Today, Bookpleasures.com is pleased to have as our guest D. Grant Fitter author of City of Promises.
Good day Dennis and thanks for participating in our interview
Please tell our readers a little bit about your personal and professional background.
My mother had five other children taking a lot of her time and my father’s job kept him traveling all week, so unlike many authors, I don’t have many warm, cozy stories about my parents surrounding me with books, and fostering a love affair with reading. Although, I was watching every night as my mother enjoyed her own time with a 33 record on the stereo and a big book in her lap.
Not until I was a sophomore in high school, and had a job in a bookstore did I clue into the wonders of a good book. By the time I went away to college in Colorado to study business, reading authors the likes of Steinbeck, Updike, Sinclair Lewis, Hemingway, or just for kicks, Ian Fleming became my number three … hey, I’m honest … pastime!
More time goes by, I’m five years into a management job in Mexico City, bothered by an inner voice that keeps saying something like, what you really want is to be a writer, and finally I listened. Sold the first freelance magazine article I wrote and kept on going. Learning and surviving sixteen years as a freelancing, journalistic writer taught me lots, and then I surrendered to that same inner voice that told me I was ready to write that novel I had been thinking so much about. Hmm … and so I just did it.
What do you think makes a good story?
Lots of things, but to begin with, you’ve got to be convinced you are the holder of a good story to tell.
People like to talk about a plot driven story or a character driven story. Those things are just ingredients in a recipe for a story. It doesn’t mean it will render a good story. Kinda like beef stew.
I’ve eaten lots of beef stew with more potatoes and more carrots than there was beef, but was still a good beef stew to have on a cold winter day.
So back to a good story. If the author is convinced they have something important to say, or something exciting, or something intriguing, or some valuable social commentary, or some insight to offer … their conviction will show through in the development of the plot and the contributions of the characters.
So the good story he writes has the reader wanting and needing to know what happens next. The reader wants to be concerned for Mary or John’s well-being. They are hoping Jane doesn’t cheat Mary out of the money. There are characters they love and characters they hate and characters they can relate to. Good stories show depth. The storyline isn’t just some feeble premise … it has depth. In short, the author’s recipe develops something the reader has a stake in.
What served as the primary inspiration for City of Promises?
I am one of those people who isn’t content to know only what the time is. I want to know how the clock works.
I am always puzzling why?
Right from the first time I ever set foot in Mexico in 1968 – and I am not the first person to say this – I let the dust of Mexico settle upon my heart. For tourist reasons, business reasons, family reasons, I found a way to keep going back. And, over all that time, one thing kept bothering me to try to understand why.
What is it that makes the modern day Mexican way of thinking, their viewpoint on most everything … mmm, their reasoning or logic, their culture, so different from the rest of North America?
One decade – the 1940s – stands out as a major influence upon the Mexico we know today. Mexicans young and old celebrate the music, the dances, the films, and customs established in that time. It is not nostalgic. It is an obvious affection as sensitive to a youngster as it is to an old-timer who lived through those days.
That’s impressive. The 1940s is an era that defined the soul of a nation. And I had to write about it.
Did you work from an outline when writing City of Promises and did you know your ending at the beginning?
Not an outline in the classroom sense. Like I said, I knew the era I wanted to write about, so my starting point was to laboriously research events of that era. This story is historical fiction, and I wanted to keep it as true as possible to things that actually happened. So I spent about a year picking and choosing things I could use, things Arturo Fuentes might have done, and finally piecing it together into a shape my mind was able to work with. It was unclear how things should wind up for Arturo, so I was as surprised as I hope the people who will read this novel will be.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your book?
Perhaps that Arturo should have shown more Mexican Macho by having more women in his life.
Was there anything you found particularly challenging writing your book?
I wanted to be true to the history, so most challenging was tracking actual events on the calendar, then working them into the timelines of the story.
How did you go about creating the character of Arturo Fuentes?
Arturo comes about from something that happened during my time as Director General of a company in Mexico City. I had a sales manager there who was representative of the class of person who spent large amounts of money on the company expense account with very little productivity. One of his sales people was representative of the “indio” for which the sales manager had little respect. I could see the “indio” was the achiever in the group. He was tenacious in his efforts even though his superior never gave him any credit. That fellow was my “Arturo Fuentes”.
By the way, I put “Arturo” the underdog in charge of sales and got rid of the other guys. Turned out the right decision.
As this is your first novel, did you learn anything from writing it and what was it?
One, that it requires lots of hard work and dedication to a schedule. Two, when you think it is finished, it isn’t. Three, above all, it is rewarding.
Do you feel that writers, regardless of genre owe something to readers, if not, why not, if so, why and what would that be?
Most definitely. Novel writers are in the business of entertainment. The people who pay for our books deserve to be able to take something away with them when they have finished reading our work. Maybe that something is enlightenment. Maybe it is some form of enrichment. But whether they are after some sort of mind opening, thought provoking, learning experience, or not, they want to be entertained. I owe it to them, and to myself to strive real hard, to deliver. If not, I should write academic papers.
What are you upcoming projects?
I am working on another historical fiction which takes place in Mexico and the US southwest during the early 1900s. It is based on a major historical event.
How can our readers find out more about you and City of Promises?
I have a web page devoted to City of Promises under construction. It should unveil shortly before the book’s February fifth release date.
Hopefully, my author’s page and the book’s preview page will be live on Amazon.com by January 25.
Anyone who is interested to contact me can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org where I will respond to communications with pleasure.
As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
Do you think this book has universal appeal or is it limited to those who have a particular interest in Mexico?
The public perception on that would be nice to know.
I think I have written a novel with lots of elements attractive to a broad audience. At times the story seems to be a mystery and at other times it is a romance. There is lots of romance, but once some of the romantic relationships settle out, suspense takes over. These things are going on all the while threads of history and social commentary weave a colorful blanket around it.
So it seems this novel doesn’t fit into the tight confines of a specific genre slot.
It’s a story of cheering for the underdog that could have happened in any big city? That it takes place in Mexico presents a whole bunch of circumstances that cause the underdog/crime/romance/suspense/historical fiction story to unfold in its own unique way and with its own distinguishing flavors. Similar stories might have happened in Chicago or New York or Paris, but City of Promises could only have happened in Mexico City.
Thanks again and good luck with all of your future endeavors