Grant Spradling’s is a retired minister and author. His books include From High In The Mulberry Tree, Maya Sacrifice, Palenque Murder: Death at the Maya Ruins and Imaging the Word. Grant’s latest book David Goes Home: Growing Up Gay in the Dust Bowl is both a mystery novel and a semi-autobiographical memoir about growing up gay in the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression.
Abby: Which of your books is your favorite and why?
Grant: Difficult question. I cherish each of my books. The first, From High In The Mulberry Tree, a collection of short stories, is particularly significant to me because of the short story form, which for me is more consistently artful than the novel form. I heard Edmond White say that in a short story “every word counts.” Short story is close, I think, to poetry. My next book will be a collection of short stories. I still have had fun writing my murder mysteries, Maya Sacrifice and Palenque Murder, as well as David Goes Home. Working with my co-creators on Imaging The Word was by far the most fun.
Abby: Your current novel David Goes Home: Growing up Gay in the Dust Bowl, is semi-autobiographical. What parts of the story actually come from your life?
Grant: First of all I am an ordained Congregational Minister. I now have standing in the United Church of Christ. My partner and I did have an apartment on the back of Beacon Hill in Boston. Our relationship was troubled and I was extremely possessive. I did grow up in a small west Oklahoma town in the Dustbowl and I might add, the Great Depression. A boy in my town was outed, causing a big scandal, and the sheriff in my hometown was murdered, yet my solution to the murder and David’s relation with the boy are made up. The things that happened to David could have happened to me, but they didn’t.
Abby: Are you a plotter or a pantser in regard to your writing? Do you plot the whole book out or do you write it as it comes to you… by the seat of your pants?
Grant: I’d say seat of my pants. David Goes Home is the first book I started and only finished after the other books. When I started David, I was not an experienced writer, I decided rather than create an outline or plot I would just hang the story on the continuum of my life and take off from there. I was never deliberately biographical. I believe one can get at the truth better if they don’t trouble over the facts. This may be a result of my Biblical studies. Not much of the scriptures are literally factual, and yet I believe from the biblical stories come some of the most significant insights the human race has come up with—the most important being that the Creator loves His/Her creation and calls us to love each other and His/Her creation. Ooops, you’ll have to excuse me. When I was ordained, I told my brother that I wasn’t planning to be a preacher. He said, “when are you going to stop?”
Abby: After being with your partner for over 45 years what was the feeling like to finally get married?
Grant: It was like standing on a mountain top—like looking back at all the crazy people who made it possible. Clear back to the lesbians and transsexuals and others starting the fight at the Stonewall Bar. I was so afraid when we marched in the first Gay Pride parade. Just think! I’ve got to tell you the page is blurring as I write about it. The United Church, in which we were married in Santa Fe, New Mexico had been at the forefront of the struggle out there. Yeh, I was proud. You might say, proud at last!
Abby: It sounds like you really put your heart into this book. How is your heart doing now post-surgery?
Grant: Oh, my goodness! I’m about to drive my partner, now my spouse, Clifford Ames, crazy. I have so much vitality. The cardiologist told me I would feel better every day for the next year. Now it is just passed the anniversary of the surgery and I’m amazed. The stories are flying out of my computer at the rate of almost one a week. I think I’m driving the writer group I belong to here in Merida crazy as well.
Abby: What research have you done to make the events in the book accurate?
Grant: In the case of this David Goes Home, I didn’t have to. I have firsthand experience. For my Maya books, I live near the English Library which maintains an exhaustive collection of scholarly books about the Maya culture published, or translated, into English. I have read most as they were acquired.
Abby: Do you have a specific reader or target demographic in mind as you write?
Grant: No. Well, there are times I think of my nieces and nephews. How I would love to have more information about my grandparents generations. Sometimes I imagine folks reading my books and I imagine their being entertained. I guess I aim at folks one sees in the library, readers. I don’t write for a gay audience. It just happens that I am gay, as are some of the characters in my books. Was it Hemmingway who said, write about what you know?
Abby: What advice do you have for gay kids growing up either in the Dust bowl or other small towns?
Grant: Based on my experience I’d probably tell them to stay in the closet as long as they can, and that, I’m sure, is bad advice. Most young folks are probably far ahead of me, given what they see on television and what most have access through the internet. A great relief came to me, when I was introduced to books by Truman Capote and Gore Vidal. If they are attacked on religious bases, I advise them to get The Religious Right Is Wrong, by Frank Barnham and Gay Revolution by Lillian Faderman. Find a mentor, if you can—not someone you are going to get in trouble!
Abby: Grant you are a great example of someone overcoming a disability. Having dyslexia and writing books cannot be easy. So what advice would you give to others suffering from dyslexia and just trying to survive on a daily basis either at school or at work?
Grant: Fortunately, now a days we know what dyslexia is! Computer technological advances are a God send. For me the computer is practically a brain prosthesis. Future technology will virtually neutralize the disability we call dyslexia. You are not stupid and if you want to write; write and write. You are your own best teacher. Just by writing and keeping on writing; you will become more critical of yourself. You will find fresh ways to express yourself, and you will get better and better.
Abby: Grant thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions. You are a wonderful role model in many ways. Do you have anything else you would like to add?
Grant: My partner and I are deeply grateful. We both have had mentors who have made possible our opportunities and our growth. To them and the folks at Stonewall and the many who risked abuse and even prison so that we can step out of the shadows and live openly the love that dare not speak its name.* *Oskar Wilde