The beauty of a good book is to bring culture to the attention of a reader. And that is what Frank Christopher Busch has done with his novel “Grey Eyes.” (Link to my review) Busch has carefully crafted a narrative that is brilliant to read while enlightening a culture that has suffered repeated horrors and repression. I was excited that Busch found a few minutes with accessible wifi to answer a few questions for me.
1) Could you go into details of what made you write “Grey Eyes?” How long did it take for you to write it?
I was working with Indian Residential School survivors, conducting in-depth face-to-face interviews on the abuse they suffered as children incarcerated in those facilities. Many suffered horrific physical and sexual abuse while being indoctrinated into a foreign culture. The message I kept hearing was “I just want my culture back”. I began thinking about how to give someone a culture and decided that I needed to show them a life lived outside of institutionalized cultural genocide. A traditional, Indigenous life complete with the culture, language and governance structures that they were denied as children. I set to work in my spare time (while working 12-16 hour days) and finished the original manuscript in about 3 months.
2) How has the reaction been to “Grey Eyes” so far? Has there been any memorable reactions to it that you care to share?
The reaction has been mainly positive with some harsh criticism which I ignore. I find that in the right hands, “Grey Eyes” gives Indigenous people a glimpse back into their own heritage, while also giving our allies a glimpse into a hidden corner of our collective cultural tapestry.
3) Who are your favourite writers? What are you reading right now?
I always preferred Canadian fiction writers like Farley Mowat and Margaret Atwood. I have been reading a lot of Indigenous Canadian authors this year such as Thomas King, Richard Wagamese and Joseph Boyden. I am currently reading “Legacy” by Waubgeshig Rice.
4) Have you done any public readings of “Grey Eyes?” If yes, how was that experience for you? Has “Grey Eyes” been the topic of any book clubs? If yes, did you participate?
I went on a national (and international) book tour this past fall covering most Western Canadian cities, Ottawa and Toronto and down to the US in Arizona, Nevada and Washington state. It was a rollercoaster all the way through, sometimes I would meet huge crowds raving about “Grey Eyes” and the next day I would be sitting at a lonely table in an empty book store. I have heard of several book clubs covering “Grey Eyes” and have had the honour of sitting with a couple of them. Authors are visiting book clubs via Skype and other social media more and more. I am incredibly extroverted for an author and love to be out there meeting readers and hearing their feedback.
5) Are you planning to do any more writing? If yes, are there details you can share? If no, why not?
I have planned seven books in the “Grey Eyes” series and am currently working on book II, “Grey Eyes and the Teaching of the Bear” which I hope to have out early in 2016.
6) You seem to be active on Facebook and Twitter? How do you like being on those platforms in relation to your novel?
I think Facebook is a great way to connect with readers. Twitter is more of a challenge for me, perhaps because I am a little long winded. I seem to inadvertently start a lot more arguments on Twitter than other social media platforms.
7) There are quite a few people trying their hand at writing fiction right now. Do you have any advice for them?
Writing is fun, editing is hard work. Writing should be a daily activity. I heard another author say once that if you write 3 pages a day consistently, you would write 3 three-hundred page novels a year. I also advise against quitting your day-job as I haven’t and don’t ever intend to. If you were able to publish a best-selling novel every year, you would be lucky to make $10k/annum from the royalties. For the young people out there I say “Get your Phd first” as most successful authors are tenured professors.