Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Houston, Texas, attended inner city schools (the same high school as Congresswoman Barbara Jordan and blues singer Trudy Lynn) and was never really encouraged to read outside the curriculum, or write creatively as a pastime to develop my personal communication skills. These were the hard years before integration, when grown men attended school because they had failed so many times. The ole school teachers did care about the students, and from a practical standpoint, found it more expedient to focus on the basics and get students to “graduate” with a diploma and some kind of hands-on skill to enter the workplace. Writing never made the list.
The characters I encountered on the streets and in honky-tonks and in churches, however, were invaluable in my writing exploits later on in life. Some of these people still show up in my books today.
When did you first start writing?
I started writing in the late 70s after graduating from college (Texas Tech University). An old girlfriend kept talking about The Other Side of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon. I finally read it to shut her up. After that, after experiencing his minimal, simplistic, intuitive form and realizing I didn’t have to use big words or try to sound smart, but rather, concentrate on a compelling story, I was hooked on reading and writing. At this point, I should mention I am always delightfully surprised when young writers that I mentor do not see the need to read. They just want to write, not realizing the two are inseparable for a successful career. Each new book, good or bad, provides an indelible lesson in what to do and not do in the future. To this day, Sidney Sheldon remains one of my most admired authors. John Grisham, Daniel Silva, Alice Hoffman and an upcoming young writing named James Fant bring up the list.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I’ve been asked this question many times. In this interview, I will give an answer that I have never given before. I became an indie author out of frustration with God.
I had been praying many years for God to give me the desires of my heart, to bless my writing career abundantly, to reward my many hours of preparation and sacrifice as he had promised in his Word. There were so many crappy books coming out of New York, agents cutting deals on subpar manuscripts and pushing them out to the public. I was finally picked up by a publishing company. But to my dismay, I found out, along with many other authors, this company was keeping the royalties. A class action suit emerged, but nothing really came out of it. Still, I wasn’t really looking at the sleazy publishing company. I was looking at God, himself.
To make a long story short, doing one of those quiet, profound, life-changing moments of discovery, I realized … God made me realize … I had all I needed to become a successful writer. The restrictive ground rules within the publishing industry that for so long walled out 90% of all the writers in the world, had toppled like the Berlin Wall. The Internet and social media provided writers with unrestricted access to audiences without the blessings of Simon and Schuster or HarperCollins or Random House. If you had a good product, you could get it out there and let the readers decide. You had absolute control over content and the royalties came directly to you. This was a new opportunity, a new day. I stopped crying about the injustices of the publishing industry and got busy building my brand.
What’s the story behind your latest book?
My latest book is King Juba’s Chest, a thundering, spellbinding, globe-trotting American saga on the raw and dirty side of the tracks. It is definitely a departure from my Christian oriented bestsellers such as Black Church Blues. But it embodies a story that, deep down in my heart, I felt compelled to tell. It examines the life of a young illegal Mexican immigrant, crossing the border under duress and great danger to find her destiny in America.
If you can avoid the scorching heat and desert rattlesnakes, the ruthless Los Zetas gangs and US ICE patrols, the patriotic crazies that roam the border with shotguns and baseball bats, and the rape camps outside of San Diego where they hang your panties in the trees, then you are ready to embrace the darkness of a collapsing drug smuggler’s cave. Crawl to the light of freedom, my innocent one. Crawl to America. – http://kingjuba.groganbooks.com
Fifty miles away at St Francis Hospital in Litchfield, Lola stood over a sterile white toilet, throwing up her guts. Since her breakup with Nicholas, she could barely keep down her food. The invisible lump in her throat felt as though it was part rock, part razor, slicing each breath into a million needles of air. Intermittent chills caused her hands to tremble. They reminded her of the severe case of pneumonia she had endured as a child.
The painful emotional roller coaster ride had reduced her pudgy waistline and brought her down a full dress size to a ten and a half.
Still, who was going to help her celebrate the unintended, flab-trouncing victory? There were no hordes of love-starved bachelors roaming around outside her window; no desperate male suitors combing the Want Ads, seeking an attractive, newly-reconfigured psychological wreck? Misery didn’t have any company. All it had was an echo in the back of her brain, reminding her that even on this side of the Rio Grande river, she was still a loser.
I live in Texas where immigration is a powerfully divisive issue, one that conservative Republicans invariably count on to get themselves elected. If I hadn’t seen and interacted with undocumented workers who had slipped across the border in the dead of night, I would fully expect them to be demons from hell, invading the poor Texas countryside, wreaking havoc upon the land.
In fact, these are hard-working people. Five or six families moved into a single one bedroom apartment, eat can goods and pooled their money to buy a car to get off the bus line. They take the jobs that we don’t want, breathe in the cancerous roof tar, clean the dirty toilets and load the rotten garbage bags onto the truck. They work construction jobs below minimum wage and sometimes don’t get paid at all. But who can they tell? Who will listen to them without asking for their social security card?
They are illegal like we were illegal when we tried to eat at the same lunch counters with whites and the law said it was illegal. They are illegal like we were illegal when we tried to vote without passing the local poll tax test, you know, the one that asked blacks how many bubbles were in a bar of soap.
And so, King Juba’s Chest chronicles this young woman’s underground rags-to-riches story, the Mexican daughter of a black Mafia bagman who lives with one eye over his shoulder and death calling his name from every back alley in Chicago. On the raw and dirty side of the track, monumental lies abound, everyone is illegal and no one is playing by the rules.
What was the hardest part about writing your book?
Finishing. So many people get started but never finish. I dread sounding trite, but persistence is the one unavoidable prerequisite that all authors must embrace. The other is learning to protect your mind. You can’t write if you know someone is bullying your child at school, or you just saw your husband leaving the hotel with another woman. Protecting your mind involves self-induced periods of isolation. When I’m at the very end of a book, I won’t look at the Super Bowl or take a call from an old friend. For those last 20 pages, I live and breathe only the fictional world that I have labored to construct for the past year or two. That becomes my only world. I’m sure other authors do it differently. But that’s my technique. There is more on protecting your mind here: http://groganbooks.com/?p=1232
What are you working on next?
I am currently working on Book 2 of Exorcism At Midnight, a part of the “God’s Mysterious Tower Series” highlighting supernatural occurrences and Biblical enigmas. In these books, Christians travel just below the surface to glean powerful spiritual principals seldom offered in contemporary religious settings. So far, this Book 2 is probably the best book I’ve ever written.
Who in heaven is in charge of sickness? Who thickens and textures the quicksand of suffering and disease? Is it the Archangel Raphael, who, the scripture says, is set over all the diseases and all the wounds of the children of men? Is it the Fallen Angel Satan who went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head? Or is it God, Himself, who curses sin with multiple forms of sickness and death?
It was a question Yacine had posed to one of our seasoned biblical professors during seminary classes years ago. Now, hearing the initial report of a catastrophic virus ravishing the backwoods villages of Benin, I found myself asking the same question.
My objective in this book, and really all books that I write, is to expand the reader’s perspective and force him or her to look deeper into the issue at hand. Does a God of love cause sickness? You’re going to have to look deeper than Jesus cursing the fig tree to figure it out.
I write a great deal about spiritual anomalies. The old preachers taught us that the Bible was infallible. In fact, there are multiple errors and contradictions. The Dead Sea Scrolls have forced theologians to quietly rewrite the old King James version. We know somewhere out there in a dark cave or hidden tomb, there are more discoveries to come. But a Bible in constant overhaul is a difficult proposition for most Christians. It’s easier to remain in the comfort of a familiar truth than to embrace a new truth that cancels out the old one. Columbus discovered America. I learned that in high school. I don’t want to hear about the Vikings who came two or three hundred years before Columbus got here.
Look at II Chronicles 9:25 and then at I Kings 4:26. Was it forty thousand or four thousand? And before you seek the answer in the Jewish history archives, you must make a critical decision. Are you seeking spiritual knowledge outside the 66-book Protestant canon? Didn’t your pastor tell you NOT to seek spiritual knowledge outside of the Bible?
This is where I want to take my readers, to a high mountain where glaciers of misinformation melt beneath their feet and profound spiritual truths fall upon their heads like rain. Book 1 did it. Book 2 will go even further.
What writing advice to you have for other aspiring writers?
Don’t get in it for the money. You’ll just be wasting your time. Write because your passion drives you to write. The money will come in time.
About the Author
Leander Jackie Grogan is a native of Houston, Texas, graduate of Texas Tech University and novelist for twenty plus years. His excellence in writing extends over a multiplicity of genres with seven novels having been distributed in eleven countries and five different languages. Both, Exorcism At Midnight and Black Church Blues have become bestsellers with worldwide distribution and popular choices for discussion on national talk shows. He has won numerous local and national awards in creative writing for radio, print and the web.
Besides having authored a number of nonfiction articles in such national publications as the Houston Business Journal, AdWeek, Dallas Weekly, Jet and Business info Magazine, Grogan is author of a current business bestseller, What’s Wrong With Your Small Business Team; at one point in 2011, holding the #44 spot in the small business category on Amazon.com. Grogan also serves as a guest blogger for the national crime/suspense writer’s website, Murder by 4, has written and produced three local spiritual comedies, and some years ago, had a work of fiction published in Hustler Magazine.
Grogan’s popularity continues to grow exponentially as a member of the new breed of storytellers unencumbered by the dictates of old world cookie-cutter characters and a narrow spotlight, perpetually shining on the rich side of town. His characters are bold and edgy and unpredictable, and invariably in conflict with traditional values. His writings go out of their way to explore spiritual unknowns and the deep crevices of the mind that harbor raw insight and truth.
Grogan’s favorite writer, and most preponderant upon his current style, is the late Sidney Sheldon. Specific works such as Polar Shift by Clive Cussler, Dead Zone by Stephen King, Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, Deep Cover by Michael Tolkin and The Rainmaker by John Grisham have also had a great influence on his commitment to rich, multi-layered characterization and intricately crafted plots.
All books for Leander Jackie Grogan are found here: