Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the ninety-third, is of Kathryn Meyer Griffith.
Since childhood Kathryn has always been an artist and worked as a graphic designer in the corporate world and for newspapers for twenty-three years before she quit to write full time. She began writing novels at 21, over forty years ago now, and has had fourteen (nine romantic horror, one historical romance, one romantic suspense, one romantic time travel and two murder mysteries) previous novels and eight short stories published from Zebra Books, Leisure Books, Avalon Books, The Wild Rose Press, Damnation Books and Eternal Press.
She has been married to Russell for thirty-three years; they have a son, James, and two grandchildren, Joshua and Caitlyn, and lives in a small quaint town in Illinois called Columbia, which is right across the JB Bridge from St. Louis, Mo. They have two quirky cats, ghost cat Sasha and live cat Cleo, and the four of them live happily in an old house in the heart of town. Though she’s been an artist, and a folk singer in her youth with her brother Jim, writing has always been her greatest passion, her butterfly stage, and she says she’ll probably write stories until the day she dies. I know that feeling.
And now from the author herself:
1985. I’d just published my second paperback novel, The Heart of the Rose, an historical bodice ripper (remember those?) about a suspected witch in 15th century England amidst the War of the Roses political intrigues, with Leisure Books of Dorchester Publishing and my editor there asked me if I had another novel to show them yet.
It just so happened that, yes, I’d been working on a third novel; another romantic horror similar to my first book with them, Evil Stalks the Night (which will for the first time in 29 years also be out again, revised and updated, on July 1, 2012 from Damnation Books) I was tentatively calling With This Gun. The story centered around a scandalous love triangle/murder between police officers that had taken place in our small town years before and that I had firsthand knowledge of. Some of them had been my friends, as my first husband had been a police officer in town as well. The police force, their wives and families, had been a tight knit group, but the murder still came as a great shock to most of us. One of my husband’s coworkers had been seeing another coworker’s wife and the two were thinking of splitting up their respective marriages, both with children, to be with each other. The problem was, the cop being left didn’t like it and shot the other cop dead in his house one day after being told what had been going on. It was terrible situation.
Well, I’d let the whole matter age for over a decade and was finally writing about it, sort of, as a way to free me of all the bad memories.
Now to the horror aspect. I’d use a possessed gun as a device to explain the killings the gun would be responsible for. Now I wasn’t exactly a lover of guns, but I was married to a cop. Guns were part of our lives. Always in the back of my mind was what I’d say to people who didn’t like the idea of me writing about a gun or hated guns: It isn’t a gun that kills people…it’s the person using the gun.
In this book, I gave an even better motivation. The gun made people kill because it was evil. This theme was what made it a supernatural story. A Colt Python would be possessed by an ancient demon; that the weapon had been forged from tainted iron or metal from the bowels of the earth centuries ago connected to that ancient demon-god. So the title Leisure eventually came up with was: Blood Forge (though I begged the editor to call it With This Gun or at least, Blood Forged, which made more sense, but no the publisher was determined to call it Blood Forge and in those days the author didn’t any say so on that or the cover).
Anyway, in the book I’d follow that gun after its creation from unfortunate human to human as it made people crazy and murderous; created havoc in everyone’s lives it touched. Until two people deeply in love have faith that they can defeat it…with the help of a mysterious priest (who may or may not be a priest at all). There are ways to get rid of a demon, no matter how strong it is.
That plot about following a gun on its deadly rampage has been used many times since in television shows and stories, but I’d began thinking about the book as early as 1983, so, perhaps, I was the first. Who knows?
Which brings me now to what happened after I turned the book in to the publisher. My editor for my first two books, Jane Thornton, read it and refused to editor it. Turned it down flat, saying she despised guns. They killed people. Guns bad. They scared her. She wouldn’t edit such a story, sorry.
I don’t remember exactly what happened after that. It was a long time ago. I think either Jane Thornton left Leisure or she gave the book to another editor, a man called John Littel.
Anyway, he liked the book, gun or no gun, and they offered me a contract on it anyway. I was thrilled. Wasn’t thrilled with the title, as I said, though, and I wasn’t impressed with the cover, embossed or not. Too dark. A snake coiling around the barrel of a menacing gun on a black background. Along with the title, I felt it didn’t portray what the book was entirely about. The novel was a love story, a survival against great odds, a parable of faith, tale. A story of a man’s fight with alcoholism and how his wife’s love helps him beat the insidious influence of the alcohol as well as the gun. It was about cops, their lives and their families. But, as with the title, I had no choice on the cover and had to take what they gave me. That’s just the way it was back then. I still feel that’s part of the reason the book never did well in its first incarnation. I was still an unknown writer and when that’s the case I’ve found that the cover and title–how compelling they are–makes a difference in the sales.
At this point, I must admit, after having just finished rewriting it…it was a very dark book written at a very dark time of my life. The darkest, I think, of all my books. I had gone through a divorce, remarriage and was juggling a full time job and a family. Trying to write at night. It was actually difficult for me to relive most of it. I was still in that early part of my career, still young without enough life experience, where I’d embed what I’d lived through and saw around me into my stories. I didn’t have the maturity yet to write anything too layered.
Anyway, the book came out in 1989 and didn’t do as well as my first two books. I noticed that the publisher turned cool towards me after that and, seeing the way the wind was blowing, I went on to get an agent and she helped me jump up another rung of the ladder when she sold my next four books to a bigger publisher, Zebra Books (Kensington Publishing). And I left Leisure behind; and my three books there went out of print long ago.
But now, 23 years later Blood Forge-Revised Author’s Edition (wish I could change that title but it wouldn’t be fair to people that already read the original book) is coming out again in print, and in eBooks for the first time ever, from Damnation Books/Eternal Press in March 2012. I love the cover this time. My fantastic cover artist, Dawne Dominique, who did eleven of my other new covers, did this one, too. It’s stunning.
So that’s the story of Blood Forge. My second published novel. It, along with my older novels (12, plus a novella and a short story) will all soon be out again. And when the last old book from 1984, Evil Stalks the Night-Revised Author’s Edition comes out in July 2012, my forty year writing career will have come full circle. It’s amazing. I guess a book never dies, huh? I guess not.
You can find more about Kathryn and her writing via…
- http://www.myspace.com/kathrynmeyergriffith (where you can see all her book trailers with original music by her singer / songwriter brother JS Meyer)
and you can e-mail her at email@example.com (she loves to hear from her readers).
The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with freelance journalist, book reviewer, blogger and novelist Emma Lee-Potter – the four hundredth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.
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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.