Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Interview with historical memoirist Greg Archer

Today’s interview is with memoirist Greg Archer and his book Grace Revealed: A Memoir.

During his virtual book tour, Greg will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card (winner’s choice). To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. And if you’d like to increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit his other tour stops and enter there, too.

Greg Archer’s work covering agents of change, history, travel and the entertainment industry have appeared in The Huffington Post, Oprah Magazine, San Francisco Examiner, The Advocate, Bust, Palm Springs Life, VIA Magazine and variety of cable television outlets. A four-time recipient of the Best Writer Award in a popular San Francisco Bay Area Readers’ Poll, he shines the light on change agents near and far, and other under-reported issues in society. In between receiving “signs” that he’s on the right track, he appreciates the time 11:11 (a.m. and p.m.). He splits his time between his hometown of Chicago and The Bay Area. 

Welcome, Greg. Please tell us about your current release.
A writer recently quipped that Grace Revealed is “like a Polish Eat Pray Love.” And I like that. The book chronicles my journey uncovering my Polish family’s journey surviving Stalin’s mass deportation of Polish people during the 1940s. You get two rich stories in there—mine and theirs.

What inspired you to write this book?
I was always intrigued with what my family went through during the 1940s, but I was more intrigued with how under-reported the events were. Nearly one million Polish people were sent to Siberia and later became Polish refugees, yet in much of the recounting of WWII, we only hear about the Nazi-Jewish experience. That’s truly important, too, however I wanted to shed light on a journey of personal discovery (mine) as well as shed light on “The Forgotten.”

Excerpt from Grace Revealed:
(from Chapter 3)

Upon returning to California, several more months passed before I could will myself to take action and have the video file of my Polish family transferred onto a DVD. Like the floppy disk before it, I refused to give it even a quick glance. More than a year later, the DVDs were still buried underneath a sloppy arrangement of paperwork in the bottom drawer of my desk.
Time passed. A lot of it. I kept myself busy—career, status, bright lights, and Hollywood red carpet events; interviews with the likes of Piers Morgan, Martha Stewart, Joseph Fiennes, and hosting community TV shows. All good. But a broken family picture frame ignored ... cannot stay ignored.
I may have buried the DVDs, but for some reason, my family’s bona fide We Survived Stalin procession continued to make an insistent stroll down the streets of my mind.
Poland. Stalin. Siberia. Uzbekistan. Africa.
There is a saying made popular by C.G. Jung: “What you resist persists.”
And now, The Universe was suddenly taking delight in speaking to me through the celebrities I interviewed—Chris Pine? “You will be led towards that thing you need to realize.”
What did I need to realize?
I kept asking myself that question. The answer? In passing along the information to me, my Uncle John had inadvertently made me an integral character in their tale. I was now part of their story.
I recalled the famous 12-step saying: This too shall pass ... but first, it will PISS. YOU. OFF!
Like some kind of perverse chain letter that must remain circulated, had my uncle simply been the messenger? Were all cosmic fingers now pointing at me, asking me to investigate something more deeply?
But what? And why? I turned to another celebrity for inspiration.
John Wayne said: “Courage is being scared to death ... and saddling up anyway.”
I had no other choice. Not really.
On a chilly, foggy afternoon in Santa Cruz in late spring of 2012, I located Uncle John’s original notes yet again. I placed them near other transcriptions of interviews I had conducted with my Uncle Stanley, Aunt Jenny, and my mother, Bernice. I retrieved the DVDs that contained some of those interviews and opened their cases, fully prepared to watch them—again and again.
As long as it took. It was as if I had been handed an elaborate, historic jigsaw puzzle whose intricately shaped pieces with jagged edges had just been tossed up into the air and the fragments had fallen down on top of me ... and I had to assemble them all back together again.
I locked the doors of my cottage house. I pulled the drapes over the windows. I lit several white votive candles and burned small strands of white sage. If I was really going to travel back in time—really look at this stuff—best to do so using as many spiritual accouterments as possible. Besides, if God, The Universe, and the millions of Poles who suffered during the 1940s as a result of Stalin’s madness truly wanted to show me something more than I thought I already knew—that red and white were Poland’s color scheme and that their Polish Eagle always flies high—well, this was the only way I knew how to officially report for duty.
First stop: Ground Zero—eastern Poland, early February in 1940, the moment when my family’s “once upon a time” swerved horribly off course and their “happily ever after” turned into a fractured fairy tale—once all theirs, but now, suddenly mine to experience. I pressed play on a DVD filled with recorded family interviews. Moments later, words turned into animated images and the images pieced themselves together, boldly projecting onto the big movie screen of my mind. My eyelids fell shut.
Funny. Sometimes that’s the only way to see everything more clearly.
What exciting story are you working on next?
I am working on another memoir. The running theme of it is “home”—what is it, where is it, what is it about that is so vital; how do we connect there?

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I was in high school. I wrote feature stories for the school newspaper and I knew back then.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your workday like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I am a full-time journalist and author. I typically like to/ need to write early in the day.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I often write about emotions … or, in my case, mood swings. There’s some rich material to explore on that swing.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Mostly a writer. There was a time when architecture intrigued me.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
One thing that I would like to share is the importance of understanding one’s ancestry. With the rising popularity of ancestry.com and genealogy.com, I find the subject matter fascinating. I often encourage readers to explore their family’s past. For years, I resisted, but when I finally embarked on learning more about my family’ tale, it was quite remarkable and cathartic.


Thanks, Greg!


Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thank you for hosting

Mai T. said...

How do you work with an editor without the pride thing getting in the way?

nurmawati djuhawan said...

thx u for hosting

Rita Wray said...

I liked the interview.

MomJane said...

How wonderful for you to have found this information. Sounds like a great story.

Unknown said...

Terrific interview! Thank you for sharing!

Lanie said...

great interview. thank you

Karen H said...

Enjoyed reading the interview