Interview with Gregory French, author of The Girl in the Hotel

12 Nov 2018

What can you tell us about your new release, The Girl in the Hotel?

This suspense-horror novel was researched and written with rollercoaster rides as the model, in particular, the one in Santa Cruz, that begins with a terrifying drop into a dark tunnel. As a writer, you can learn a lot by studying haunted houses and rollercoasters. I also wanted to work with a vibrant, strong and resourceful fourteen-year-old girl, so Ed (Never Ever Eddie) Rang came to life.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

Being the odd child, the one who read the dictionary for fun, I was also an avid reader and in love with the mysteries and magic of the written word. In my late twenties, a voice spoke up inside my head and gave me the nudge, “Why don’t you write one? I dare you.”  Seven months later, the first draft of my first novel, Distractions (1983), was completed.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

The collected short stories of Somerset Maugham

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

White Jazz by James Ellroy

Nine Stories by J. D. Salinger

A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?

It’s tempting to answer, “James Ellroy” because I love his brutal honesty, passion, and gift for language, but I think I might wilt under his tendency to be combative. So, I’ll demand the production company bring the cadaver and ghost of Donald E. Westlake into the studio.

We would have a conversation about the craft, the “what goes on under the hood” efforts (research style, pen vs. keyboard, thoughts on the degrees of realism and background, his views on the importance of story). I’d find it very interesting and fun, even while the ratings tank and the audience dozes. Maybe to add a little jazz, I’d ask Donald to share his three favorite jokes (He was a brilliant wit).

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

The months of gathering Ingredients and writing background sketches before the book is begun. Once the cast take over the book, I like transcribing for them, seeing what they stir up next while relegating me to their typist, their clerical pool.

Reviewing the ten to twenty thousand words of what I call the Ingredients and seeing the story begin to form: its theme, its genre, its skeleton, which is the start of the construction of the story, the roller-coaster I am privileged to build. Watching their story unfold through my fingertips.

The delight found in the imagination-play with words, the daily delight and frustration with words and sentences; searching for the most effective path to creative and thoughtful expression.

What is a typical day like for you?

I write seven days a week from 5am to 11am. Then I close the office to go explore and enjoy the real world. Yoga or surfing or the gym.  Next is a casual leisurely outdoor lunch. Evenings are for reading, research, correspondence and chasing a certain fiery redhead.

What scene in The Girl in the Hotel was your favorite to write?

Ed’s rescue and adoption of Puppy, the one-pawed spider monkey in Mrs. Collins macabre taxidermy and doll shop.

Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?

For writing, “Just do it.”

In real life, I often go with, “When in doubt, laugh.” I’m also partial to, “If not now, when?”

Gregory French is the author of the new book The Girl in the Hotel


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