Today we speak to Leif Gregersen

Leif Gregersen

Q) Tell us something about yourself.  

I love to write.  It is my dream to be a writer, not only because I love to sit down and skilfully craft stories, poems, non-fiction magazine articles, but I love just about everything to do with being a writer, the idea that people you never met can get into your head and maybe even get something out of what you are trying to say.

Q) Tell us about your latest book. Why do you think the readers will like it? 

My latest book is a short story collection called “The Base Jumpers” and I think readers will like it because it appeals to the human spirit in so many ways.  In a couple of stories I talk about veterans and really try to bring home what they go through.  In others I bring out something I feel is a secret desire in a lot of people, how to get the ‘easy millions’ or pull of some kind of harmless scam and either go through the punishment that comes with breaking not just the law, but the moral codes we all live by.  I hope that more than anything though, when people look at my stories they see themselves.

Q) How did you come up with the title of the book? 

The title of the book is also the title of the first story, where two young men who would normally not gel as friends take on what I feel is one of the most dangerous and exciting extreme sports.  I like to write stories about the extremes in life.  War, secret missions, daring adventures, and the people that engage in these activities.

Q) What kind of research did you do for your book? 

Since I was a young man, I have always been reading and researching the World Wars, it is a subject very close to me because my grandfather was a soldier just after the first world war and my Danish family was in Denmark which was occupied by the Germans in the Second.  A lot of the other stories deal with crimes large and small, and I drew on my experience of 15 years as a security guard in which I also studied criminology and law enforcement.  Very rarely do I write a story about a topic I am not already 100% comfortable in writing about.

Q) Which of the Characters in your book are your favourites and why? 

The last story focuses on an old man in a Veteran’s Hospital here in Edmonton called in the story, “Mr. Baggot.”  There really was a Mr. Baggot, he was a sweet old man I used to visit in a real Veteran’s hospital when I volunteered there as a Pastoral Care worker.  I will never forget him because he had so much drive, I was with him for his last days and he would do things like go without oxygen so he could attend church and on the last day I saw him he dictated to me a letter to his friend describing a heart attack he had just had.  The very last thing I did with him was play a game of cards and he beat me.  I was very sad when he passed, and though the story isn’t true insofar as what he had done during the war, the character was based on him.  I really liked Mr. Baggot and I used his name and his personality because I want him to live on beyond his time.

Q) Every Author has a distinct writing style. How would you describe your style and how do you think you came to form it? 

I think my style is often a narrative one and maybe not as polished as some writers.  I have been changing that lately because I am taking a lot of courses and reading a lot of books on how to write better.  One of the styles I think I have gotten down pretty well is to be able to give a reader their money’s worth by giving them the ending that they really didn’t expect, but leaves them with a sense that it was worthwhile reading the story.  I formed my style from reading a lot of other writers, and in my earlier work just developing a plot outline and filling in the blanks.  Lately I have been consciously using more tried and true methods and I hope it shows in some of these stories in “The Base Jumpers”

Q) How long have you been working on this book and what inspired you to write it? 

I had been working on short stories for a number of years, I had collected 28 of them and some of the earlier ones weren’t great.  I filed down the collection a couple of times, and in a short time wrote some newer stuff, like the story “The Base Jumpers” and the second story which I titled, “Henry Jensen” and I realized I had a quality piece of writing I could take somewhere.  I had been inspired to write short stories from a talk I saw Ray Bradbury give where he said, “You can take a year and write your first novel and it can be good or not, but if you write one short story a week for a year you will have 52 stories that can’t all be bad.”  This is the philosophy I worked with on this book.

Q) When did you start writing and when did you realize you want to become an Author? 

I started writing first when I was 19.  I had known I wanted to be an author perhaps in grade 11 when I had the most amazing English teacher who worked us and worked us and drilled us about Shakespeare, Margaret Laurence, and on and on and she totally inspired me to change the way I read and chose my books to read, and of course my whole writing work ethic.  I tried to write my first short story when I was 19 and didn’t even have a typewriter.  I wrote a bunch of pages about a young man who was in a psychiatric hospital, something that had happened to me, and then it took another year before I had the time and space to really sit down and put a book together.  I wrote a number of short stories that I later tied together into one work, which was my first book, “Through The Withering Storm”  That book took 20 years to get to print, but once the first one was out, a number of books followed. 

Q) Who are some of the Authors you like and how do you think their work inspired you? 

I really like a lot of Canadian authors.  Margaret Laurence, Margaret Attwood, Leonard Cohen, Alice Munro.  I personally now know a number of well known local authors who inspire and support me namely Alice Major and Richard Van Camp.  All of these writers have caused major shifts in how I look at the world and my own writing.  But I will never stop loving Steinbeck, among many others.  As far as modern American writers go, I really enjoy John Grisham, I am developing a newly found taste for Stephen King and the list just keeps going from there.

Q) What do you think is the most difficult part about writing and publishing a novel? 

Without a doubt, the most difficult thing is marketing.  No matter how good your book is, if no one knows about it, no one will buy it.  I have so much to learn in this area.  I haven’t published a book from a conventional publisher yet, but I do know because of the changing landscape of the publishing industry, it is becoming so that authors have to spend their advances on self-marketing.  A close second is the actual writing, but this is something that can be learned and achieved through hard work.  Marketing is a fickle and elusive goddess that really makes or breaks your success as a writer.

Q) What is some advice you will like to give to people trying to write and get their stories published?  

Keep writing, write every day.  Learn to write in different genres, learn to type better and to read faster.  It is all about work, and being a successful writer is much more work than you would expect.  Keep learning about your craft, keep networking, and take advantage of your local writer in residence programs, these people love to help struggling writers.

Q) Tell us something about what you are working on or about some of your future projects. 

Lately I have been writing a number of short stories.  It seems sometimes that I can actually be close to giving up either writing in a certain genre, or giving up some of my loftier writing goals and then someone I know who reads my work will give me a boost with some kind words and I will draw up the strength to go back to it.  I am also writing magazine articles which can be a great way to keep writing, get your name out and make a few bucks, which writers are often desperately in need of.

Q) From amongst all the novels ever published if you had to write any one, which one would it be and why? 

I would really like to have written “Travels With Charley”, the Steinbeck book where he bought a truck, took his dog Charley and just went out driving around America.  The book won a Nobel Prize, but the reason I would want to have written it was that I have a deep longing to travel through America and experience every state, every mountain range, every city.  The place fascinates me.  For the same reasons, I would also like to have written “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”

Q) If you had to convince someone to read your book in 5 lines what would they be?

          -delve into the mind of an elderly hero and learn what it is to be forgotten

          -put your life out on the jagged edge of possibility and reach deep inside for what you are              really made of

          -feel fear, excitement, victory, taste death and go beyond

          -look into the abyss and be able to ask yourself how far you would go for your loved ones

          -read the book that will change the way you look at everyone


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