Below is an interview of Greg Kieser by Man in the Mirror.
Man in the Mirror: Thanks for allowing an interview today. I understand you don’t grant many so we certainly appreciate it.
Greg Kieser: Thank you for agreeing not to ask stupid questions.
MITM: (laughs) So, congratulations on the release of the novel and the short film. It has started to show up in bookstores and amazon reviews are looking great. People love the short film – especially those who have read your book and really get the whole spaz thing you’ve created. The question that comes up often is regarding your choice to self-publish. Can you talk a little about that?
GK: That’s kind of the whole point of being a spaz. You don’t get on your knees and beg agents and publishers to take your story to the world. You forge out on your own and tell your story yourself. Early on in writing American Spaz it became clear to me that it wouldn’t be wise to use traditional agents and publishers. I had sent my last novel, which I have shelved for the moment, to a bunch of agents and all I ever got were a automated messages of denial. I figured it would be the same with American Spaz and, given the deeply personal nature of the project, I didn’t want to take that path. Traditional agents and publishers are a very small minority of people deciding what the vast majority of people are reading. It seems to me the industry is not keeping up with technology, that allows writers to connect more easily with readers, and the way they edit, develop, market and sell books is done as it was 100 years ago. I wanted to put American Spaz out into the world in a more modern way and let it be judged by my peers, not by “the industry”. Enter self-publishing, which comes with its own set of challenges – marketing, editing, distribution. But these are challenges my inner-spaz was prepared and excited to take on. It’s given me an opportunity to express myself through every facet of the project – not just the words on the page.
MITM: You’ve never been published before. Aren’t you concerned critics will pan it and nobody will read it?
GK: Not really.
MITM (pause): Not really?
GK: At this point it’s out of my hands and it’s of no use to worry about things like that. I know I have a good story. I have some skills with the written word. But most importantly I am writing from an honest place talking about things I know and doing so in a voice that is mine. Does that mean I’ll sell books? Who really knows? It does mean, though, that I will connect one on one with each and every person who does read American Spaz. And that to me is more important than anything else. So, yes, I want to sell books, but that’s secondary to connecting with each reader in a meaningful way.
MITM: Can you tell us a little… what is the story about?
GK: Its about a boy who suffers multiple tragedies as a child. He grows into a young man who is physically not the person he wants to be. Its a story about how he deals with this reality.
MBITM: Is he a spaz?
GK: He is.
MITM: Are you a spaz?
GK: I am.
MITM: Is this your story?
GK: It is.
MITM: So that leads me to another question that has come up often. Why did you choose to write a novel about your life rather than a memoir.
GK: The world is full of liars. The news media presents us with arguments that conceal truths so they can make a given point. Pop stars create fictional lives and expect us to buy it. We do. Reality shows are not real. Memoirists lie about facts of their life so that they can write a more entertaining story. I believe fiction can convey more truth than non-fiction often can. I wrote fiction because I wanted to convey the truth of my story not necessarily just to present a list of things that happened to me. I wanted to have an honest dialog with my readers. Also I wanted to protect the privacy of friends, family and foes, to give flesh to conversations I didn’t quite remember, and to ensure a good story flow.
MITM: But, what percentage is true then?
GK: A very high percentage.
MITM: Fifty, sixty percent?
MITM: How much do you estimate? Give me a number.
GK: Ninety or ninety-five.
MITM: So, you’ve wrote a story based on your life. That must have been easy.
GK: No, in fact it wasn’t easy. Not because of technical reasons – getting words on the page. But, I struggled for nearly a decade on other writing projects, essentially trying to write the same story – my story. And I surely had some issues that were holding me back. I was trying to write something brilliant, deep and philosophical and getting tied up with intellectual ideas of what a novel should be. But then a little more than a year ago I went through a significant transformation and it all came together. And I finally realized that all I needed to do, for my own health and happiness, was tell my story.
MITM: Okay. Who were your influences while you wrote the novel?
GK: I’m still obsessed with the writers from fifty, a hundred and even a hundred and fifty years ago – like Turgenev, Dostoyevsky, James Joyce and Pasternak – and I will likely spend my life trying to achieve what they did. But it’s movies and especially music that really inspire me today.
MITM: Thanks for giving us your time. We can’t wait to read American Spaz.