December 20th, 2006 06:56 EST
Up Close and Personal with Bob Strother, Author of Love Among The Greeks
Photo by Alan K. Jordan Where have all the Flower Children gone? Meet Bob Strother, one such Flower Child gone too long from our midst. He blossomed within a desert of desperately dry government documents. He spent his youth planting crops to benefit the flower children of a new millennium. Bob is both pragmatist and dreamer. He is a romantic.
Bob’s artistry began to bud very early. Carnation-white cardboard -- inserts from his grandfather’s freshly laundered shirts -- served as his first earthly canvas. The collage of colors surrounding his Chattanooga childhood home surely danced between the leaves of his work. Still, life happens to romantics, too. Dreams become disappointments. Reality becomes reality. However, Bob Strother, the romantic, survived. His roots are very deep. If we could listen to what is sown into his soul, we would likely hear Dionne Warwick singing, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love.”
While romantic Bob managed to survive on inspiration invisible to less ethereal bystanders, he groomed others to reach their goals. His gallery of giving is found in the careers of young crusaders he wisely warned to think twice. His portfolio includes precious petals of encouraging words wrapped within flowers of hope. His gentle touch of guidance appears like a warm southern breeze barely rustling fragile azaleas.
This is no surprise to Bob’s gracious wife, Vicki. Her love and support washed into Bob’s life with surging waves of renewal. Her participation pollinated his imagination. She revived the romantic and supplied nectar to his fading bouquet of memories.
Judy Piazza tills fertile soil for this regenerated, romantic dreamer. She helps us to see there may be subtle differences between Flower Children. Bob Strother is not different because he is a romantic dreamer. Bob Strother is different because he dreams in color.
Hi Bob, it’s a pleasure to have you on the show. Hello, Judy, it’s an honor to be here. Thank you.
You have a very interesting book. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Sure, I’d be happy to. The title is called “Love Among The Greeks” and one of the reviewers on Amazon labeled it as “the thinking man’s Animal House.”
I’m not sure if you remember the movie that was produced, back in the late ‘70’s or early ’80’s called Animal House; but the story does have a lot of similar elements to it. There are toga parties and beach trips, beer drinking and things like that. But at the real core, it’s a love story. It’s a story about the loss of innocence -- both personal loss of innocence of the protagonist, Johnny Chase, and it all happens at a time when American lost its innocence.
It takes place in 1963 and 64 the same time when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. And that particular incident is also incorporated in the story line. What was your inspiration behind the story?
I had begun writing a couple of years before I wrote this book. And I think you have to take inspiration where you can find it. I was actually on my way to work in the car listening to the radio – one of the oldies station -- and the song called Popsicles and Icicles, which was made popular by the Murmaids in the early ‘60,’s, came on the radio. And all of a sudden, I was taken back 40 years to some of my college experiences and that really inspired me to write the book.
And where did you go to College? I went to the University of Chattanooga in Tennessee for two years and then graduated from the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia.
The producer of our show went to the University of Chattanooga for a year, I believe. It’s a great little college. It’s changed a lot since I was there, of course. But I went back when I started writing the book to just re-familiarize myself with the surroundings. I actually set the book in and around the University of Chattanooga because I was familiar with that area. I sort of grew up in the Chattanooga area.
Who are some of your mentors who have helped you along the way? I only began doing creative writing, like I said, a couple of years ago. One of the first things that I did, Judy, was to join a critique group. The SC Writer’s Workshop has Chapters in several cities in SC and there is one here in Greenville. That’s probably one of the best things I think a new writer can do, join a critique group. That way you have sort of a collective mentoring process that you go through.
One of the other things that I do is read a lot. And I think that some of my mentors are actually authors who are already in print. I try to read almost as much as I – spend as much time reading as I do writing. You know some of the ones who have helped influence my writing – people like Ed McBain who did the 87th Precinct series, John Sanford, Steven King, Nelson DeMille, Michael Connelly, folks like that.
We know it takes a lot of time and dedication to write a book. Tell us about the process that you went through. What I typically try to do is write every day. I retired in September from my day job. (laughing) I thought perhaps I would be able to sleep in a little bit in the morning but I find that I’m getting up at the regular time – about six o’clock – and start writing as soon as I can. And then write for most of the day.
I try to do somewhere between 500 and 1,000 words a day. I also go back every morning, re-read what I’ve written the day before, and try to edit that. One of the things that I’ve found is that I enjoy doing the editing almost as much as the writing itself. If a young person were to approach you today and say that they wanted to write a book, what advise would you give them?
Again, I think that you need to read a lot. You need to find authors who write the way that you would like to write and read their work. Use them as sort of a guide. I think that you have to make sure to stay focused. By that, I mean you have to avoid distractions, sit at the desk, and write. Turn off your Email, turn off your phone, and don’t answer the door. Just sit at the desk and write.
And I think that you need to develop a thick skin. You’re going to get rejected. You’re going to submit a lot of manuscripts and a lot of stories to a lot of literary journals and publishing houses. Only less than one percent of all the books that are submitted are actually published. So, you are going to get rejections. I certainly have dozens of them. I also think you should join a critique group. And if you can, find a published author or experienced writer or an editor who is tough on you. The tougher the better because that’s how you learn.
And I think finally, probably, I would say try to write about what you know. It may be stories about your family; it may be stories about work. But, I think the key is to have firsthand knowledge of what you’re writing about. That’s your platform, that’s your base of knowledge, that’s what you know best. Well, I’m glad you said you have to have thick skin in this business because I tell the students of the Student Operated Press all the time that you have to have thick skin or you’re not going to make it in this business.
The weak-willed will not survive. (Laughing) Well, Mark Victor Hansen told me that he was rejected 185 times, I believe, on the Chicken Soup for the Soul book and look at it now, today. (laughing)
I know. Great. Can you tell our listeners how they can find out more about you and your new book?
Okay. I, hopefully, will have a website up in about a week. I am not sure what the address will be. I hope it will be www.bobstrother.net [sic] and there is a little bit about me on the website and also about the book. You can also find the book on line at www.amazon.com or www.barnesandnoble.com. You can read the reviews that are in those two on-line catalogues. And the book can also be also ordered by your local bookstore.
Bob, it’s been a pleasure to have you on the show today and I hope that you’ll come back. Judy, thank you very much. I’d be delighted to come back any time.