Interview with Gregory Tetrault

Tell us about your writing over the years?
I completed one short story for myself when I was in my early twenties. It followed the standard sci-fi plot of "young man gets chosen for an adventure" format. It sucked. About ten years ago, during a period of mild mania, I began a short story, “Pretty Penny”, about a girl from a poor family who had a different set of morals than most. She was bright, but she wanted to make a lot of money in the porn business. She progressed from girl in underwear photos to topless teen to nude teen (she used a fake ID) to sex films. I never finished it, which almost certainly is for the best.

I started writing seriously in 2013. I began writing the novel “Trolls’ Triumph,” which is set in our time. The target audience was ten- to fourteen-year-old boys. A small tribe of trolls in the Cascade mountains was starving due to lack of game. Their leader, a troll mage, said they would do better in the wilds of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. They needed food for the trip, a human village was nearby, and… I stalled after villagers were killed and captured.

In 2014 I began the “Jennifer’s Magic” series. I wrote a very rough draft of the first book in nineteen manic days. I settled down and wrote at a more sedate pace. It took me half a year to complete a real draft, and I spent another eight months getting the first book ready for publication. While I worked with the drafts of the Jennifer’s Magic series, I wrote two books in the Kassie series. I hate to spend most of my time editing, though that’s all I’ve been doing for the past few months to prepare the next two “Jennifer’s Magic” books for publication.

At present, I’m trying to decide what to write next. I could finish “Trolls’ Triumph”, work on a third Kassie book, or write something else. If I get manic again, I could do all three.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
A desire to write. A low probability of a publisher selecting my books. A hope that more than a few people will buy my ebooks.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I retired from a job I loved in 2007 due severe bipolar disorder. I drifted for years. My only intellectual challenges were NY Times Sunday crossword puzzles. When my mental status improved in 2014, I used my cobweb-covered intellect to write fiction. Writing fiction improves my mood because I ride on the shoulders of my protagonists. I see what they see and hear what they hear. I come to love my protagonists, and, much of the time, writing about a protagonist brings me joy. I write in the present tense because I can be with my characters now, and not watch them in a year-old movie. I sometimes have to protect my joy of writing. I had a school of hard knocks episode: I wrote a sad scene when I was mildly depressed and immediately became moderately depressed. I don’t often get depressed now, but I skip forward and write happy or triumphant scenes whenever I start sliding down to depression. It usually works.
What's the story behind your latest series?
“Kassie, Girl Genius” is about a seven-year-old super-genius trying to get by in a world unfriendly to geniuses. Some of the plot is based on my own experiences. I'm not a genius, but I’m very smart. School was unchallenging and boring. Brainy kids were picked on, especially if they were as short as I was.

Many children isolate themselves in their bedrooms with their computers and iPads. They never learn manners or acceptable behavior. They focus completely on what they like to do, and they spend little time on what they should do. They have no empathy or compassion. Geniuses may be more likely to have these flaws, especially if supervision is minimal. (He’s getting great grades and isn’t a discipline problem in school. We can leave him be. I’ve encountered this numerous times among my daughters’ classmates.)

Kassie gets a scholarship to the Academy of the Mind. It’s a boarding school that gives the genius students much freedom. Kassie soon will escape the hassles of public school. Kassie envisions the Academy of the Mind as a wonderful place with sixty-three other geniuses who are free to study what they wish and will share knowledge with their schoolmates. She quickly learns that her vision isn’t close to reality. Students are isolated, and many of the younger students are rude and nasty. Students study their subject of interest and nothing else. They don’t share their knowledge. They have a few friends and no desire to learn about fellow students. Kassie works hard to improve the school and change the behaviors of her schoolmates, but those efforts are opposed by many. Students condemn Kassie when she teaches some of her schoolmates about her congenital abnormality of genitalia.

The attitudes shown by most students in my Academy of the Mind reflect what is happening in our internet age. Children and young adults believe that they are communicating by sending brief text messages. A text message doesn’t include your voice or your friend’s voice. It doesn’t include your facial expressions or your friend’s. Hearing and seeing each other during a distant conversation can be achieved easily with Skype or similar software, but many children and young adults have never done it. Another problem is that young people don’t learn because they can get info from the internet. They don’t realize that in many situations, facts and info are worthless without an internal knowledge framework to hang them on. (Older generations also had many who didn’t learn. They had different justifications. In my baby boomer generation it was "lack of relevance.")

I use “Kassie, Girl Genius” to display the poor treatment of smart children, to show parenting and education failures, and to describe some of the flaws related to modern technology. I also use Kassie, Girl Genius to present a wonderful child with great parents. A Kassie who soon makes many friends and accomplishes much despite opposition. I love Kassie, and I would adopt her in a minute, as Ms. Lowell says in the book.
Who are your favorite authors?
L. E. Modesitt — I greatly enjoyed his Ecolitan books, and I’ve read almost every book he’s written. Some of my writing style comes from him, but don’t blame Mr. Modesitt if you dislike my style.

Stephen R. Donaldson — The first six books of the Thomas Covenant series are among the best novels I’ve read.

Orson Scott Card — I love Ender’s Game and some of the sequels. I also like Alvin Maker.

David Weber — On Basilisk Station, his first Honor Harrington book, greatly impressed me. I own most of his books, but I've become less of a fan over the past ten years. (Mr. Weber, please write more concisely, eliminate half of the political and boardroom discussions, and stop describing the physical attributes of characters when the descriptions have no relevance.)

Dick Francis — He wrote dozens of mysteries, with most connected to the horse racing world in England. I’ve read all of them at least three times.

R. A. Salvatore — Drizzt Do’ Urden and Guenhwyvar. Enough said.

Jim Butcher — I like both series, Dresden and Codex Alera.

Stanley L. Robbins and Ramzi S. Cotran, editors of Robbins Pathologic Basis of Disease — I read the second edition of this medical school textbook in 1979. It was the best textbook I ever read. The writing was superb—information was presented clearly and concisely but sometimes with additional text that conveyed either interesting related information or appropriate humor. Later editions are less well written.
What is your writing process?
01 Create main characters.
02 Choose location and time frame.
03 Sketch out a plot or series of plots.
04 Start typing and set up auto-save.
05 Write as fast as possible with minimal fleshing out.
06 Discover which plots don't work.
07 Replace the plots, fix timing issues, and proceed.
08 Return to beginning of book and flesh-out the characters and scenes.
09 Find and fix discrepancies.
10 Repeat steps 7–9 multiple times.
11 Copy edit many times. (I can’t afford a professional service.)
12 Read as if I’m a buyer. Change what I don’t like.
13 Copy edit.
14 Publish.

I usually design a cover (I can’t afford a professional cover art service.) after step 7 and finish it during step 11 when I need a break from checking grammar.
What do your fans mean to you?
The tower fan in my basement office means I don’t stay hot. My big circular fan means that I can blow stale air out the basement door. The ceiling fan over my bed means that I can get cooler or hotter depending on my needs. Those are my three fans. If any readers of this stupid answer are fans of my novels, their characters, or me, please let me know.
Published 2015-11-01.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Kassie in Peril Book 2 — Scientist
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 105,130. Language: English. Published: February 14, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Themes & motifs » Psychological
Kassie, now 10, holds patents for chemical manufacturing. She becomes a millionaire, and she becomes a target. A very professional group kidnaps Kassie and her roommate and best friend Hermione. They soon escape and become media darlings. Kassie’s relationship with her jealous brother causes worse pain than the tortures during the kidnapping. Kassie finds the lead kidnapper and extracts justice.
Kassie, Girl Genius Book 1 — Student
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 128,640. Language: English. Published: February 14, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Themes & motifs » Psychological, Fiction » Educational
Seven-year-old Kassie ignores her teacher and reads junior high school textbooks during class. Her IQ score gets her into the Academy of the Mind, a boarding school far from the family she loves. Kassie soon learns that the Academy is nothing like what she envisioned. It needs fixing, and she’s just the girl to do it.
Jennifer’s Magic Books 1–3
Price: $5.79 USD. Words: 465,220. Language: English. Published: November 19, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary, Fiction » Themes & motifs » Psychological
Seventeen-year-old Jennifer is a genius mage in a world that doesn’t know about magic. Mages are five times more likely to be sociopaths, and mage sociopaths are often violent. Jennifer loses her friend and her boyfriend to evil mages. She learns new magic and captures them. She fights power-hungry mages. She and her apprentice make huge sacrifices to fix a problem that could end mankind.
Jennifer’s Magic Book 3 — Innocents Lost
Series: Jennifer’s Magic. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 145,290. Language: English. Published: November 19, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary, Fiction » Themes & motifs » Psychological
Teen mage Jennifer and her apprentice Lahni face a vital task in six months. They learn more magic and get pregnant to strengthen their souls. Lahni lacks the romantic love needed for a strong soul, so she and Jennifer become lovers. Jennifer works to remove a curse that can kill her. The task changes, and Lahni goes alone. Jennifer must warn the world of a catastrophe that will kill millions.
Jennifer’s Magic Book 2 — Lahni’s Master
Series: Jennifer’s Magic. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 152,370. Language: British English. Published: November 9, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary, Fiction » Themes & motifs » Psychological
Teen mage Jennifer captured all evil mages, but she faces new crises. Mage revolutionaries fear Jennifer and kidnap her apprentice to gain leverage. Lahni escapes, and Jennifer captures the revolutionaries. Jealous mages plan to assassinate Jennifer. After a period of calm, the soul of Jennifer’s best friend contacts her and Lahni. The crucial task given to them will require great sacrifices.
Jennifer’s Magic Book 1 — Vigilante
Series: Jennifer’s Magic. Price: Free! Words: 173,000. Language: British English. Published: August 18, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary, Fiction » Themes & motifs » Psychological
Evil mages torture to death Jennifer’s best friend. Jennifer leads a cadre of apprentices to capture Bad Souls. The cadre runs into a trap, and Jennifer’s boyfriend dies. She becomes catatonic. She recovers but gets cursed by a Bad Soul. Jennifer discovers different magic and captures all Bad Souls. She meets a girl with the same magic. They become master and apprentice and honorary sisters.