After several tries, my local paper sent a reporter to interview me about my new book, "Some Rivers End on the Day of the Dead." I was pleased to meet Michelle Sathe, an author in her own right, at Santa Clarita's Central Bark. The dogs brought in a lot of reader attention!
Words still fascinate Eileen Granfors. The Newhall resident retired from 31 years of teaching English and literature in 2006. The very next day, she began writing books.
“It was time to learn a new skill,” she said.
In October, Granfors published her book, the young adult novel “Some Rivers End on the Day of the Dead,” through CreateSpace.
“Some Rivers End” is available on Amazon.com for $12. It tells the story of 14-year-old Marisol, who’s on the run with her mother after her journalist American father is murdered while covering Mexico’s drug wars.
The high school freshman and her mother end up in a campsite on the outskirts of a rich California suburb, with Marisol trying to fit in while staying true to her heritage.
Marisol is Mexican, her thoughts and speech peppered with Spanish words, a composite of some of the girls Granfors grew up with in Imperial Beach.
“It’s right by the border. When I was a child, Imperial Beach was predominantly white, dominated by young military families. By the time I got to high school, it was three-quarter Latino,” Granfors said.
“Some Rivers End” is dedicated to Granfors’ childhood friend Denise Contreras Harder, who grew up to be a high school principal, while Granfors pursued teaching.
“We shared a dream to be more,” Granfors said.
Teaching to writing
Granfors spent 29 years teaching at Saugus High School, as well as two years at Sierra Vista Junior High in Canyon Country, a career she enjoyed tremendously as she wrote poetry on the side.
In class, while reading the classics, students would pose the most interesting questions to Granfors, such as why the protagonist in “A Tale of Two Cities” would allow for his head to be chopped off.
“I really had to look at that. Many of my former students are still waiting for my long-promised prequel to ‘A Tale of Two Cities.’ I have the first part written, but the research is killing me,” she said.
Once she retired, to flesh out her writing skills, Granfors enrolled in Extension Writer’s Program at UCLA. Some classes were held on campus, some online.
“I like the online format but really needed the one-on-one interaction, too,” she said.
Her first book, “Stairs of Sand,” a semi-autobiographical novel based on her childhood and family dynamics, was completed within a year. Granfors sent out 65 query letters to agents, with two nibbles of interest.
“I knew the flaws; it needed a little revision before going out into the world,” she said.
Granfors shelved the project. Instead she focused on a new idea that was prompted by a class exercise, when a teacher asked students to contemplate the statement, “There’s a river in all of us.”
“I thought, ‘What does that mean? What’s that river?” Granfors said.
The answer was “Some Rivers End on the Day of the Dead.”
Also known as Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead is a popular Mexican holiday that gathers friends and family to remember and pray for friends and relatives who have died.
“I knew the character was going to be named Marisol, and that the story would grow from her desire to find her way and keep her sense of self after her father dies,” Granfors said.
Deadlines and muses
With the kernels for a book popping in her head, Granfors set herself a six-month deadline and began researching.
Her writing process began each day at 8 a.m. as she walked her dogs Nilla and Kali whom Granfors and her husband rescued from puppy mills.
“I thought about the scenes as I walked,” Granfors said. “If I wasn’t writing by 9 a.m., it was a day I wouldn’t be writing.”
In the afternoon, the trio headed to Central Bark in Saugus for an hourlong play session. Upon returning home, Granfors reread, edited and made notes on her work.
During this process, Marisol morphed from a “bad girl” who set the fire that destroys her camp to a more innocent young woman who didn’t cuss or engage in raunchy humor and respected her elders.
This was not popular with the agents Granfors approached to represent “Some Rivers End.”
“They didn’t think it was real or edgy enough, but there are kids who are not part of that world. They may be few and far between, but I chose to keep Marisol kind of naïve and very kind-hearted. This is not ‘The Girl in the Hornet’s Nest,’” she said. “There are many girls who are still in love with ‘Pride and Prejudice.’”
Being true to her convictions is important to Granfors.
“I look at this as my legacy. Not just for my son, daughter and grandkids, but for the world. To say, I was here and this is how I saw the world,” she said.
Navigating the market
“Some River’s End” was released in October, with a colorful drawing of a skeleton teen decked out in boots and a mini-dress by popular artist Martha Rodriguez on the cover.
“The reviews are good online. Sales are a little slower than I thought, but average for a self-publisher,” Granfors said.
She’s already planning the prequel “The Pinata Maker’s Daughter” and the sequel, “So You, Solimar.” The latter is going to prove a challenge, Granfors admitted.
“It’s set in 2016, so it’s going to involve a little science fiction, which is hard for me. But I’m having fun with it, too,” she said.
Meanwhile, it’s all about getting the word out about “Some Rivers End,” which Granfors is doing through social media avenues such as Facebook, a blog (www.marisolsomeriversend.blogspot.com), Amazon and Goodreads.com.
“People tell me I should go on Twitter. I need to learn how to tweet,” she said.
She’s also sending out old-school postcards to friends and family who aren’t online and offering “Some River’s End” as a selection to Santa Clarita Valley book clubs.
The next step is approaching home-schooled children and youth groups. Not to say Granfors isn’t open to bigger markets.
“I haven’t heard from Oprah yet,” she said with a laugh.
For more information on “Some Rivers End on the Day of the Dead,” visit www.marisolriversend.blogspot.com or www.amazon.com. For more information on Eileen Granfors, visit www.eileengranfors.blogspot.com.
Michelle Sathe's book is called "Pit Stop." It is a fascinating tale of the work of rescue groups across America.