Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Mess Welcomes Eileen Granfors

Eileen Granfors & Nilla
A high school teacher for 33 years, Eileen Granfors finally turned in her chalk and turned to writing full time, and with the stories she has told, we are glad that she did.  I met Eileen on Twitter and from there we have joined over all of the social media sites from Facebook to Pinterest. She is a giant supporter of others and a great encouragement.  Like many of us, she decided to chase her dreams and has proven that once you determine your course, they can come true.  I'm glad she not only didn't give up, but that she agreed to be our guest blogger this Saturday.  I know you're going to enjoy having her here as much as I am.

On her blog, Word Joy, Eileen reviews new books and has all of her books readily listed there for your purchase.  I highly recommend you stop by and check them out

Before turning it over, I just wanted to say a big thank you Eileen for being here and a part of the Mess. I appreciate your support and have enjoyed your friendship. It's always amazing to me how the internet can bring us close to people we have never truly met and who live so far away. I am glad that it brought us across each other's paths.

Now, my Mess-y friends, let's grab that cup of java and settle in as this Saturday we present author, Eileen Granfors.

Eileen Clemens Granfors ~ Author, Blogger, Reader, Parent

I come from one of the world’s most dysfunctional families. My father, literally Major Dad, grew up an only child. My mother, Surf Mama, had eleven siblings. Father did not like family get togethers (too noisy!) and Mama couldn’t enjoy a holiday without her brothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, mom, and dad. Father loved lakes and boats; Mama loved body surfing the waves of Imperial Beach. They divorced. I ended up with a step-dad and a series of step-moms. All were good to me, people I loved. Both of my parents are gone now; my steps, all but one, are still living.

First grade Eileen
Here’s the crux of my childhood drama: In our house, children were supposed to be silent: no singing, clowning around, or chatter. Outside, where we spent our childhood (imagine that), we ran free.

And thus, I learned that reading took me to places where people laughed and shouted and acted in appalling ways. And usually they went on great adventures. All of my life, I have loved words. Before I could read, I searched books for the few sight words I knew. No one at home found time or patience to teach me to read. My first grade teacher must have been surprised at how quickly I caught on to reading.

Eventually, ever the rebel, I moved from home in San Diego to go to UCLA. I loved UCLA for the anonymity. I felt free to have all kinds of friends and try all kinds of activities (not drugs, never). The English major and the teaching credential justified my “horrendous” expenses there (My parents sent me $5.00 a week as spending money, the rest covered by grants, scholarships and loans).

I graduated. I married and bore two beautiful, brilliant children, divorced, remarried. I taught for thirty-four years. When I hit the wall and could no longer find the enthusiasm or patience to teach high schoolers (especially high school kids with phones), I retired. I began a new career: writing.

I am sure most people could tell a similar tale of a messed-up family. There are no perfect families.

Border fence between Tijuana, Mexico & Imperial Beach
But here comes the mess I made in publishing. First, I wrote a YA and Middle Grade book. Some Rivers End on the Day of the Dead. It was well-received, loved even, by friends, relatives, FB connections, the public at large. I had a few people say the protagonist was a little too naïve for a fourteen-year old, but I was happy with the story of Marisol. She comes to America from Tijuana after her father’s death and finds herself living under an oak tree in a rich suburb. She deals with bullies and snobs. She seeks a mentor and a way back to her old life in Mexico.

What I should have done next, to prevent diving into The Mess, was write the next book about Marisol. Oh, no! My brain wouldn’t go there.

I wrote a family drama about a mother and daughter, Stairs of Sand. The book was well received by the public and a very sore subject in our family. I kept saying, “Please, it’s fiction.” Family members continued to look at me funny, as if I had made a reality show of their lives. We have no Winona, no rescue dog, no Phillip McKillop to save the day, no dancing teachers in the family. Doesn’t matter. People were beyond irked. So, I learned that I need to create a greater separation between fiction and reality, for I never had the intention to hurt, abuse, misuse, or tromp on family laundry in public like Lucy stomping the grapes. Stay out of the family ties mess!
Eileen's great-nephew, Kody, surfing

Time to go back to Marisol. I tried. I wasn’t ready. I wrote the book I had promised my students, Sydney’s Story. This is a prequel to A Tale of Two Cities. My students kept asking why Sydney Carton would sacrifice his life for Lucie when Lucie didn’t love him. They called him names like loser. Sydney’s Story took a lot of research about 18th century London and Paris. It was a challenge and a lot of fun to write. It has garnered some good reviews.

Finally, I was ready. The next book would be part of the Marisol trilogy. But I found, as I sat down to write, that I wanted to go back in time, take a look at two characters who influenced Marisol in the first book. I wrote a prequel, The Pinata-Maker’s Daughter. The story is that of Carmen from Some Rivers End on the Day of the Dead and her college life. She carries a chip on her shoulder about her impoverished roots in San Ysidro, California. In college, classes are hard, and her social life is worse. She gets involved with two men, one a campus radical and one a clueless frat rat.

Here’s the mess: The Pinata-Maker’s Daughter is about a college girl. She is willing to explore her sexuality. She makes dumb decisions based on her notions about romance, which she has picked up through reading romantic thrillers. The prequel to my early YA-middle grade book shifted the trilogy’s audience from early YA-middle grade to late YA, women’s fiction.

The book created a new target audience, erasing the promotions and fan loyalty achieved with the readers I had won with Some Rivers End on the Day of the Dead. Marisol isn’t even born yet in The Pinata-Maker’s Daughter. It’s 1984, twenty years earlier. Oh, me!

Still, I love the book and the characters of Carmen, Joe, Franco, Shirley, and Salt. In that list of characters, it’s hard to choose the one I love most. I really do love them all. Carmen learns a lot about life in her first year of college.

I found a recipe for a piñata-cake on Pinterest. It’s a perfect showpiece for a book club reading The Piñata -Maker’s Daughter. Catch me @ Pinterest, and don’t forget that if I can, I will come to your book club (If you aren’t near Southern California, there’s always Skype).

I’m off and running on the final book of the series, So You, Solimar. This book is not a mess since it is not yet written. But with all the elements in place, all the characters from the first two books will be back together. I have great hopes that I will finish the trilogy with a sense of culmination of a journey. All I have to do is write it. I’m twenty chapters in.

Let me finish by saying that I self-publish. I queried until I could query no more with Stairs of Sand (received several maybes) and Sydney’s Story. Stairs of Sand received an acceptance, which turned into, “Whoops, sorry, wrong Eileen” after the San Francisco Writer’s Conference where I did the 3-minute pitch session to a couple dozen agents. That was a bruising experience. I self-pub through Createspace. I have found their tech teams easy to work with and their cover-maker is something I play with when writer’s block lays me low. My two cover artists, Martha Rodriguez (Some Rivers End) and Donna Dickson (The Pinata-Maker’s Daughter) generously allowed me to use their artwork without charge. Both are kind and talented. I make book trailers on OneTrueMedia.

Thank you, Rob, for allowing me to share on The Mess. It feels great to talk about my books, the challenges, the changes, and the courage writers have to find to keep on keeping on, especially when they are in the midst of a mess!

It was my pleasure, Eileen.  I am glad you joined us and loved the article and look forward to reading your works.  Come back anytime and join the Mess!

* * * * *
Did you enjoy what you read?  Leave me a comment and then join me at The Mess that Is Me on Facebook!

You might also enjoy ~ The Mess Welcomes Back Nonnie Jules
                                   The Mess Welcomes Matt Best 
                                   The Mess Welcomes Roxanne Lowery

Thanks for visiting The Mess!  Keep chasing your dreams!


  1. Rob, Many thanks. I hope your readers can related to one or more parts of the Mess that is ME today! Happy blogging, writing, and shooting the curl, dude!

    1. My pleasure, Eileen :) Thanks for joining us and sharing a part of your Mess with the rest of the Mess-y people. Keep chasing that dream!

  2. I have read two of Eileen's books so far in the trilogy, "Some Rivers End" and "The Pinata-Maker's Daughter," and have enjoyed them both :) Gobbled them up in one weekend parked on the couch! Looking forward to reading "So You, Solimar," when it is finished :)

    1. I haven't had the chance yet, but am looking forward to them. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  3. Here are links to two stories about my parents on
    Quality Time about Major Dad; Surf Mama about my ocean-loving mom:
    Quality Time

    Surf Mama

  4. Enjoyed the post. Surprised to read that Eileen got grief from her family over Stairs of Sand (that title being another past promise she made to students taking Shakespeare; writing something that would utilize the Merchant of Venice line).

    Should have mentioned her virtual release party for Pinata Makers Daughter Aug 30:
    Author Roast and Toast will host an online party for Carmen Principia and her friends, both fictional and live fans. Please join the fun by adding comments to the Roast and Toast feed.

    1. Very nice! Thanks for sharing the link with us!

  5. I enjoyed so much in reading the blog Eileen. As far as stairs of Sand. I did enjoy it. It did make me think of people I knew. But that for me was fine.

    1. I think there is a little bit of truth in most stories. WE can always recognize someone, even ourselves. Thanks for visiting and commenting.