Հայերենի համար տես՝ Ամերիկահայ գրող Արա Գրիգորյանն իր գրքերի, ներշնչանքի, Հայաստանի ու ավելիի մասին
Imagine going through Goodreads, deciding what to read next and then bumping into an English book by a writer, whose last name just screams: “HE IS ARMENIAN”. Really shocking. Not because Armenians are not smart and can’t write books in English-honestly, I consider Armenians, one of the smartest nations in the world- but because I really was just not expecting it. It’s not everyday you can find a romance book in English that was written by an Armenian. The name of the book was “Game of Love”. And the author? Ara Grigorian.
Well, I thought, I should definitely read this book, because a) the description is really interesting and b)THE WRITER IS AN ARMENIAN. Pride still running in my veins I began my journey and that’s how I found myself reading “Game of Love” by Ara Grigorian at 3 in the morning. Yes, it was that good and the world knows it, since it’s the winner of “Outstanding Romance” award in the “2016 IAN Book of the Year Awards” and “Readers’ Favorite/ Sports Fiction Category” award in “2015 International Book Award.
Long story short, I decided that Armenians too need to know about this author and his works, so I contacted him for an interview. Luckily, I wasn’t ignored.
How was your first writing experience? Now that you remember it, are you proud of it?
My first work was horrible! Of course, at the time, I didn’t think it was bad. I was almost proud, because I was writing dozens of pages of content. But when I asked my wife to read the first chapter, her reaction told me that I had a lot of work to do. That’s when I decided to learn the craft. I bought books, magazines, and enrolled in workshops. It was through that process that I learned why my first attempted novel didn’t work. Learning what doesn’t work in a story is as important as learning what works. All writing makes you better, even the bad stuff!
What are the three words that describe you as a writer?
Committed, deliberate, and tireless. I love writing stories. I really do. When a story idea is born, I am fully committed to making that story come alive. I will not give up. But I am also very deliberate in my writing. No character is there by accident. No chapter, no scene, no paragraph is there to fill empty space. Everything I write has a reason and must serve a purpose, otherwise, it’s gone. Finally I say tireless, because I will not allow excuses to get in my way. I write late at nights – usually around 10 pm until 1 am. Yes, I am tired, but the story won’t write itself. I do have help – I drink espresso shots and eat Nutella by the spoon when I need an extra burst of energy. I’ve been asked why espresso and not Armenian Coffee. The true answer is that I am too lazy to prepare Armenian coffee. With espresso, I press a button and it’s done!
The story won’t write itself
Is there an author that inspires you most of all?
There are two people who have inspired me and continue to motivate me. One is Stephen King. King is among the best at writing complicated characters who have primal goals. A hallmark of his characters is that most fans walk away from his stories believing they really know that character. He creates a bond between reader and characters that to me is his magic. The other person is my late grandfather Manvel Maroutian. He was an Armenian author, poet, Genocide warrior and survivor, Shakespearean actor, and a giant of the stage. As a kid, I used to watch him on his typewriter, hammering away at that keyboard, producing stories that rewrote some of the history behind the Armenian Genocide. He was loved by tens of thousands who read his work, but he was as humble as humanly possible. He will always be my model for how to behave when you have a God-given gift.
You have many prizes in writing, what is the one achievement that you cherish most of all?
Truthfully, as humbling the awards are, what I cherish are the emails I receive from readers. Or a simple Tweet saying they loved the story. Or a Facebook post by someone who I will never meet, telling her friends that she couldn’t put the book down. I write for readers. The awards help readers believe that these books (and me to a lesser level) are a good risk. There are so many books and so many other options that an award helps filter some of the noise. But to me, none of that matters if the people who read the novel are not compelled or motivated to write reviews, or tell their friends, or tell me that the story mattered. I write for those people. And for as long as they read my books, I will keep on drinking a lot of espresso to produce more stories.
As a kid, I used to watch my grandfather Manvel Maroutian on his typewriter, hammering away at that keyboard, producing stories that rewrote some of the history behind the Armenian Genocide
What is the most difficult part of your writing process?
Believing that I can write another good story. The first blank page of a new story is the most daunting. I have spoken to hundreds (if not thousands) of writers and most seem to agree. Each blank page is an open question of doubt. Can you do it again? I personally never think I’m good. So I work at it, every day. I am sure that someday soon, someone will realize nothing I write makes sense. So I keep on writing until they find out!
Two of your books have been published- “Game of Love” and “Ten Year Dance”. How would you describe the books to someone that wants to start reading them?
All my books are stories of second chances. Like the story of the Armenian people, I believe that everyone deserves a second chance at life and happiness. Sometimes what you wanted isn’t what you needed. That’s where I like to explore. “Game of Love” was the story of a gifted professional tennis player who was trying to prove to the world that she could live up to her talent – she was a fallen angel in some ways, searching for redemption, believing that by winning a Grand Slam she will feel complete. Ten Year Dance is for those readers who want to take a trip down their past and remember how clumsy and silly we were. How decisions we made in the past impacted the life we have right now. The story asks the reader, what if you could fix it now? Would you?
How do you come up with a title in general?
I like titles that can have two meanings. In both cases, the titles changed by the time I was done. Part of the magic of writing is that the “heart” of the story – the real reason behind the story – becomes clear when I’m done. That’s when a better title shows up. In the case of “Ten Year Dance”, it was originally titled “Ten Years Later”. But because Pete and Sophie (the main characters) had various important scenes at different stages in their lives where they are dancing together, the word “dance” felt important. Also, “dance” can mean to dance around something—to avoid something. In their case they not only dance beautifully together, but they have also danced around the truth for more than a decade.
Like the story of the Armenian people, I believe that everyone deserves a second chance at life and happiness
How about the names of your character? Is it an easy process?
That is easier. When I’m “discovering” the story concept, the characters are also developing in my mind. I start to see what they look like, what they sound like, and before I know it, a name is in my head. In the case of Gemma, my main character for “Game of Love”, I needed to find a name that was fitting for her beautiful blue eyes. I saw a movie poster for “Prince of Persia” at work and I noticed that the actress had beautiful eyes. Her name is Gemma Atherton. I looked up the name Gemma and it comes from the word “Gem”. That worked perfectly for my character. Eyes that are like gems.
If you had to choose colors to describe both of your books, what colors would you choose?
Hmmm… For “Game of Love”, I’d say green, like the green grass of Wimbledon. And for “Ten Year Dance”, burnt orange, like the color of the cover.
What are you working on right now? Is there another book on its way?
I just finished a Young Adult novel. It involved three teenagers who go on a fifteen-day surfing trip up and down the Pacific Coast Highway. I can’t say a lot about it yet, but it will be going to my agent by the end of February and hopefully she’ll love it.
Have you ever tried writing in Armenian?
Only when I was in high school! I went to Holy Martyrs Ferrahian High School in Encino, California. However, I never wrote stories in Armenian. It is a beautiful, poetic, and a very challenging language to write in. Since my grandfather did such an amazing job in Armenian, I think it’s best I focus on another language.
Have you ever been to Armenia?
Not yet. We’re waiting for our children to be a little bit older before we go. We want them to appreciate it. For me, what I really want to see is Van. That is where my grandfather was born. That is where as a fourteen-year-old, he picked up a rifle and defended his land. That to me will be a very emotional trip.
What I really want to see is Van
Do you have a piece of advice for writers who are just starting their path?
Learn the craft. Read books, talk to authors, go to conferences if you can. Read as much as you can in every genre. Everyday write. Every single day. 100 words, 1,000 words, 10,000 words, or 10 words per day. Read and Write every day. We only get better by practice. Never stop learning. Never assume you’re good enough. We never are! This is a long and hard process. Understand that from the start and the disappointments won’t hurt. They’ll just strengthen you. Writer’s believe in their heart that they have a story to tell. If you believe you have one, then it’s your job to learn how to tell it.
Is there anything you would like to say to your readers?
Thank you. Thank you for reading. Thank you for contacting me. Thank you for wanting more stories from me. I can’t tell you how humbling it is. I don’t take any of the communication for granted. I am honored and touched by the fact that you have decided to spend your money and time, to go on a journey with me. Thank you!