to a lot of weddings that followed the script exactly. I can't remember one from the other. My wife and I got married on Halloween - she was a fairy princess and I was the frog prince. I promise you, none of our costumed guests will ever confuse our wedding with another. That is a story. That is our life!

M.M. How long have you 'not' been a writer, and what led you to decide not to be one?

B.G. I love the English language so much! You can say "How long have you 'not' been a writer" - which is completely absurd and nonsensical in a literal sense - but we all know exactly what you mean. It makes perfect sense!

When I say I am not a writer, I am not saying that I can't write, or that I don't write well. There seems to be, to begin with, some sort of aptitude that I can take no credit for. Perhaps it comes in part from my love for and curiosity of language. I don't know.

It is not, either, to claim that I am a good writer. I have no idea. I love it, and people respond to it. I sort of cheat by leaning on my acting training to compensate for my lack of language craft. But in the end I don't worry about that. I just put it out there.

So, how did I start "not" writing and when... well, it really comes down to having chosen it as the best way to tell these stories that I had. Painting, comic book, music, a play... If any of those would have served the story better, this would be a different interview for a different publication.

I have kind of lost myself trying to answer this question. I have always written. My mother just sent me a beautiful hand-bound book called, "Coconut Pie." By beautiful, I mean a wallpaper cover and rubber cement binding. It was written by a 7 year-old me. My wife laughed when she read it; "You write just the same now!" She is right. But that does not mean I identify myself as a writer.

M.M. Do you have plans to write, or 'tell' another book in the near future?

B.G. I do, I do. But, because I am not a writer - and am not even pretending to be one - I don't feel the pressure to produce. I have some stories that are aching to get out.

In the meantime, I am focused on some other big projects. AuthorsBookshop.com, for one. Also, raising a two-year-old daughter is pretty big. I also do a lot to promote my wife's music career. www.sahffi.com, if you are interested.

So, the stories will come as they do. To be honest, I would rather spend my time promoting the great books at AuthorsBookshop.com. There are some really great books there, and it has become my mission to help get them out into the world.

M.M. You mention in the Author notes that you are also a teacher. What exactly is the 'Bugs After School Program?'

B.G. That is another whole interview! I'm the program manager now, so I'm not teaching as much. We work with forty 3rd, 4th and 5th graders from the east side of Baltimore. You know the story - one of the most crime/drug infested areas in one of the most crime/drug infested cities. Their school is one of the lowest scoring in the state of Maryland. Pretty dismal.

But, despite all of that, these kids are some of the brightest, most beautiful human beings I have ever met. The fact that they are years behind in their education says far more about the system than it does about them.

You know of course, as a storyteller, there is no place better to be than among kids. Everything really is a story to them, and I take full advantage of that. I rarely answer questions straight. As far as they know, my basement really is a canoe testing pool.

The language of the kids is amazing too. Memes flood through their vocabulary like the water in my basement. One kid will pick up some subtle thing from a commercial, and within a week everyone will be saying it. Then, two weeks later, it's something new. That's really exciting to someone who is as fascinated with language as I am.

Speaking of stories - something that I think they have such a solid understanding about - when you are fibbing to them, or pulling their leg, they will say "So-and-so is telling stories again." That's their word for it: Telling Stories. That's beautiful.

M.M. And, you are also a theatrical actor?

B.G. Yeah, well, that's my background. That is what I trained for. What an awful industry it is though. I don't want to deal with it as a profession. It's too dreadful.

But the training I received was great. And I am using it all the time. The improvisational skills, the character development. I write as if I am acting - there really is no better way to describe it. When you are as good at getting into a character as a well trained actor is, well, that's right were it is as a writer.

I still get on stage here and there. I like to emcee events. As it turns out, it's a rare skill to be able to get up in front of people, be comfortable, and speak cohesively. It's really appreciated. Of course, it provides a great opportunity to tell stories, as well.

M.M. You seem fairly busy. Do you have any other projects going on in your spare time?

B.G. Well, like I said, I'm working with my wife to raise our little girl, and getting the AuthorsBookshop.com site rolling, along with her music, while working for the after school program. I am continuously working on a street performance project as well, and I do some odd web-design jobs for artist friends.

I'm not bored. My Uncle Ron always said, "Boredom lies within the boring!" I kind of believe that. If you are bored all of the time, you might want to look at what kind of person you are. What kind of story are you telling with your life?

M.M. Where might our readers pick up a copy of your book?

B.G. Please, buy it from AuthorsBookshop.com. It's available elsewhere, but this is the place to buy it. While you are there, take some time to look at some of the other great indie books. Most of them are far moreinteresting then mine.

M.M. What can you tell us about 'The Authors' Bookshop?'

B.G. Well, in looking for all of the angles for marketing my book, I realized that there wasn't a great place for independently published authors to sell their books on-line. Amazon and Barnes and Noble would sell it - but they keep around 60%(!!!) of the cover price. Pardon my abbreviations, but wtf!? They get more for listing it on their web site than I do for writing it, laying it out, having it edited, and printing it?

That made no sense.

So I started a new on-line bookstore dedicated to selling independent books. AuthorsBookshop.com. I offer terms _far_ better than amazon. We are also building a community around indie books, trying to educate the public on how great indie books are.

You know indie film, indie music, indie theatre, dance, visual art - even beer - has all this hip cred. We all love it! There are whole film festivals dedicated to indie films, and there is no badge of honor in the rock world greater than being signed to an indie label.

But hand someone an indie book and their eyes glaze over. "Ur... there might be a typo, and it didn't get a green light from some editor." Huh?!

Think what you will about The Blair Witch Project, but it was an astounding indie success. Technically, it is ridiculously amateur. It had the film equivalent of typos all over the place. But thank god nobody cared!

There are some amazing indie books out there. The field is literally exploding right now. Come look at AuthorsBookshop.com and you will see what I am talking about. These aren't spiral bound books of grammas poetry. There is some really great literature there.

M.M. If any of our readers wish to get in touch with you, how would they go about doing that?

B.G. You can get to me through AuthorsBookshop.com. Drop a line on the contact page - I'll get it. Or you can e-mail my first name at authorsbookshop.com. I'm afraid to type it out - it would just get farmed and I would get even more e-mail for Viagra and home mortgages. You can also find me, yes, on MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/authorsbookshop.

M.M. Well, we really want to thank you for taking time away from your obviously busy schedule to talk with us. Is there anything we didn't cover that you would like to share with our readers?

B.G. I just want to say thank _you_! This has been really fun. You asked some great questions. Believe me, it doesn't take much to get me going. Ask my wife. Ask the BUGS kids.

I guess, in closing, the only thing I would implore of your readers:

Support Indie Books!

Keep on trucking, Myth Master, and thank you.

M.M. Great. I appreciate that. Thank you, again, Brad, and perhaps you might share another story from your book with us, next issue. All right, gang, that's it from the Myth Master, for this month, anyway. We'll catch you again, next time around.


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