Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of your novel! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Gregory L. Norris: Thank you so much! Ex is about a man haunted by the death of the first love of his life. Ten years ago, Steve Ranley crashed his truck into an oak tree at the end of a secret summer when he and Oliver Canfield fell into something like love. In the decade since, Oliver has built a successful life and gotten married to Bradley, but the specter of Steve’s death hangs over him like an unwanted second shadow. As the dubious anniversary looms, Oliver experiences otherworldly phenomena and, at the exact instant on the same day, crashes his car into the cursed oak. He wakes up ten years and several weeks before Steve’s death in the past and sets in motion a plan to prevent the accident, but, in corrupting established time, unleashes ripples that will have devastating consequences.
The idea for the novel came to me in a dream during the summer of 2006. I jotted it on a note card and into my catalog of ideas it went until May 26 of last year. In January of 2020, I lost the love of my life and my husband Bruce to a vicious cousin of Parkinson’s Disease known as Supranuclear Palsy, which has an appetite more akin to ALS. It is always fatal. On what would have been Bruce’s birthday, I began work on Ex Marks the Spot. I penned the first draft in 21 days. Writing the novel became an escape—and a way, through my imagination, to spend more time with Bruce. To save him in the pages of a book after being helpless to do so in real life. I continued the tradition of starting a novel on his birthday again in 2021 with my dystopian The Lost City of Books. Bruce was a voracious reader and would have loved the new novel, which I penned in 38 days.
BD: The novel deftly combines sci-fi, time travel, and romance elements. What can you share with us about your creative process in weaving these narratives together, and what have been some of your creative influences?
GLN: My process included and includes waking up in the morning, greeting my enormous rescue cat Daisy, thinking about the day’s writing adventures, gliding down the stairs, brewing coffee, feeding the cat, and then getting to work. During the writing of Ex, that also meant luxuriating on my sun porch with its views of the mountains, river, and the surrounding forests near my home on the hill, Xanadu. My sun porch is my alfresco office during the warm months—a slice of heaven! I wrote the first draft longhand, as I do all of my work save for screenplays. I listened to the original Dark Shadows soundtrack for three solid weeks. I lived the novel and cried nonstop throughout writing the final chapter.
My creative influences include the creature double features and classic SF TV I grew up on—the Robinson expedition on Lost in Space, Dark Shadows, and the outstanding anime Star Blazers, the original Battlestar Galactica, and especially Gerry Anderson’s outer space parable, Space:1999, which first inspired me to pick up my pen when I was a boy. I love the works of Poe, Mrs. Shelley, Hawthorne, D.H. Lawrence, and modern masters like the Sisters Dent, Roxanne and Karen. I consider Rod Serling an inspiration and role model, as I do Agnes Nixon, who created the soaps All My Children, Loving, The City, and the late, great One Life to Live. I had the divine gift of meeting Ms. Nixon on June 5, 1994, in New York City in the hair and makeup room at All My Children and got to talk writing with her. I try to read everything and I love to be surprised by writing that steals my breath.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Oliver’s story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
GLN: My novel, at its heart, is a love story—and who doesn’t love a love story? For me personally, Ex Marks the Spot is a love letter penned to my late husband. But I hope it’s relatable and engaging to anyone who picks up a copy.
BD: Do you foresee expanding the novel into subsequent books or even into other entertainment mediums, if given the opportunity?
GLN: This novel was a standalone—I told the story and the story is complete. Would I love to see it produced as a feature film? Absolutely! But as for sequels, well, I always keep an open mind. I recently penned a novella that continues a story I thought done, but the story thought otherwise. And I’ve been writing about a character in a series of Space:1999 fan fiction tales, novellas, and even novels called Rudj Rudat since I was a teen. He’s a delicious villain and foil, and though I killed him off last year in what I think is the final appearance, Rudat and my Muse might decide differently.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
GLN: I mentioned The Lost City of Books, which is under contract by Van Velser Books for a 2022 release. And following up Ex for the fine folks at Woodhall Press is The Solar System, tentatively scheduled for September 2022 publication. The Solar System came to me late in the night last autumn. I woke from a sound sleep dreaming about a project in which I wrote one SF story each for Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Moon, Mars, Asteroid Belt, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. I started soon after with the Pluto story and wrapped up the last, Mars, this past spring. It’s a wild ride, with stories about religion, politics, and man’s place in the cosmos. And giant robots in one story!
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Ex Marks the Spot and your other work?
GLN: Ex will be available September 7, 2021, from all the usual venues. And I’m easy to find on Facebook, where I report mostly on my writing adventures and new releases. Do a web search and you’ll see plenty of my work out there in the universe.