Author G. Donald Cribbs in the House!
Sahar's Monday Morning Blog on Tuesday Warmly Welcomes DEBUT AUTHOR, G. DONALD CRIBBS!
The world of teenagers is naturally filled with individual levels of angst and uncertainty. These are the years in which children should be permitted safe places to grow, explore and self-actualize without fear, bullying or ridicule. However, when children are subjected to neglect and assaulted by sexual abuse, childhood then quickly unravels, leaving in its wake a trail of victims, and producing a lifetime of unfathomable nightmares. The Packing House, by author G. Donald Cribbs, strips away the illusion that somehow, children are magically resilient and immune to the lasting effects of abuse, and can simply bounce back from attack. Cribbs deftly shows in his well-written account how deeply sexual assault cuts into the soul of a survivor, as well as revealing the crushing and lasting remnants of cyclical emotional damage.
Donald, when did you start writing and what are your ambitions for your writing career?
I started writing seriously in high school, mostly short stories and poems. I joined my high school literary magazine, Crossed Sabres, and worked on staff the last year and a half of high school. In college, I joined the writing group, Wooden Nickel, and expanded my creative writing and poetry. I was published in several poetry magazines and journals and continued writing into adulthood.
My ambitions are to write the best books and poetry I can and to share them with readers. It would be a dream to find readers who want me to write more stories, and eventually, I would not mind awards or milestones for my books, such as an NYT bestseller status, for instance. I believe I have many more books in me, and I would be thrilled to get to share them with others.
Are there any particular authors that inspire you?
How much time do you have? May I list all of them? Just kidding. One way to know what authors I read is to look me up on GoodReads and follow my reviews there: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13848822.G_Donald_Cribbs
I will say I love reading (and writing) Young Adult (YA) literature. I believe it’s so vibrant and relevant to the many things going on in the world. Teens truly have a pulse on what’s happening out there, and what needs to be talked about.
Some of my favorite YA authors include Laurie Halse Anderson, Marissa Meyer, Leigh Bardugo, Tahereh Mafi, Veronica Roth, Veronica Rossi, Cheryl Rainfield, Mike Mullin, Barry Lyga, Christa Desir, Benjamin Alire Saenz, and many, many more besides. There are some amazing people in the publishing industry, not just among authors. Over the past several years, I’ve been privileged to get to know some of these terrific folks, and I am often inspired by all the good this industry has to offer beyond the books we write and share.
Tell us about The Packing House, the title, the genre, and what was the hardest part about writing your book.
The Packing House began as a short story in high school. Back then, it was told from the perspective of the mom. When I had the idea for the book, I realized I should write it from the perspective of the oldest son (his name was Carter back then). The meaning of the title comes from the Shakespearean term, to “send someone packing.” Basically, everyone in Joel’s immediate family is running from their problems in some way. His mother is dating anyone who shows interest, and she’s hiding a substantial gambling problem, while his younger brother, Jonathan, is a bit of a player. His goal is to have as much sex with as many girls as possible. When I realized I would write it from Joel’s perspective, I knew I would write it in YA format, first person, and it would be written as a contemporary, yet transgressive story, with a romance subplot between Joel and Amber.
The hardest part about writing the book was starting it, honestly. My first thought was, “who in their right mind would want to read about this topic?” In my mind, no one would want to read this book. So, why write it? Well, in many ways, I lived it. Much of what is Joel’s story is heavily informed by my own childhood experiences, right down to the trauma. In fact, Joel had it easy compared to me. I don’t share that to draw unnecessary attention to myself; it’s just the facts. They say, “write what you know,” so I did.
Certainly, it was difficult to write about the trauma Joel experienced from his past, the trauma that causes his nightmares. Much of that was triggering for me, but in order to do the topic justice, I felt it had to have a genuineness that only comes when you write as true an account (without being gratuitous) as you can. I hope I did that, and let readers and other trauma survivors know they are not alone, that this happens to other people, too. Secondarily, the revisions have been just as challenging, if not more so, given this whole process took me five years to complete prior to publication.
How important of a role do you think the cover of your book, The Packing House, plays? Who was your cover designer, and can you share with us how the design evolved?
The cover definitely plays a role. It’s what leads a reader to pick it up and either check out the back or flip open a few pages and sample the writing. I was fortunate to have a well-seasoned cover designer at Booktrope, in Greg Simanson. He’s an amazing artist, and I am thrilled with the results. Greg took everything I sent him and boiled it down to the core concepts, themes, and even brought his own tone to the piece, which was simply breathtaking when I first saw it. I literally gasped.
The process was a bit strange after that. I had my own ideas in mind, and after some initial suggestions were sent, Greg graciously provided additional revisions to that concept. Ultimately, I was unsettled with the result, despite Greg delivering everything I had asked for. I realized I needed to go back to the original design, and asked him to make that the final cover. Despite writing about Joel as a vulnerable character, I saw the cover as too vulnerable and leaning toward weak. But then I realized, vulnerability isn’t weakness; its strength. That’s been Joel’s story all along, and even I missed it until it was staring me in the face. Despite a bit of a convoluted process, Greg was patient and gracious and incredibly professional about the whole thing. I am so grateful he delivered exactly what the book needed, and there are even some surprises built into the cover you might not notice until the climax. But, you’ll just have to read it to find out what I mean.
Every book has its own process. What was it like for you to write The Packing House? Was there anything unusual for you?
I started writing The Packing House using a set of hashtags on Twitter. Hashtags are how Twitter keeps topics organized, and users can go to a topic thread and post tweets about that topic. Many use these as a “location” to meet and discuss topics weekly. I attend several of those myself.
The two hashtags are #wordmongering and #editmongering. They work like this: at the :00 of the hour, writers can go to #wordmongering, check in with fellow writers, and begin writing together as a group. At the:30, the writers check back into #wordmongering and post their word count for that session. The writers then cheer each other on and repeat the cycle as many times as they wish. Since writing can be a very isolating experience, having a way to connect with fellow writers, and have some accountability, helped me to crank out the 73,000 words of draft one in just under three months time. #editmongering works the same way, with the exception that it begins at the :30, and ends at the :00 of the hour. Again, checking in with peers is encouraged. Similar hashtags are also helpful: #1k1h (1,000 words in 1 hour), #amwriting #amediting, #amrevising, etc.
Aspects of the novel were challenging. There are 12 poems listed throughout the book in between the chapters. They are initially included in letters sent back and forth between Joel and Amber, but eventually, they become part of a portfolio Joel must complete to pass English, or otherwise risk failing for the year. These poems begin to tell their own secondary story. Likewise, the letters back and forth between Joel and Amber add to the subtext, and even the nightmares, as they unfold, add another layer to the unfolding of the story.
Lastly, what are you working on next? And, are you writing a sequel to The Packing House?
Next up, I am writing the sequel to The Packing House, a planned duology (a two book series), entitled, Unpacking the Past. So far, I’m about 12,000 words in, and have the introduction, the hook completed. I have a general outline of where the book is going, and some of the plot twists worked out. Some have been planned since book one. I’ve known about them all along. Some threads of unfinished story will return in book two, and answers will be given.
I’m also in grad school, and am halfway through a master’s degree, so I keep myself pretty busy. Thank you very much, Sahar, for having me on your blog. It was an honor, and I admire your writing as well.
Thank you for visiting, G. Donald Cribbs. Wishing you and your writing career continued success!
The Packing House:
When sixteen-year-old Joel Scrivener has a raging nightmare in study hall and someone records it on their phone, he awakens to a living nightmare where everyone knows the secret he's avoided for ten years. Reeling from a series of bullying incidents posted on YouTube and an ill-timed mid-year move, Joel takes to the woods, leaving the bullies and his broken home behind. However, life as a runaway isn’t easy. Joel finds it difficult to navigate break-ins, wrestle hallucinations and elude capture. He races to figure out who his dream-world attacker could be, piecing clues together with flashes of remembered images that play endlessly inside his head. Besides these images, the one constant thought occupying Joel’s mind is Amber Walker, the girl he’s been in love with for years. Amber sees little beyond the broken boy Joel has become, despite the letters they’ve written back and forth to each other. But Joel is stronger and more resilient than he looks, and it’s time he convinces Amber of this fact before he runs out of chances with her for good.
For those wishing to contact or connect with author G. Donald Cribbs:
∗ Website: http://www.gdonaldcribbs.com/
∗ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gdonaldcribbsauthor
∗ Twitter: https://twitter.com/gdcribbs
∗ Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/gdonaldcribbs
∗ Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/gdcribbs/
∗ Amazon Author page: (coming soon)