Interview with Gregory Sherrow, Author of The Step God’s Curse

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What’s the story behind the story? What inspired you to write The Step God’s Curse?

I had the most amazing online Spanish tutor, Juan Pablo in Oaxaca, Mexico, who challenged me to write three short stories in Spanish. At that time, he had no idea that I was writing fiction on the side and only intended me to write a paragraph or so for each story. But when I sat down to write the first one, something clicked, and I never got to the other two.

To say I got carried away would be a massive understatement. I quickly switched to expanding the story in English, which given my Spanish abilities, was no great loss to Spanish literature, and the story began to take on the form that you find in the book. At the end of the day, if it weren’t for Juan Pablo’s support, encouragement, and help with tracking down details of 19th century Veracruz that were only available in Spanish language archives in Mexico, The Step God’s Curse probably wouldn’t exist.

What’s your favorite genre to read? Is it the same as your favorite genre to write?

My reading crosses several genres that I really enjoy, so it’s hard to pick just one. I jump around among magical realism, contemporary literature, technothrillers, and sub-genres like historical fantasy. Naturally, this ends up influencing my storylines which typically cross genres.

This used to be taboo in publishing but, fortunately, that is changing. Readers have always enjoyed stories that cross genres, but publishers have traditionally found it difficult to market books in that way. Improved communication between readers, closer connections between authors and their audiences, plus the rise of independent publishing and self-publishing have made it possible for readers to get more of what they enjoy.

What books are on your TBR pile right now?

It’s more like a TBR monolith. A few on the top are Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel, The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Termination Shock by Neal Stephenson, and Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir.

What scene in your book was your favorite to write?

I greatly enjoyed writing the connected train and hacienda scenes, when the protagonist and antagonist formally meet. For me, it was the perfect mix of geeking out on historical details while weaving together sexual tensions among the characters with an undercurrent of malignant motivations.

Do you have any quirky writing habits? (lucky mugs, cats on laps, etc.)

I have gotten in the habit of writing in a new place for every book as a way of clearing my head of the last one and moving into the creative space of the next. I have no idea how long the spirits of my previous novels last in those places, so I might one day run out of locations.

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

I’ve been absorbing a lot of stoic philosophy over the last few years, especially as interpreted by Donald Robertson. It’s not the misunderstood “suffer in silence” kind of stoicism but an acceptance of the imperfection of life. It has helped me achieve a tremendous amount and greatly reduced my feelings of daily stress.

If you could choose one thing for readers to remember after reading your book, what would it be?

Naturally, they should remember it as the book that they most enjoyed reading this year, right? But in all seriousness, I’d like one of the underlying themes to bubble up in their heads while they are doing the dishes, bushing their teeth, or some other mindless activity.

One theme in particular is the idea that people often engineer their own downfall. The antagonist in The Step God’s Curse wasn’t forced into taking the actions that ultimately led to his demise, and it wasn’t just one action that sealed his fate but a series of decisions underpinned by hubris and a lack of respect for others.

 

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