Tuesday 13 February 2018

Interview: Gregg Kuehn

Today I am thrilled to be welcoming author Gregg Kuehn to The Writing Greyhound for a chat about his life, his work, writing, and, of course, his novel The Seven Sorrows. Welcome to the blog, Gregg!

Firstly, tell me a little about yourself and your background.
I'm 70 years old with a great wife, two sons and three grandchildren. They all live nearby and we spend a lot of time together. I've lived in Wisconsin my entire life except for my college years in Boston. I worked as a stockbroker for several years in Milwaukee then decided it wasn't a good career for me. My second time around at college I earned a degree in Landscape Architecture and practised for over 35 years.
How did you first become interested in writing?
I was the only person in my landscape company who really understood the economics of running a business. I decided that writing a short story about it would help the others in the company understand what it was all about. That resulted in my writing a "How To..." book for Entrepreneur Press in 2007 for their series of How to Start a Business books. I did two editions for them but declined to do the third because I'd been retired from the landscape industry for several years and had decided to transition into writing fiction.
the-seven-sorrows, gregg-kuehn, book

Tell me about The Seven Sorrows.
It's really an adventure about a chase for long lost tactical nuclear weapons. The good guys battle both the bad guys and lots obstacles in their search. It's also about a man overcoming a personal tragedy that has hindered his ability to have a strong loving relationship with a woman. While searching for the weapons he meets a fascinating but complicated woman who helps him overcome his fear of heights and enclosed spaces. And sparks what might be a long-term romantic relationship.
What’s the best thing about writing fiction?
It's great fun because you can just let your imagination run wild. You can go places and do things that you otherwise might never do. The characters have their own personalities and quite often their actions are very surprising - even to the writer. The research can also be fun because you can learn a lot of new things.
What drew you to writing thrillers?
Very simple: I love to read thrillers and mysteries. It's much easier to write about something matches your interests. I started our reading who-dunnit mysteries and enjoyed the plot twists and surprise endings. I also like solving logic problems. Writing thrillers is sort of like solving problems - complicated conflicting situations have to ultimately come to a final and successful conclusion. All the pieces have to fit together to make a believable and interesting story.
Did you undertake much research for the book?
A lot. The internet really helps. I wanted the book should be as real as possible so I researched all of the physical places where the action takes place. The beginning of the book takes place in Moscow, Russia so I purchased a huge street map of the city. I expect that some of my readers have visited Moscow. By including real places like the Bellorusskaya subway station the story becomes real and more personal to those readers. Most readers don't realize that the Davy Crockett nuclear weapons I wrote about in the book were real. They were actually built by the US Army in the 1950's. I researched boats and helicopters learned how fast they could go and about their configurations and other specifications.
How did you get inspiration?
That's harder to explain. Again, writing about something you know makes it much easier to come p with ideas. The island where most of the action takes place is real, but I changed its name. My family has spent a lot of time there and I got inspiration from some of the physical features on the island and the people who live there. Of course, I had to invent some places and events to make the story work better. When writing you have to be ready for inspiration from anywhere. It doesn't always come when you are pounding on the keyboard. You might be going to the store or having lunch with friends and something pops into your head. The light bulb goes on and you have the framework for your next scene. Be prepared for writing even when you are not sitting in front of the computer screen or putting pencil to paper.
What’s your writing process like?
I mostly wing it. I know where I am going to start and how the story will end but the middle will have a life of its own. I don't make a detailed plan of the plot in advance but have a general idea what will happen. I let the characters and the events dictate how the plot will develop. It really helps to write every day, even if for only five minutes, but that is often difficult. I'm constantly brainstorming.
gregg-kuehn, author

What’s the hardest thing about writing?
I think most writers tend to write too many words and then have a hard time during the editing process getting the book to a manageable size. I tend to underwrite and need to do a better job putting myself in the reader's shoes so they can better see what is going on. Sometimes I just have to slow down and take the time to set the scene, create more visual images for the readers, and help them see and feel what the characters are experiencing. As the saying goes, sometimes you have to stop and smell the roses.

I'm also my own boss so sometimes it's hard to get into a routine. Writing on a regular basis is the best way to write but can often be difficult to maintain.
What do you love most about writing?
Oh, the creativity. As a Landscape Architect, I enjoyed creating functional outdoor spaces that clients could enjoy. With writing, I can create places, people and events that the readers can enjoy - and maybe learn something too. I also like the fact that getting to the final product is completely up to me. Of course, a good editor and publisher are vitally important but getting to the point I need them is my responsibility.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Two things come to mind: Don't give up or get discouraged. I queried dozens and dozens of agents and got many, many rejections. But I kept trying until I found a publisher who liked my work. And get a good editor. Mine was excellent. There are things in the book that might make perfect sense to the writer but are really confusing to the reader. A good editor will not only find mistakes but will make the story easier to read and understand.
What are you currently working on?
Another book with the same main characters as The Seven Sorrows searching for a historic weapon hidden with a pirate treasure. In this book, the search is for the lost sword of the famous female pirate Anne Bonny (a real person). I like to include some true history in my stories so the reader might think "gee, maybe this could have really happened."
What are you reading at the moment?
Two books: The Demon Crown, a thriller by James Rollins. And In The Garden Of Beasts, a true story about the man who became America's first ambassador to Hitler's Germany just before World War II.
What’s your all-time favourite book?
I don't have a single favourite. But The Exorcist, Jurassic Park, and The Hunt For Red October are the ones I've liked best. I still remember staying up until 3 a.m. to finish The Exorcist.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I write because it's both fun and challenging. My goal is to invent stories that will engage the readers, give them joy, and perhaps make them think about the challenges we all face as we travel through life.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
I love to play golf and hunt grouse in Northern Wisconsin. I still downhill ski a bit. My wife and I enjoy travel and are planning on taking a river cruise later in 2018.
The Seven Sorrows is available to buy now.

Will you be reading the book? What do you think? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below!

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