BE MY GUEST: Author Interview: Greg Messel

After enjoying a wonderful career in journalistic writing, Greg Messel is now a full-time writer, bathing in the success of his books. Today, he is here to talk about his latest book “Expiation”, which is a romantic tale. He also gives some excellent suggestions on writing while sharing how he gets ideas for his stories. Let’s read and find out more about this experienced writer:

RG= Review Girl 
GM = Greg Messel 

RG: Why did you think of becoming a writer? Did some person or incident in life inspire you? Or you thought you had the germs to be a writer?

GM: I've been writing since I was a teenager. I was the sports editor and a columnist for my high school newspaper and also was a stringer for the two local newspapers in the town where I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area. I covered sports and wrote movie reviews for those two newspapers while I was in high school and college. It was quite an extraordinary opportunity actually. I loved writing and it was just what I did. I never really thought about it as a gift or something.

After college I began working at a daily newspaper in Wyoming and eventually became the news editor. I left the newspaper business and began working in the financial corporate world. Now that I have retired from that job I have been able to get back to my first love which is writing. I have thoroughly enjoyed launching a new career as a novelist. I've written three novels and three memoirs.

RG: What kind of books do you write?

GM: I resist the label that they are romances. I write about relationships. I think there is nothing more fascinating than a man and a woman finding one another and trying to work out their lives. My stories are romantic but they are love stories basically set against historical events.

RG: Why did you choose to write in those genres?

GM: I didn’t start out writing a genre. I felt like I began to write the stories that were in me and the things I knew about. I wish I could be a cool mystery writer or do crime novels like Michael Connelly or James Patterson but I really don’t know enough about those things. I feel I am branching out and I do put a lot of research into my three novels. I enjoy dealing with conflict and plot twists. There are plenty of those things in relationships between men and women.

RG: What books have you published so far and what are they about?

GM: My first book is called “Sunbreaks”. It is about a middle aged man who loses his wife in a tragic accident. His life is sad and gloomy until one day he meets a dazzling younger women in a coffee shop.
Here is the brief synopsis of the story:
"Tom is a middle-aged man who works in downtown Portland, Oregon. His wife is killed suddenly when her car is hit by a drunk driver. Tom goes into a period of isolation for almost two years; his life sinks into a time of grayness and gloom. Then, a bright light named Erika comes into his life. She is a dazzling young woman who he meets, quite by accident, at the coffee shop which he frequents each morning.

Tom and Erika have an instant connection. They formulate a plan to become companions and to begin enjoying all of their interests again but as platonic friends. They are both tired of being alone but do not want to play all of the dating games. As the year progresses, Tom and Erika become more and more comfortable with each other thanks to a series of unexpected crisis that ensue. Tom is falling more deeply in love with Erika each day. Erika continues to take it slow and wants to be just friends. Tom keeps his love for her a secret as he patiently waits for Erika to want more from their relationship."

My second book is “Expiation” which is about two people who were high school sweethearts but time and circumstances pulled them apart. Now thirty years later they are reunited at the end of 1999. They wonder if their long lost love can be rekindled.

My newest book, which will be published at the end of August, is “The Illusion of Certainty”. There are two parallel storylines which come together at the end of the book. It is about the uncertainties of life that we all have to deal with.

One story is about a bright, young corporate attorney, Alexandra Mattson, who as a result of a crisis in her neighborhood meets a handsome young cop named Sean. They fall in love and make plans to spend their life together.

The second storyline is about a successful businessman named Marc who seems to have everything. He lives in an affluent neighborhood, has a beautiful wife and family but something is wrong. His wife is behaving strangely and he wonders why.

RG: If you could be one character from your books, who would you choose to be and why?

GM: The main male characters are undoubtedly versions of me. I really like Dan in Expiation. He had some challenging things happen to him but I would find it interesting to live his life as a newspaperman in San Francisco.

RG: Where do you get ideas for your stories and characters?

GM: I think many ideas are from pieces and fragments of my own life and things I have experienced. Often they are enhanced or altered but the basic ideas can come that way. I also write about places I am familiar with. I guess unless you are a science fiction writer that’s how it happens. Joseph Wambaugh writes about copes, John Grisham writes about lawyers—authors generally write about the world they are most familiar with. Ideas can come in odd ways.

During the time I was writing the chapter in Expiation about New Years Eve 1999, I got the idea to involve the chef as I was running on a treadmill at the athletic club. There was a cooking show on the television. It was then I decided that one of the friends would be married to a chef and he would provide the New Year’s Eve entertainment.

RG: List 5 suggestions/writing tips for those who want to venture into writing fiction.
GM: My writing tips would be:

One, I think you have to write what you know. Your world is a new world to many others who will find it interesting.

Two, don’t try to force your plot. Let it develop slowly and naturally as you write.

Three, write a short biography for each of your characters. How old are they, what are their physical attributes, where they went to school, what is their job, what is their history, are they married, divorced, single. I have found it helps up front to develop this as a road map for where the story is going.

Four, research the time period where the story takes place.

Five, don’t be afraid to jump around in time and place as the story unfolds. Don’t be in too big of a hurry to provide all of the background. For instance, if in your story a child sees a puppy but flees from it and is deathly afraid of the dog. The reader will wonder why there was that reaction. Slowly discovering why the child is frightened of dogs can add interest when it is done skilfully.

RG: Do you think that book blogs play a vital role in getting the books across to readers?

GM: Absolutely. There is a whole other world out there which plays an important role in introducing new books. I think reading is alive and well, it’s just changing.

RG: Printed books vs. E-books. What’s your take on this?

GM: I am an avid E-book convert both as a reader and a writer. I bought a Kindle at Christmas last year and really love it. I can carry my whole library in my hand and I find I am branching out into other types of books. I have also really been concentrating my marketing efforts on the electronic version of my books.

RG: How much time did it take for you to complete one book? What was your routine for writing?

GM: It usually takes 6-7 months plus the design of the interior and covers. I have found that I work on conceptual ideas through the summer and into the fall. When the winter rains start in Seattle it’s a great time for me to begin seriously writing. I try not to force it and let it flow. I stay after it steadily in the winter however. My favourite way to write is to sit at my desk, looking out on the rainy street scene in front of my building and listen to music. That really works for me.

RG: How do you balance your family life and your writing commitments?

GM: It is always a challenge. I think you have to establish “working hours” as an author. As I have reminded my wife at times, I need a little time to get into the story and characters. Writing isn’t a spigot that you can turn on and off on demand.

RG: Are you inspired by any particular author? Who is your favourite author?

GM: I love Pat Conroy’s books and also Michael Connelly. I really like the way they introduce me into worlds and situations which I have never experienced. I find it very interesting how Pat Conroy draws on his experiences of growing up in the South.

RG: Among other author’s books, any character which you could relate to and you will always remember? What was the character about and how could you relate to it?

GM: I loved the young man in Pat Conroy’s book “The Losing Season.” He was an average basketball player who tried harder than anyone else. He also came from a very unstable family. I really related to and loved that character.

RG: I believe that there are only two categories of books: good books and bad books. In your opinion, what are the qualities of a “good book”?

GM: A good book transports you into a different place and time and does so in a manner, you hardly notice the writing.

RG: What suggestions would you give to aspiring authors who are entering the market? What mistakes they should avoid?

GM: I think it’s an exciting time to be entering the world of publishing. E-books and self-publishing give so many options than there were before. I would suggest authors get very involved in blogging and social networks.

I have found that for every author there seems to be ten people telling you how to write. Pertaining to writing, I think you should write from your heart and not be too concerned about what everyone else is doing. You can try to improve your craft but over thinking it all can really stifle creativity.

RG: Thank you for such a delightful interview. It was a great pleasure having you on my blog, especially because I could relate to your journalistic experience. Wish you all the best for your current as well as upcoming books! 

About the Author:

Greg Messel has spent much of his life in the Pacific Northwest living in Portland, Oregon and in the Seattle area since 2008. He has been married to his wife, Carol, for 40 years. Greg and Carol were high school sweethearts just like the couple in Expiation. Greg went to Brigham Young University with Carol and then began a newspaper career in Wyoming town of Rock Springs. Greg and Carol have three married children and nine grandchildren.

Greg has always loved writing. He worked as the news editor and sports editors of the Daily Rocket-Miner newspaper. He won a Wyoming Press Association award for his column. He also submitted and had published articles in various sports magazines. He left the newspaper business in 1981 and began a 27 year career with Pacific Power. Greg retired in 2008 and moved to Seattle.

It was there that he returned to his first love of writing. He has written two unpublished memoirs and published his first novel with Trafford in September 2009. His first novel was called “Sunbreaks.” The second novel “Expiation” was published in the spring of 2010 with Trafford. A third novel is in the works.

Visit his website at www.gregmessel.com.

Connect with him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gregmessel and Facebook at www.facebook.com/greg.messel.

About his Book:

In 1968, Dan and Katie are one of the hottest couples at Ballard High School in Seattle. He is the hero football player, and she is the beautiful cheerleader. These high school sweethearts believe theirs is a love that will never die.

Life changes when Dan leaves Washington to start college at the University of California Berkeley and pursue his dream of working for a big time newspaper in the glamorous city of San Francisco. The quest for his dream occurs against the turbulent background of Berkeley and San Francisco in the 1970s as Dan and Katie go their separate ways.

Now, thirty years later, Dan is back in his hometown of Seattle attending his mother's funeral. He's never stopped thinking about Katie, his long-lost love. But the two former high school sweethearts reconnect in a most unexpected way as the rest of the world grows more fearful of Y2K and the dawn of the twenty-first century. They are hoping that their love, once lost, can now be reclaimed.

To buy this book on Amazon, click here.

"I would like to thank Dorothy of "Pump up your book" for giving me the opportunity to be a tour host. To know more, visit website here: http://www.pumpupyourbook.com/ "


  1. Such an inspirational post. I love books about relationships ;)

  2. Good questions/answers for writers, both seasoned and novice. Of course, since my feeling about writing is to start 'from the heart,' there is a special appreciation for Greg Messel's sensibility.

  3. GREAT interview. Loved every minute of it. I have yet to add any of his books to my collection.
    My latest post:

  4. Komal, thank you for introducing such fantastic authors. I'd love to venture into fiction one day, and the tips are great. Thank you, Greg!

  5. @Barbara: Thanks dear, for your encouraging words. I am sure, Greg will also be happy to read that!:)

  6. Hi. The picture of the pen and writing, who does that belong to. I would like to use it but obviously need to know who to credit. Thanks


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