WASILLA — Grant Olson is a longtime member of the Valley Performing Arts Center and an active member of the local theater community. He recently participated in a question and answer interview to discuss publishing his first three novels back to back, the creative process, and finding inspiration from the world around him.
Q: What are the books about?My first book— since I was a middle school teacher— was a young adult fantasy, ‘State of a Union.’ It tells the story of a 15-year-old girl who accidentally goes back exactly 150 years through a malfunctioning cell phone to the American Civil War… The second one is called ‘Playland in the Time of Coronavirus.’ I must have started it in March, and I finished it in September... It’s kind of in the form of a diary. He’s commenting on what’s happening in the country and the world… My last one which I just finished is called ‘Jonathon’s Cadenza.’ It’s about a troubled violin virtuoso… There’s a couple of twists that were the result of something that happened to my wife and me. She’s a violinist, that’s how I met her. I took all her knowledge and made a dramatization. You kind of borrow from what you know and go with it.”
Q: How long have you been working on these books?“Since the start of the pandemic is when I started writing. So, that’s what you can do with your time if you have a year and a half off. Of course, I was retired. So, there was that advantage too. I wasn’t worried about Zoom and all that.”
Have you always wanted to publish your own books?
“Oh, no. I actually committed to the theatre since I was about 11 or 12 years old. I’m one of the few people who haven’t burnt out on it. But, for some reason after teaching Palmer Junior Middle School Advanced Language Arts for 14 years, then I was retired, then theatre was starting to slow up, I started getting my mind around that to see what the other writers have done. As it turns out, I can put one sentence in front of another… It’s kind of like the way I’ve done theatre. I’ll do a musical, then I’ll do a farce, and then I’ll do a drama. I just like to diversify. It keeps me interested in what I’m doing.”
Q: What were some of your motivations for getting these books out there?“One of my motivations was that I hardly know anything about my grandparents at all. I barely have anything I can put in my hand except a couple of pictures. I was kind of motivated to write these so I can leave some kind of legacy. I’m not too much concerned about how well they sell. I’m not going to make a fortune on it. I made two full-length movies, put up my own money, probably $7,000 to $10,000 each time. I haven’t seen hardly a dollar back on it, but at least I can say I did it, and when we were working on it, we all enjoyed it. It was a creative process… That’s the way it is with directing too. There’s just times when you hope that something that you’ve done is memorable and kind of has an impression on them beyond that night at the theatre. You can’t do that with many other professions… People that are in theatre, movies, literature, music, they have an ability to impact people’s lives immeasurably.”
Q: What are some of your favorite parts of the writing process?“Getting scenes realistic, exciting, memorable, really filling out characters so they can move the plot along, and plot it out so it’s kind of interesting.”
Q: You’ve jumped from one creative pursuit to the other all your life, why is creativity so important to you?“It’s my whole reason for being.”
Q: What’s your upcoming production?“‘Aida.’ It’s a musical by Tim Rice and Elton John. It was originally a Disney production. In fact, it was the musical that they did right after ‘The Lion King.’ It’s got beautiful music in it… I did it at Palmer High School. When we did it, we had six sold-out concerts and standing ovations every night.”
Q: Olson’s books are available at Fireside Books in downtown Palmer and they can also be found on Amazon.com.Auditions for the upcoming “Aida” production are scheduled for January and the show is slated to open in April.
For more information, visit valleyperformingarts.org.
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at firstname.lastname@example.org