I'm pleased to welcome Bryan Gruley to Michigander Monday!
Debbie: Bryan, please tell us a little about yourself.
Bryan: I was born and raised in Detroit, where I learned to love writing and hockey. I aspired to write novels even as a boy, but after graduating from Notre Dame in '79, took a lengthy detour into journalism, working for The Detroit News, The Wall Street Journal, and now, Bloomberg Businessweek. Finally sat my butt in my chair and wrote my first novel, Starvation Lake, which was published in 2009.
Debbie: And, of course, we want to know all about your books.
Bryan: My three books are set in the fictional town of Starvation Lake in northern lower Michigan. I refuse to be pinned down on precisely where it would be, but it's in the general area of Big Twin Lake between Kalkaska and Mancelona, where my parents bought a family cottage in 1971. The first book deals with the mysterious death of a youth hockey coach. The sequel, The Hanging Tree, is about the apparent suicide of a woman found hanging in a tree filled with shoes, and was inspired by the shoe tree on U.S. 131 two miles north of Kalkaska. The third, The Skeleton Box, is about a burglary gone bad that results in the murder of a beloved citizen of Starvation Lake, and was inspired by the 1907 disappearance of a nun from a church in Isadore on the Leelenau Peninsula. The narrator and protagonist of each book is Gus Carpenter, the thirty-something editor of the Pine County Pilot who blew his big-city newspaper career with an ethical breach and now toils at his tiny paper while playing men's hockey at night and longing for his boyhood love, Pine County Sheriff's Deputy Darlene Esper. While I didn't plan it this way, the books form a sort of accidental trilogy that revolves around the relationship between Gus and his mother, Bea Carpenter, who has many secrets of her own.
Debbie: Other books or projects on the horizon?
Bryan: Besides my demanding and fun day job, I'm waiting for writer-director John Gray to finish the screenplay of The Hanging Tree. Can't wait to see what this superb writer does with it. And I'm hoping to move ahead with a fourth Starvation Lake mystery. Working with my publisher on that.
Debbie: Upcoming appearances?
Bryan: Plenty, all over the country, but I'll be in my favorite part of the world, northern Michigan, June 6-8, in Gaylord, Petoskey, and Traverse City. June 9 I'll be at Next Chapter books in downtown Northville. Then off to San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and other great places. For details, see www.bryangruley.com.
Debbie: Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore? And/or a favorite Michigan library?
Bryan: I have many favorite stores, especially McLean & Eakin in Petoskey, Saturn Booksellers in Gaylord, Horizon Books in Traverse City, the Next Chapter in Northville, Aunt Agatha's in Ann Arbor, and Literary Life in Grand Rapids. I haven't visited a lot of libraries in Michigan (yet), but the folks at the Bridgman Public Library have been extremely welcoming.
Debbie: How about a favorite place in Michigan?
Bryan: My favorite place is Big Twin Lake, a small but crystalline body of water surrounded by green bluffs. And, of course, Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
Debbie: Do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend?
Bryan: Every July, I go to Big Twin Lake and meet more than a dozen high school and other pals for what we call the Pistachio Open, a long weekend of golf, volleyball, shuffleboard, euchre and occasional beer drinking. This year will be the 25th.
Debbie: A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?
Bryan: Every one in Michigan should be reading Steve Hamilton, Doug Stanton, and Mardi Link. I've always liked Bob Seger, but prefer his very early stuff--Heavy Music, 2 + 2 Is On My Mind, Ramblin' Gamblin' Man--to the later California stuff.
Debbie: Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?
Bryan: Many a non-Michigander has come to Pistachio Open. All of them can't believe how beautiful it is. It's an amazingly beautiful state. I love summers up north, of course, but I also like to visit Big Twin in the dead of winter, when everything is white and the silence sings.
Debbie: Final question: Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally, what's the better term, "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?
Bryan: Michigander, of course!
Debbie: Bryan, thank you for joining us today for Michigander Monday!
To learn more about Bryan and his books, stop by his web site, his FaceBook page, and his twitter feed. For his upcoming appearances (several of which are this week right here in Michigan), check his News & Events page.