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Four Questions for Jim Grimsley

Jim Grimsley

Jim Grimsley is a playwright and novelist who was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Jim's first novel Winter Birds was published by Algonquin Books in the United States in 1994. Winter Birds won the 1995 Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction, given by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Prix Charles Brisset, given by the French Academy of Physicians. The novel also received a special citation from the Ernest Hemingway Foundation as one of three finalists for the PEN/Hemingway Award. Jim's second novel, Dream Boy, was published by Algonquin in September, 1995, and won the 1996 Award for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Literature from the American Library Association. The novel was also one of five finalists for the Lambda Literary Award. Dream Boy is an alternate selection of the Quality Paperback Book Club, and both Winter Birds and Dream Boy were published in paperback editions by Scribners/Simon & Schuster in January 1997. Jim's third novel, My Drowning, was published in 1997 and for this book Jim was named Georgia Author of the Year.

His first fantasy novel, Kirith Kirin, will be published by Meisha Merlin Press in the year 2000; his most recent novel, Comfort and Joy, was published by Algonquin Books in the fall of 1999. He is currently at work on a play, In Berlin, and a novel, Boulevard.

1. Why and how did you go about publishing your first novel, Winter Birds, in Germany?

I wish I could claim that publishing the book in Germany was part of some wise master plan but it was in fact simply an opportunity that came up through a series of accidents. My theatre friends here knew somebody publishing books in Germany who became interested in Winter Birds. I thought it unusual for the book to appear in German first but was willing to do anything to get the book into some kind of print, so I said yes to a very small advance. The Germans then went to work to sell the book.

2. Once the book was published, how did you approach the giant task of marketing at home and abroad?

The German publisher, Frank Heibert, became very passionate about the novel and decided to act as my agent to sell the book to other countries. He found a French publisher through sheer doggedness, and then approached Algonquin Books in the US at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Elisabeth Scharlatt read the book very quickly and said she wanted to publish it under the Algonquin name. So I was very thrilled.

3. What did you learn along the way that might have made you do things differently?

Very little that happened to me could have been planned. My instinct all along was that I had to wait and see what happened. So that's the best answer I can give, that I needed to be patient and wait for my luck to show itself. The luck was there and I became a published novelist, first in Germany, then here.

4. As an established author, what are the hardships you still encounter as a writer? Moments of doubt? Lack of inspiration? Writer's block?

The hardships are the same as before. The writing is never certain, can always be rejected for one reason or another. There are no guarantees. I have no problem with inspiration; to make fiction is my vocation and that does not desert me. Writer's block is a myth; I keep a lot of pieces of work going and am never so blocked on all of them that I can't write. A writer should learn patience about the work and not try to rush it; that's what results in what's called writer's block in my opinion.