Today’s guest, Gregory Mose, is a much travelled author. His first novel, Stunt Road, is a satire on corporate greed; a book that will make you think and ponder life’s deeper issues.
Shelagh: Please tell us more about yourself, Gregory.
Gregory: I grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles wanting two things from life: to write books, and to explore. For a while the latter seemed to preclude the former. I went off to Harvard to study literature – to study it, mind you, not to actually produce any. Upon graduation I was offered the chance to work as a teacher’s assistant at a high school in Athens, so I spent a year of my life learning Modern Greek, appreciating ouzo and of course starting and abandoning a novel. I returned to the US to study law and then moved on to work for the United Nations in Guinea, a beautiful country in West Africa that, like most African countries, only makes the news when something bad happens there. From there I joined my then fiancée in London, where I found work as a corporate lawyer. In London I managed to finish my first novel, which promptly went into a drawer, and to produce a draft of Stunt Road. In 2005 we left London for very rural France with our three-year-old son, determined to escape the rat race. We’re still here, and with a little life experience behind me I have come to see writing and exploring as pretty much the same thing.
Shelagh: When did you begin writing and in what genre?
Gregory: My first completed work was a gripping yet emotionally satisfying tale of Flipper the Flying Squirrel, when I was seven. Shunned by big corporate publishing, I moved on as an adult to strive to produce literary fiction, although I still don’t quite know what that means.
Shelagh: When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?
Gregory: I aim for writing that is thought-provoking, morally and emotionally challenging, and funny. I like to explore ideas, but to do so in an entertaining way. If I can provoke people to question the world around them without being pedantic, then I feel I’ve done my job. Message? If there’s a message in my writing, it’s simple to question your own motivations, to stop being complacent.
Shelagh: Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone?
Gregory: Stunt Road evolved from a very cynical conversation about astrology at a New Age restaurant in Los Angeles. I had suggested rather glibly that anyone could produce a system of divination and personality typing just as convincing as astrology as long as they had a spiritual-sounding pretext and a basic understanding of how to tell people what they want to hear. Stunt Road takes a step back and asks how society would react to such an endeavor. In the end, it became a satire on corporate greed, gullibility and the quest for meaning. It’s Frankenstein for the Age of Aquarius. There will be no “Stunt Road 2: Revenge of the nerds” or anything like that. Although it could be fun.
Shelagh: What’s the hook for the book?
Gregory: Pete McFadden refuses to question his success when his online spoof of astrology unintentionally turns him into a trendy self-help guru. But when his creation becomes the plaything of a manipulative cult leader and a ruthless multinational corporation, Pete learns that the pleasures of wishful thinking come at a high price.
Shelagh: How do you develop characters?
Gregory: I talk to them in my head a lot. I try to see through their eyes. For me, it’s the hardest part to writing, really being sure that characters stay true to themselves and not trying to make excuses for them.
Shelagh: Who’s the most unusual or likable character?
Gregory: Jake Simms, the philosophy PhD program dropout. Although I don’t explore his character in full detail, his charm lies essentially in his ambiguity. Even I am not quite sure whether he represents the attractive side of evil or the destructive potential of good.
Shelagh: Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?
Gregory: I outline carefully, and then write, delete, deviate, rewrite and finally re-outline so that my outline corresponds to what has evolved in the narrative. It’s clunky, but I don’t know any other way.
Shelagh: Do you have a specific writing style and preferred POV?
Gregory: My signature style, if I have one, is the use of humor to highlight moral ambiguity. And generally to avoid trying to puff out my writing with arcane vocabulary that sends even my most educated readers scrambling for their dictionaries. If we need literature to “save” words like “noetic” or “crescive,” Mr. Roth, then quite frankly they are already lost. And good riddance. As for point of view, I’m drawn to first person narratives, but after my experience of writing Stunt Road I’ve sworn off them. Conveying everything through one point of view felt like using a VW Bug as a moving van.
Shelagh: How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?
Gregory: We all write from a certain point of view. I suppose all my writing is ultimately colored by my upbringing as an upper middle class white Los Angelino whose main ambition was to escape from upper-middle-class-white-Los-Angelinohood. The themes of privilege, escape and exile are always there in what I write, even when I don’t particularly intend them to be.
Shelagh: Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.
Gregory: I grinned ear to ear when one Amazon reviewer wrote: ” Strong writing, heady moralistic battles laced with sharp wit, and a cinematic feel make this a very enjoyable read.” That felt good.
Shelagh: What are your current projects?
Gregory: I’m currently working on novel set in Guinea in the late 90s during the Sierra Leonean civil war, based on events I witnessed while working with refugees there.
Shelagh: Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
Gregory: My website www.gregorymose.com should have everything anyone would want to know about Stunt Road. It’s also where I blog about life in the French countryside.