Leif Grundstrom-Whitney is the proud co-author of the epical satire The Hidden Chalice of the Cloud People; the wicked and witty character known as Facinorous contained therein is a product of his multifarious mind. He has been published in several obscure poetry journals (hold your applause). To say that he is an edacious reader would be an understatement worthy of Hemingway. If he had a spirit animal, it would probably be a raven who knows how to play a Hammond B-3 organ.
Jason Grundstrom-Whitney has been a Social Worker and Substance Abuse Counselor in the State of Maine for many years. In this time, he has introduced meditation (tai-chi, qigong, yoga, and meditation) groups to teens when told he would fail. This was one of the most successful and long lasting groups. He developed a Civil Rights/Peer Helper course that won state and national awards (for High School) and has worked as a civil rights activist. He has also worked as a long term care social worker and now works as a Hospice Medical Social Worker. Jason is a poet, writer, and musician playing bass, harmonica and various wind instruments. Lover of all styles of music he has played classical, jazz, rock, funk, country, blues, and rap. He is very excited to play bass with his brother’s band and his son’s. He is very proud to have co-authored The Hidden Chalice of the Cloud People with his son Leif.
Mayra Calvani: Please tell us about The Hidden Chalice of the Cloud People, and what compelled you to write it.
Leif and Jason: : The Hidden Chalice of the Cloud People is a young adult fantasy comedy novel written by a father and son writing duo (that’s us!) for an intelligent general audience. It is the first book in an upcoming tetralogy. It is a darkly humorous, fast-paced, action-packed celebratory unification of the world’s rich cultural lore through the lens of an inventive fantasy concept that stands both as an occasionally subversive satire that satirizes the YA genre and an anachronistic experiment on the fusion of storyline narratives (differing stylistically and compositionally).
A strong desire to satirize and introduce some much needed adequately thoughtful satire and inspired zaniness and winking jocosity into a genre that seems to have grown rather grim and dystopian of late compelled us to create our mammoth manuscript.
M.C.: What is your book about?
L. & J.: If we had to describe it in as few words as possible (as tagline-y as it can be), our answer would be: When Tommy Dana is abducted into a fantastical realm called Lethia, where the worthy stories of humanity are granted a physical reality, the social media-averse thirteen year old must plunge through a multi-varied meta-fictional adventure in order to save his, and the entire human world’s, imagination from falling into the thieving clutches of the witty supernatural villain Facinorous. That’s about as tritely commercial as it can get. All in one sentence too!
M.C.: What themes do you explore in The Hidden Chalice of the Cloud People?
L. & J.: Ultimately all creative arts started with personal experience; a complex and three dimensional phenomenon unlike the two dimensional nature of the text on a page of a book.
An exciting thing (one of them anyway) about the creative process is that universal themes seem to unfold as the story does. It is as if the poignant themes of the human experience are contained in relative blueprints in our DNA that express themselves through the symbols indigenous to our cognitive framework.
One of the important themes we explore is the daedal nature of lore and its intimate relationship with artistry and subjective experience. We examine how a character with a heightened awareness of his/her existence functions apart from his/her particular storyline and the psychological effects of this unusual occurrence. We pose the questions ‘What would happen if supposedly fictional characters were pulled from their tales and made aware of what they are? How would this affect them? What would happen if these characters were then asked to influence and interact with and possibly safeguard other stories?’ and explore the answers in as vivid and humorous a fashion as possible.
M.C.: Why do you write?
L. & J.: Writing is quite sacred (or at least moderately meaningful); it is an exercise of the soul that needs its hygiene and daily care; without it, it is hard to not feel lost, adrift in the day-to-day normative nature of life. The simple act of obeying the creative whim of the imagination or ambling down a certain line of thought that leads to words scribbled on paper fills our hearts with one of their greatest pleasures. Traversing the grandeur of the mind whilst admiring and luxuriating in the beauty and bewitching splendor of the ethereal regions of the Muse connects our spirits to the transcendent and the sublime in a manner similar to that which is described exquisitely by Wordsworth in his genius epical epopee The Prelude. When that creative sensation of mental exploration rolls through our minds, we feel jubilant and carefree and profound. The whole experience of writing enriches our souls; drowning our thoughts in joy and afflatus.
M.C.: When do you feel the most creative?
L. & J.: Usually either in the morning or the early afternoon. There are other times when creativity seems ripe and the necessity to sit and write is almost like an exigent demand, an urge popping up occasionally in the shower, or when it rains, or whilst peregrinating the landscapes that the nature of the Northeast offers. These special moments, rife with rampant literary inventiveness or something roughly akin, seem to pull the Muse from her ethereal post to sit aloft the mundane heights of the mortal coil.
M.C.: How picky are you with language?
L. & J.: Needlessly picky; almost sadistically selective. A large vocabulary features prominently in the work. A small part of the reason for this is educational while pickiness about the poetry of the language composes the main part.
M.C.: When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you were being manipulated from afar?
L. & J.: We have always had implicit trust in the writing process and where it comes from. It emanates from the universe within and can be heard rattling in the howls of the deep-dwelling Daemon. As writers, we allow ourselves the freedom to create from collective and individualistic strains that nourish the creative process and add to the furtherance of the art in a unique and individualistic way. We pluck boldly, with the inscrutable force of inspiration as our cicerone, from the turbid vault of humanity’s glorious subconscious detritus.
M.C.: What is your worst time as a writer?
L. & J.: When we are temporarily deprived of the ability to write by the insidious mental ailment known as writer’s block or when we don’t have time to write because there are things that necessarily get in the way or impede the process. Time periods such as these are extremely frustrating, especially when you feel the Muse retreating into the shambolic ether of your inwardness and you have to yell out into the secrecies of your aggrieved psyche, “Where are you going? Why are you leaving now? Could you please come back later? Tread not the dim path!”
M.C.: Your best?
L. & J.: When everything related to an artistic undertaking is flowing smoothly and the reluctant hours dash by like minutes and the minutes like impetuous seconds. There are times that fluid creativity seems to fill the soul like a fine wine in an old wineskin. Our best moments as writers are composed mainly of moments of heightened productivity.
M.C.: Is there anything that would stop you from writing?
L. & J.: If we ever became something other than ourselves that might stop us from writing.
M.C.: What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?
L. & J.: The moment when our novel was fully completed and that deluge of relief and exuberance first flooded our weary minds. A modest sense of triumph crowned that emotional banquet of happiness. What better feeling can there be for a story-summoner and sentence-shaper?
M.C.: Is writing an obsession to you?
L. & J.: Not so much an obsession as a way of life. When someone becomes so in tune with their work, it seems astonishingly natural, comfortable, even though at times comfort might not be there at all! If you consider writing as a way of life, you are like the ancient storytellers around the campfires in all of our traditions that made their living and livelihood from the ability to help mankind divert attention from the grimness of reality. Writing is the light in the windowsill of the dark night, hopefully illuminating and drawing others near; it is an integral part of who we are.
M.C.: Are the stories you create connected with you in some way?
L. & J.: In the sense that we lived and breathed and concentrated on and devoted a significant portion of time to them and that from the tremulous domain of artistic otherness they seemed to erupt forth into our consciousness and that they have now become part of our reality and the fabric of our creative identity. They emerged from the depths of our minds and our shared belief in the attributes and perseverance and the pulchritude of the human soul in its varied experience that is often tested mightily by vicissitudes.
M.C.: Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Do you agree?
L. & J.: The supernal landlords of the cosmos forbid we should ever disagree with the illustrious Ray Bradbury!
M.C.: Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about you and your work?
L. & J.: Certainly. It would be our pleasure to share a website or two. Behold! A passel of links:
Our website, our Facebook, our Twitter account.