Celebrating Texas Writers Month with us today is Greg Garrett (Austin).
Comment below and subscribe via Feedburner by June 5 to win a signed copy of Greg’s latest release, Shame: A Novel. Giveaway for U.S. residents only.
Greg Garrett is the author of over a dozen critically-acclaimed books of fiction, memoir, translation, and criticism. His debut novel Free Bird was chosen by Publishers’ Weekly and the Denver Rocky Mountain News as one of the top fiction debuts of 2002, and many have been moved by his autobiographical writing on depression and faith, Crossing Myself and No Idea, but he is probably best known for his books on religion, politics, and culture. These works include One Fine Potion: The Literary Magic of Harry Potter, We Get to Carry Each Other: The Gospel according to U2, Stories from the Edge: A Theology of Grief, Holy Superheroes!, The Gospel According to Hollywood, and The Gospel Reloaded: Exploring Spirituality and Faith in the Matrix (with Chris Seay).
Greg’s work has been covered by The New Yorker, USA Today, The Christian Science Monitor, BBC Radio, National Public Radio, CBS Radio, msnbc.com, The Bob Edwards Show, The National Review, Commonweal, and many other broadcast, print, and web venues.
In addition to his ongoing work in fiction, he is currently doing thinking, research, and writing for book projects on post-9/11 literature and culture, American religion and politics, and Christian wisdom traditions. Greg is an award-winning Professor of English at Baylor University, Writer in Residence at the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest and at Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden, Wales, and a licensed lay preacher based at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Austin.
His heroes include Martin Luther King, Barbara Jordan, Henry David Thoreau, Robert F. Kennedy, Desmond Tutu, and Stevie Ray Vaughn. His favorite authors include Lee Smith, Walker Percy, Graham Greene, Nick Hornby, Barbara Brown Taylor, Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Merton, Rowan Williams, and Anne Lamott. He plays Taylor GS-7, Fender Stratocaster, and Epiphone Casino guitars, and he likes both green and red chile on his blue corn enchiladas. He lives in Austin with his two sons, Jake and Chandler.
Q. Are you a native Texan or did you get here as soon as you could?
A. I’ve lived well over half my life in Texas, but I was born and most of my family still lives in our neighbor to the north. Although Native Texans would probably deny this, small town Oklahoma and small town Texas are pretty similar, so I feel like I had a good preparation for my emigration to the Great State. I like to say that in general, Oklahomans are Texans with an inferiority complex. And many Texans would say that complex is deserved. But I’ve taught at Baylor since 1989, and lived in Austin for the last decade, and my identity now is very much as a writer from Austin, Texas.
Q. How did you end up writing both novels and nonfiction?
A. I’ve told stories my whole life. My Grandma Irene has a file full of stories I wrote and illustrated when I was four. Most of them seem to be about clowns and firefighters, which set the pattern for my storytelling in later life. My novels tend to be about funny/sad men and people who try to save other people.
I began writing nonfiction later in life–I was trained as a journalist, working for a magazine covering entertainment, and a newspaper covering sports. Later, I started writing nonfiction with my friend Chris Seay, who was (and is) interested in the intersection of religion and culture. So I’ve since written a lot about spirituality, culture, and religion, and have added politics to the mix in recent years.
Q. What book marketing activities made you a bestselling author?
A. I don’t honestly know–short of the passionate on-air endorsement by Oprah–what makes a fiction best-seller. My first novel was on some best first books lists, and sold well, although it didn’t make me a household name. I did 50 bookstore or other public appearances, but the primary product of those activities seemed to be my own exhaustion. However my nonfiction has often been oriented around promotional opportunities, and my best-sellers have taken advantage of topicality to gain old and new media coverage. For my books on the Matrix films and U2, I did scores of radio interviews, a bit of television, podcasts, wrote for magazines, newpapers, and web publication, and did lots of speaking. I think that combination of marketing and subsidiary publication was a big part of the success. Also that I’d written something about a really popular topic that attracted fans to read it.
Q. Tell us about your latest release. Is it set in Texas?
A. My last novel, Shame, was set on a farm in northwestern Oklahoma, although it could just as easily have been set in Blanco or Denison. My latest book is nonfiction called The Other Jesus, and it can’t properly be said to be set anywhere, although it includes interviews with the Episcopal Bishop of Texas, Andy Doyle, and my former rector at St.James, Austin, who is now Bishop of Olympia based in Seattle. I talk about St. James and my current home, St. David’s, Austin, as well, so maybe it is set in Texas after all.
Q. Where can we pay you a virtual visit?
A. My blog for The Christian Century is theotherjesus.com, but I write more regularly for the online magazine Patheos, where I do a weekly column that can be found at
Faithful Citizenship: http://www.patheos.com/About-Patheos/Greg-Garrett.html
BookTour site: http://www.booktour.com/author/28196