Gregory L. Norris
Gregory L. Norris is a full-time professional writer, with work appearing in numerous short story anthologies, national magazines, novels, the occasional TV episode, and, so far, one produced feature film (Brutal Colors, which debuted on Amazon Prime January 2016). A former feature writer and columnist at Sci Fi, the official magazine of the Sci Fi Channel (before all those ridiculous Ys invaded), he once worked as a screenwriter on two episodes of Paramount’s modern classic, Star Trek: Voyager. Two of his paranormal novels (written under his rom-de-plume, Jo Atkinson) were published by Home Shopping Network as part of their “Escape With Romance” line—the first time HSN has offered novels to their global customer base. He judged the 2012 Lambda Awards in the SF/F/H category. Three times now, his stories have notched Honorable Mentions in Ellen Datlow’s Best-of books. In May 2016, he traveled to Hollywood to accept HM in the Roswell Awards in Short SF Writing. Follow his literary adventures at www.gregorylnorris.blogspot.com.
Featured Author: Gregory L. Norris Interview
- How long have you been writing?
- What/who inspired you to be a writer?
- What genre do you prefer to write in?
- Describe your writing process. What comes first–character or plot? Do you “pants” it or outline?
- What is your daily routine as a writer?
- Are there any software tools, resources, or websites you often use while writing?
- What are some of your biggest challenges you feel like you have to overcome in your writing career?
- Do you prefer short stories or full-length novels in your writing?
- Can you give some us some insight into your story in Realities Perceived?
- What advice can you give other writers?
LHP: How long have you been writing?
Gregory L. Norris: On an electric early September night in 1975, I was ten-years-old and seated in the living room of the enchanted cottage where I grew up, blown away by the first episode of Gerry Anderson’s outer space parable/adventure series, Space:1999. The very next day, I picked up my pen and began by making my own books, which were an early form of fan fiction, I suppose, and which all still safely reside in my filing cabinets. Reading the novelizations of that show inspired in me an interest in fantastic language at an early age (as did reading Poe and Lovecraft—two authors I’ve had the honor of appearing in print with numerous times over the past decade). I often tell people who ask about my writing career that writing is the heart that beats inside my heart. I love it. Back to top >>>
LHP: What genre do you prefer to write in?
Gregory L. Norris: I am madly in love with most genres. I love romance, mystery, creepy horror, SF, fantasy, and most of the sub-genres, like Steampunk and erotica. For the longest time, I used to maintain that I despised Westerns—but only because they were playing during boyhood days when I wanted creature features. Then I wrote and sold three Western short stories and now love the genre in an intimate way. Just last night before bed, I flipped channels and saw the original 1954 Godzilla was playing on MeTV. That movie has haunted me from childhood. We watch it once a year, usually during Halloween and, invariably, I will have a nightmare involving giant monsters as a result. And from that nightmare, I’ll write a giant monster-themed story. It’s happened for the past five or so years. 2017’s became a Dieselpunk tale called “The Colossus at Blue Sands”, which is due out in early 2018 in the anthology GASLANDIA. It’s my first ever Dieselpunk story, and I had a blast writing it.
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LHP: What/who inspired you to be a writer?
Gregory L. Norris: Oh, so many sources of inspiration! I grew up on a healthy diet of creature double features and classic SF TV. Also, my grandmothers were brilliant scribes. The late, great Rachel Runge, my maternal grandmother, published short stories regularly in Highlights for Children, and my paternal grammy, Lovey Norris, wrote an epic poem about the flood of 1937 in which she had to be taken to safety by rowboat through the flooded streets of Lawrence, Massachusetts that was published in the area’s big local newspaper. Later, it was devoted creatives like Rod Serling, Benny Hill, Barbara Cartland, and anyone I read about who lived for their art. I ate up examples of outcasts who found success—and entire universes to explore—through passionate pursuits. The actual Eureka! moment for me came in late August, 1980. That summer, I’d penned a SF novel featuring all of my friends. They held on to the pages, wanting to know what happened to their characters. The night I completed it, I picked up a fresh stack of blank pages and my pen and started another new story. There was a rush of emotion that I’ve since come to understand as inspiration in its purest form. That warm August night, my friends and I went to see the movie Xanadu. After it ended, we walked out of the theater into a gloriously warm night perfumed by summer, beneath a gargantuan full moon. My entire body felt like it had during that earlier rush of inspiration. I declared to all of them, as we walked toward waiting vehicles, was, “I’m going to be a published writer!” Some 4,000 feature articles, short stories, novellas, a handful of novels, TV episodes, and one produced feature film later… Back to top >>>
LHP: Describe your writing process. What comes first–character or plot? Do you “pants” it or outline?
Gregory L. Norris: Way back in my teens, I realized that having a decent pen would spare me from looking like I had a claw for a hand, so I fell in love with Schaeffer fountain pens. I compose most first drafts with them still to this day. I compose short stories, novellas, and novel in first draft longhand and screenplays directly on the computer. Then I go back and keystroke, with three edits (cleaning edit, second polish, last edit an out loud read to catch anything that jags on the ear). I try to keep about thirty manuscripts circulating at all times, a mix of short, medium-length (novella), and long (novel). As for my ideas, they come flying at me from every direction, and I make sure to catch them when they do as I don’t trust my memory to remember the eighty-odd to-be-written projects presently in my idea catalog. My card catalog—my treasure chest, really—was another idea learned from my Grammy Rachel. I keep all rough notes on note cards, along with a bare bones outline, all in alphabetical order. I used to fiercely outline a story but, about a decade ago, became a pantser because I realized I was doing more work on taking notes than actually writing the stories. My process at its most basic is: Write, Finish, Polish, Submit, in that order. I don’t submit everything, but I hope to write everything, because all of my ideas are my babies, even the ugliest. I love them all equally.
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LHP: What is your daily/weekly routine as a writer?
Gregory L. Norris: I have aimed (and mostly succeeded) at putting down 2500-3000 fresh words a day. In October of 2017, my spouse had an accident and became disabled, so now my days are also spent caring for his needs, helping with physical therapy, and maintaining the house (for the past five years, he did most of the housework, yard work, and upkeep). I’m still managing to get in my pages, though not always to the grand number that came before. I aim to finish first drafts of short stories at about four per month, with the longer projects worked on as well as new copy edited for submission. Back to top >>>
LHP: Are there any software tools, resources, or websites you use often while writing?
Gregory L. Norris: I use a simple Word program to edit my writing, and the aforementioned Schaeffer pens. I keep plenty of lined paper on hand, along with designer folders (I hate manila, so boring!) for each of my first drafts, which go into one of two four-drawer lateral filing cabinets when done. Great resource websites include the venerable Ralan.com for guidelines, as well as Facebook’s plethora of Open Call pages. I learned long ago to not get caught up in the mindset of tools, apart from one’s creativity. In other words, a writer doesn’t need the perfect desk or program or the ideal daily conditions to write, only the commitment to put down the words. Having said that, I have a dedicated Writing Room in our house that is perfect for me and welcomes me into its embrace every day. Back to top >>>
LHP: What are some of your biggest challenges you feel like you have to overcome in your writing career?
Gregory L. Norris: Keeping the wolf outside the door challenges most writers. I remember reading a great interview with Grace Paley years ago, and her advice has resonated with me since. When asked the secret to a writer’s success, she said to keep a low overhead. The world is so expensive, so I have worked to keep a very low overhead. I bought a house that was a fixer-upper and then fixed ‘er up, paid off the mortgage in super-quick time so as not to have that burden constantly following me like an unwanted second shadow, and we live very rich, happy lives on a budget. This all removes a challenge to my focus, which is to get up every morning, care for the family’s needs, and then the muse’s. I’m rarely challenged by doubt, a common foe of the creative person, because even if I never published again, I’d still write. I love it too much to quit. It sustains me and also my family. One great resource I feel compelled to mention to help combat numerous challenges is that I founded and belong to the Cadillac of writers’ groups—the Berlin Writers’ Group, which meets weekly on Tuesday nights in my fair town in Northern New Hampshire. It is a group befitting a literary destination like New York City or Hollywood, only it’s less than a mile from my front door. I routinely leave meetings rejuvenated and excited about returning to the desk the following morning. Back to top >>>
LHP: Do set word counts or other goals?
Gregory L. Norris: As mentioned, I’m thrilled to produce those 2500 – 3000 words. At retreats in the past, I’ve had days double and even triple that amount, writing like I’m possessed. But I do end every night doing a sort of dream exercise, one in which I and the Muse confer on what our goals for the next day are, and when I wake up I revisit the mental conversation. I’m presently being consumed by my oldest unwritten project, a mystery novella with M/M erotic elements called “A Dark and Dangerous Corner”. As of January 7 (I began writing it on January 1), I’ve hit the 15,000-word mark—halfway. Over this past week, at every turn my focus returns to what’s next, what’s next, and instead of word count I’ve been scrolling through a goal of hitting the next scene, which is somewhat unusual but delightful, as the tale seems to be writing itself. In and among those pages, I’ve pitched a novel and made submissions, and there’s a deadline fast approaching that needs my attention. But I do love to work to a schedule, and I stick to it on most days.
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LHP: How much time is spent on “the business of writing”, queries, seeking an agent or publisher, marketing/sales?
Gregory L. Norris:Lately, quite a bit! When new markets open, I like to get into the queue quickly, and thus far in 2018 there have been quite a few opportunities. I have a friend who markets her work every Friday, all day, which I think is brilliant. From time to time I do a private evaluation of my career—where I can do better. I have yet to market myself to agents but that is on the schedule for this year when I have a completed draft of the correct project. I constantly read up on markets, and usually have a private invitation or two from an editor to submit to their latest publications, which keeps me quite busy. Back to top >>>
LHP: Do you prefer short stories or full length novels in your writing?
Gregory L. Norris: I have a fondness for both. I tend to write short, compact. My favorite length is the new darling of publishing, the novella. Every year I seem to pen at least half a dozen novellas, and last year (2017) sold three to publishers. But there’s something wonderful about looking at that folder containing the pages of a novel swell, swell, swell, and then holding its weight when you reach THE END.
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LHP: Can you give some us some insight into your story?
Gregory L. Norris: I have a long short story in Realities Perceived called “The Dodos”. One day not long after buying our house, I was writing on the sun porch, which has become my ‘al fresco’ workspace in summer months and has a stunning view of the surrounding mountains, river, and valley. New neighbors were moving into the white house down the road. They looked particularly colorful in their summer clothes. I had the bare bones of an idea called “The Dodos” about a doomed girl, and seeing the new arrivals put flesh onto the skeleton. In my story, an abused girl living a very gray life briefly comes alive in the company of a new neighbor girl, who encourages her to flee her prison.
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LHP: What advice can you give other writers?
Gregory L. Norris: Read THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE, and then read it again until it becomes second nature. Deliver manuscripts that are ‘clean enough to eat off of’, as more than one editor has complimented me on my presentation. When creative batteries get depleted, recharge them. Don’t let rejection anger or flatten you—one editor’s no is often another’s yes. And always, always be gracious. A thank you goes far in this industry.
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