Monday, May 13, 2013

Graffiti Grandma


I’d like to introduce you to my good friend Jo Barney. Jo is launching her latest novel this week. We’ve been writing companions for years, and she deserves much of the credit for improving the quality of my writing. I think you’ll find her latest work extremely compelling, and I hope you’ll take advantage of her free book give-a-way.

Hello, All!  And thank you, Steve, for this chance to join your blog for a day. Over the twenty years since I decided to be a writer, I’ve written four or so novels. Right from the first, each of them has come from some aspect of my own life, but each is mostly fiction. 

The first is set in an elementary school containing a character who is a counselor, a rigid principal, little kids. Just like me, except this counselor had a great sex life as well as job worries.

The second’s hero was a hockey player who quit the sport and drank beer until he came to grips with his changing life.  Like my son, sort of.  He advised on the ice scenes but not on the love scenes.

The third tells of a reunion of four old college friends and their reactions to a request from one of them to help her commit suicide.  The friends and their backstories are almost real, the request not.

And now Graffiti Grandma.  For a time, I lived in a neighborhood under attack by mid-night artists who left their marks on every mailbox, street sign, telephone pole on every street in my neighborhood, and the ugliness of their efforts drove me a little nuts.  I began going out with Graffiti X and removing what I could whenever I got mad enough.  One day, in a real snit, I found myself imagining a crabby old lady in red tennis shoes (my shoes were new Nikes) and a NY Yankees cap scrubbing down mailboxes––a little like me.  In my imagination, she is approached by a Goth girl heavy with black mascara and wearing torn net stockings. “Can I help?’ she asks.

What could bring these two very different people together? the writer in me wondered.  It was probably the toxic fumes of the Graffiti X that inspired me, but somehow as I made my rounds of boxes, my almost-story got peopled with a little boy and his grandpa, a cop, his autistic son, street kids and a psychopath.  Not my usual companions, but intriguing to think about, the mix, the story, the truths I would find.

Again, a corner of my own life grew into a piece of fiction containing unfamiliar people and scenes, but built on an idea that has always been vitally important to me––that we each have an innate need for family and when we have lost one, we will try to find another. 

So when I am asked the genre of Graffiti Grandma, I always hesitate.  It is a thriller of sorts, a description of desperate lives most of us will never experience, but mostly, I think, it is a story of love which we all look for.  A thriller with a heart. Does it bother you, a reader, that a book has no clear identity?  If not, perhaps it’s because most of our lives do not fit into neat slots, but are sprawling, messy, one or two ideas holding it all together.

Graffiti Grandma, ebook,($2.99) will be offered free on Amazon on May 13 and May 14, 2013. The paperback ($13.95) is now available on Amazon.


  1. Now that sounds like a book I would like to read. I'm headed over to Amazon when I get a few minutes. Thank you!

  2. Interesting book, that should be!

    Btw Stephen, it is good to see a full length post on this blog from u. Been awhile! :)

  3. Very nice!

    There's a little graffiti grandma in me as well!


  4. What interesting concepts for novels. I'm particularly interested in the counselor with a great sex life. ;-)


  5. Cool. Not sure if I can get ebooks from Amazon b/c I have a Nook, not a Kindle. I should explore that possibility.

  6. Thanks for the free ebook--looks interesting!!

  7. I'm always so impressed by authors! To be able to turn a little idea like that into a whole novel takes such talent and hard work. And I so enjoy the fruits of their labors! :) I'm going to Amazon to check this book out. Thanks!

  8. OK...I will try this as it sounds very interesting.

  9. Thanks, Jo, for an interesting post and Stephen for hosting it. I'm intrigued by your description of the characters in Graffiti Grandma, and will look on Amazon to see if I can download a copy. Congrats on the book release, and Good Luck with sales.