BEHIND THE BOOK
A CONVERSATION WITH C. JOSEPH GREAVES
author of Church of the Graveyard Saints
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So far, what’s been the most surprising (and/or difficult, and/or enjoyable) part about writing your book?
From its inception, Church of the Graveyard Saints was a book about place. I’d moved to the Four Corners region in January of 2012 after twenty-five years in Los Angeles and six in Santa Fe, and saw all five of my previous novels (beginning with Hush Money in June of 2012) published while living in McElmo Canyon, just west of Cortez, Colorado. The question I heard constantly, after the release of each new book, was, “When are you going to write about Cortez?” And I did want to write about Cortez; about the cultural differences between urban/suburban living and life in a rural farming community, about the area’s breathtaking natural beauty, and about the threats to that beauty posed, primarily, by the extractive industries that increasingly encroach on its borders.
My conceit for the book was to have a bright young Cortez native – the fictional Addie Decker – leave her family’s ranch in McElmo Canyon for college in Los Angeles, vowing never to return. Then, thanks to a confluence of circumstances, she does return five years later to assist her environmental studies professor, with whom she’s in a relationship, in opposing the expansion of carbon dioxide mining in and around the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. In so doing she must also contend with her difficult father, her old boyfriend, the love/hate relationship she’d developed with her hometown, and certain entrenched interests bent on thwarting her mission. By these devices I hoped to craft a nuanced examination of the ties that bind us to a place, be they friends or family, love or loyalty.
“I hoped to craft a nuanced examination
of the ties that bind us to a place,
be they friends or family, love or loyalty.”
While it sounds like a simple concept, its execution took over three years, and while it’s a relatively short novel, it proved to be one of the more challenging projects I’ve ever undertaken. I call it a work of upmarket commercial fiction with elements of eco-thriller and contemporary romance. It’s also, I suppose, a kind of love letter to the place I now call home.
Tell us about your dream book launch party.
My dream launch party would involve Cormac McCarthy inviting me, along with the crème de la crème of the world literary community, to his home for dinner in celebration of what he regards as nothing less than the Great American Novel.
Here on planet Earth, I hope to launch Church of the Graveyard Saints at Maria’s Bookshop in Durango with as many friends as possible in attendance.
Describe one of your favorite places. What makes this place special to you?
Several spring to mind, but foremost among them is Ocean Beach on Fire Island, a resort community off the southern coast of Long Island in New York. There are no roads there, and no cars, and it’s reachable only by ferry boat. I spent three summers there in my early twenties bartending and surfing and playing beach volleyball, and my memories of those years are still, forty years later, suffused in a golden glow.
Why Torrey House?
Having followed Torrey House’s evolution through my friendship with National Park Mystery author Scott Graham (we co-author a book review column for the Four Corners Free Press) and on Facebook, I was intrigued by the prospect of becoming a THP author and in particular by the way in which my novel’s Four Corners setting and anti-industry message jibed with THP’s core values and mission.
What are you most looking forward to in 2019?
Working on my current (seventh) novel-in-progress, the fourth installment in my Jack MacTaggart series of legal mysteries. Hearing back from the Guggenheim Foundation regarding my grant proposal for a nonfiction book project that, should I win a fellowship, would probably follow after that. Seeing a magazine article I sold earlier this year about my great-uncle, the boxer Steve Hamas, finally in print. Waiting to hear back from Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine about a short story I recently submitted. Also an unusually snowy winter, a bountiful grape harvest, and seeing Donald Trump impeached. And of course, launching Church of the Graveyard Saints onto the New York Times bestseller list.
Help bring Church of the Graveyard Saints by C. Joseph Greaves to the page.
C. Joseph Greaves spent twenty-five years as an LA trial lawyer before devoting his talents to fiction. Sometimes writing as Chuck Greaves, he has been a finalist for most of the major awards in crime fiction including the Shamus, Macavity, Lefty, and Audie, as well as the New Mexico-Arizona, Oklahoma, and Colorado Book Awards. He is the author of five previous novels, most recently Tom & Lucky, a Wall Street Journal “Best Books of 2015” selection and finalist for the 2016 Harper Lee Prize. He is also a member of the National Book Critics Circle and the book critic for the Four Corners Free Press newspaper in southwestern Colorado, where he lives and writes. For more information you can visit him at www.chuckgreaves.com. His novel Church of the Graveyard Saints is forthcoming September 2019 from Torrey House Press.