Joining us today for Creative Spaces is author Mike Grosso. Mike Grosso is a musician and a fourth-grade teacher who always keeps a guitar in his classroom. I Am Drums is his first novel. From the promotional copy:
Sam knows she wants to be a drummer. But she doesn’t know how to afford a drum kit, or why budget cuts end her school’s music program, or why her parents argue so much, or even how to explain her dream to other people.But drums sound all the time in Sam’s head, and she’d do just about anything to play them out loud—even lie to her family if she has to. Will the cost of chasing her dream be too high?
Describe your workspace.
My workspace is a small section of finished attic. It serves as both my writing and music room, so I have a computer desk in one corner, a drum set in the other, and a few amps and instruments in between. I also have an old mixer that I inherited from my dad that’s useful if I want to record drums with multiple mics.
Describe a typical workday.
My typical workday changes throughout the school year. It’s currently summer and I’m not working on curriculum, so it goes something like this:
5:00 AM – I wake up and wish for more sleep.
5:30 AM – I wake up again and actually get out of bed. I brew coffee and stare across the kitchen, blinking furiously as I wait for it to be ready.
5:45 AM – I pour coffee for myself and my wife and head upstairs to my workspace to get some writing done.
5:50 AM – My son wakes up.
5:55 AM – My son rolls around in bed and makes noise until I head back downstairs and tell him good morning.
6:00 AM – I drink coffee and wish I didn’t have to go to work today.
6:05 AM – I realize it’s summer and, while I do have to go to work, it’s a different kind of work, and that’s nice after nine months of keeping a roomful of children from exploding.
6:10 AM – I spend the rest of the day getting short bits of writing done in between games and activities with my son.
List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.
The first is easily my drum set. My wife and I lived in multi-unit buildings for a long time, and it’s not very neighborly to play drums in those places. We worked really hard to finally get ourselves a small house this past year. My one requirement was that I have a place to put a drum set – I’ve been dying to have one ever since I moved out on my own.
The second is a tie for my electric guitar and bass. Since it’s my writing and music room, they are each one piece of the whole. They are also the instruments I used to record Songs for Sam(antha): the I AM DRUMS Soundtrack”.
The third is a framed picture of my original cover for I AM DRUMS. I love my new cover and don’t want it to change, but the old cover is dear to me in a different way and a reminder of how long it has taken for my debut novel to become a real thing.
Do you have any rituals in your work habits? If so, describe them.
I do something my wife calls “having a conversation inside my face.” It’s a flamboyant way of talking to myself while making big hand motions. Words don’t actually come out of my mouth, but unintelligible sounds do. Sometimes this happens when I’m writing, and sometimes it just happens. I rarely notice when I’m doing it, but I’ve been told it looks very silly.
What do you listen to while you work?
Silence is my best friend when I write. I love music and I wish I could listen to it when I write, but it’s very distracting because it puts images in my mind. I see chords and patterns of notes instead of the story I’m trying to create.
What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?
Coffee! Lots of it! I also love cookies when I write, but I’ve been staying away from those. I’m saving them for the next time I have a book on submission.
What keeps you focused while you’re working?
Still trying to figure this one out! 🙂 Most times it’s a lost cause. There’s a lot going on in both my brain and my house at any given moment, so I tend to write in short, spastic bursts. When I do stay focused, it’s usually because my house is quiet. I get very little of that at this stage in my life, so when I have a rare spare moment to myself, I tend to bask in it like a Bearded Dragon.
Do you write longhand, on a computer, or another way?
Always on a computer, unless I’m in a situation where longhand is the only option. I have terrible handwriting and my brain moves much quicker than I’m capable of writing by hand.
How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?
I’m a pantser all the way. I’ve tried outlining, but I spend too much time doing that and not enough time writing. I’ll write a few notes if there’s something I really don’t want to forget, but those are minimal at best. I start with characters and voices and see where they take me. I need to be surprised the same as a reader.
If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?
When I was teenager I wanted to share it with Kurt Vonnegut, but as an adult it would probably be depressing to be around him all the time. I’d honestly love to share my space with Gordon or Bob from Sesame Street. It would be easier to get started if I could begin each day saying hi to them.
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?
Writers aren’t superhuman. Getting published is often depicted as rare or impossible, but there’s nothing magical about practicing your craft. You just have to love the process enough to rack up those rejection letters and keep at it.