AMC, anthology, Eureka!, Gregory L. Norris, happiness, Happiness Shoal, hospital, interview, Isles of Shoals, Joe Dunnegin, Jurassic Cyst, lobsterman, Lost Hope, Maine, Mini-Author Interviews, missing, mountains, Muse, Salisbury Beach, sea, shipwrecks, Southern New Hampshire writer's group, Star Island, The Outer Limits, Underwater
Mini-Author Interviews for UNDERWATER:
Gregory L. Norris
What inspired your story?
In April of 2013, I headed to a writing retreat to Maine, feeling off. I knew something was physically wrong, but tried to compartmentalize it, as I tend to do. The retreat was wonderful, the company stellar—I was with members of my Southern New Hampshire writers’ group and had, the month before, moved 150 miles north and away from them after buying a house in the mountains. But as the retreat continued on, my condition worsened, forcing me to leave early. Three days after that, I was in the hospital with what I lovingly refer to as ‘Jurassic Cyst’. The condition advanced so quickly and grew so bad that I caught something out of the classic The Outer Limits staring back from the mirror. I spent four and a half days in the hospital hooked up to IVs, with a massive hole in my noggin. I haven’t been inside a hospital since I was a kid. I asked my partner Bruce to bring me a notepad and pens, which, along with the bedside vigil of my Muse, saved my life (or at least my sanity!). Forced to sit in bed for all that time, I wrote the first 3,000 words of “Happiness Shoal,” along with notes for two Western short stories (both of which have since sold), no doubt influenced by the only decent daytime TV available, the classic shows that run on AMC.
Did you have to do any research? If so, what kind? What did you learn?
The research amounted to asking questions about my own hospital stay and working them into my main character’s, who wakes up in the hospital after having been missing for days at sea. Also, in September of 2012 before buying the house, I stayed for five days on Star Island in New Hampshire’s Isles of Shoals at a fantastic, boot camp-style writers’ retreat. So I got to understand the lay of the land on a shoal very much like the one I wrote about, including the local shipwrecks and atmosphere.
Can you tell me a little about your protagonist?
Joe Dunnegin is a divorced lobsterman, feeling only half there until he experiences something extraordinary near the barren outcrop off Maine’s rocky headlands, known as Lost Hope. Handsome, athletic, a man’s sort of man, Joe wakes up unable to remember what happened to him during the days he was missing at sea. But he goes on a quest to uncover the truth—and reclaim that fleeting chance at happiness.
Tell me about the setting you chose and how it influenced your work.
While laid up in the hospital bed, I put the pen to page and wrote. Joe is based upon my Muse, who is tall, dark, emerald-eyed, and ridiculously handsome. The setting came to me in one of those Eureka! moments, when a story emerges in high-def, 3-D form enough for the author to believe it as being real. Growing up, I spent a lot of time at Salisbury Beach in Massachusetts (even penned longhand drafts of stories there when I was a teen; those manuscripts are still archived in my filing cabinets). Though I live in the mountains, I was supremely inspired by Transmundane Press’s call for UNDERWATER, and wanted to have a story in the anthology.
What would you like readers to know about “Happiness Shoal”?
Well, that along with thoughts about returning home to my partner, cats, and our new old house, “Happiness Shoal” kind of saved my life. I can’t remember ever being so sick, so laid up, so gutted open. To me, the words, the ink, the fresh pages (which were put down at a slower-than-usual pace, but put down nonetheless despite all the needles and equipment and jabbings) were the true medicine.
Gregory L. Norris is a full-time professional writer, with numerous credits, mostly in national magazines and fiction anthologies. Recent short story appearances and sales include ANTHOLOGY YEAR THREE (the companion handbook to Anthocon), DEAD HARVEST, DEATH’S REALM, THE END IS THE BEGINNING (which includes reprints by THE Mary Shelley, Hawthorne, and Mr. Poe) and numerous releases by Cleis Press and Bruno Gemuender Verlag in Germany. He once worked as a screenwriter on two episodes of Paramount’s modern classic, STAR TREK: VOYAGER, and penned the screenplay to BRUTAL COLORS (Royal Blue Pictures), his first contracted feature film. Norris judged the 2013 Lambda Awards in the SF/Fantasy/Horror category, and in 2015 saw the publication of TALES FROM THE ROBOT GRAVEYARD, his collection of cyber-centric novellas, with a cover by Eric Chu, concept artist on the new BATTLESTAR GALACTICA series. He was a semi-finalist in the Roswell Award in Short SF.