My name is Glen Shuld.
I am 60 years old.
Where are you from?
I was born into a middle class Jewish family in Chicago, where I currently reside.
A little about yourself...
My maternal grandfather served the USA in WWI, fighting in France. My father served in WWII under General Patton. He saw heavy fighting, and participated in the Battle of the Bulge. I’m proud of these facts.
I live with my partner of almost 12 years, and our Sphinx cat Pyewacket. I have one niece and one nephew who are more like my own children. I was and remain very active in their lives, although they are now independent adults.
I graduated from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois with both a BA (in Spanish literature), and an MBA. I worked for 19 years in corporate communications at a Fortune 500 company, taught marketing at the graduate level at The University of Chicago, and now have my own, small real estate investment company with two partners from which I hope to soon retire so I can devote more time to writing.
My partner and I are lucky to be able to enjoy the countless cultural activities of Chicago, which is a regular part of our lives. We also can escape big city life to the other side of Lake Michigan, to a small beachside, harbor town where I have an old family house. We have the best of both worlds on each side of magnificent Lake Michigan. My family started vacationing in this town in 1926, as it was one of the few resort towns that accommodated Jewish tourists.
My father died suddenly of an aneurysm at age 40 in 1964. His funeral was on my seventh birthday. My mother never remarried, and raised my two older sisters and me with the assistance of my maternal grandparents. My mother is 93 and still going strong. She was a public school teacher in Chicago from 1946 until she retired at age 90 in 2014. She received many honors for her long service. One of my sisters died 10 years ago of cancer. We were and remain a very close family.
I’m sure that my father’s sudden death when I was seven years old, and the fact that I was a gay child in the 1960s – when there were no role models, and it was pretty much a taboo subject – were the two most difficult challenges I faced in life. They were good for a few decades of therapy!
Tell us your latest news.
I have decided to write a play. I see a lot of theater in Chicago. There are over 200 small theater companies in addition to the larger, better known ones. I love watching good live theater, where the writing is smart, funny, and insightful. I would love to see my words spoken by talented actors live on stage. I’ve been studying what it is that makes a good play, and now I just have to take that first step that all writers are familiar with when beginning a project.
When did you begin writing?
I had a few false starts writing over the years. When I was twelve, my best friend and I decided that each of us would write a novel. I was reading a book by Francis Parkinson Keyes at the time, so I tried to imitate her. I didn’t get very far, and the outcome was hilariously awful.
As an adult, I wrote briefly without direction or passion. About a dozen years ago, my career changed allowing me more time to write. I’ve always regretted not pursuing a career in the arts, and I had gleaned over the years that I had an ability to write. I decided it was time to become serious about writing. Thus began The Color of Character.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When someone who I did not know well, not only purchased my book, butwas so affected by it, that she wanted to talk to me about it.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I knew enough to write about something that was familiar to me, unique, and yet somehow universal. I had a story to tell that I know others could also tell, but they never would due to the constraints of political correctness. I decided to take a risk with my first book by writing about things that don’t always follow the acceptable narrative when talking about race relations. Although my experiences took place in 1970, they will always be relevant. The universality of human relationships, how we judge individuals and groups, and the topic of race relations all swirl together.
The working title of the book, believe it or not, was Shades of Gray. The story was that the narrative between the races is not simple and clear cut, as it is often made out to be. During the ten years I worked on the book, Fifty Shades of Grey was released, and I thought it best to distance myself from it. Perhaps I would have had more sales if I stuck with it. I began to think about a point of the story that harks back to Dr. King’s speech regarding judging people by character and not color. Character has no color. I pondered this, and soon the title wrote itself.
Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I do not think I’ve written enough to discern a specific style. I think my style will change with the story I am telling, as I don’t believe one style can be best for all stories. The challenge of The Color of Character (it’s fiction, but somewhat autobiographical, and mostly historic), was telling it in the first person, and trying to distinguish when I was speaking as the adult character reflecting, or as the boy relating an event as it happened to him. The use of language and point of view differs between the two, although they are the same character.
How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The entire book is based on a combination of my experiences, the experiences of people I know, and current events at the time the story takes place. The fiction is that I combined these experiences into the life of one person, and changed the amount of time it took for them to unfold.
To craft your works do you have to travel?
No. I am lucky that the two places in the world that are most familiar to me offer many possibilities as settings for stories. Chicago provides the urban American setting, and South Haven, Michigan is small town America. While I believe much of what I write will happen in these locales, the stories themselves could happen in other major American cities or small Great Lakes towns.
Who designed the covers?
The cover of The Color of Character is rather stark. I have to take full credit for better or worse. I used a Create Space format. By the time the book was edited and ready to publish, I skimped on the effort to come up with a professionally designed cover. The format is unsuitable for the book, because the size of the font on the spine is tiny, and illegible. It’s clearly a format for a smaller book. I’ve since attempted to commission artwork for a better cover, but I haven’t seen anything I like. I’m open to suggestions!
I am terrible using technology, and I hesitate to change anything that requires me to delve into the publishing software. I’d like to add some of the wonderful reviews I’ve received to the back cover, along with a photo of myself, but my experience at making edits has been dreadful. I corrected the spelling of a word, and when I resubmitted the manuscript, I was promptly notified that I was using an unacceptable format. It was their format. How was that possible? It took days of anguish to have it re-accepted. I feared the book would never be back on the market.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Most definitely. I’ve tried to reiterate it regularly in my blog. Where the issue of race relations in America is concerned, we need to have an open, honest, dialogue. This is not easy. The parties should not prejudge each other without giving everyone a fair hearing. There should be no finger pointing and name calling. This tends to alienate one group or the other, hindering any chance for mutual understanding. Silence forced by fear of being on the less popular side of the national narrative only breeds resentment. By the example that plays out in The Color of Character, which took place almost 50 years ago, we still need to learn that lowering the bar in education to avoid appearing racially insensitive, does not help those in need of help, and it does not confer self-esteem on anyone. Self-esteem comes with achievement.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
Almost all the reading I do is historical non-fiction. I enjoy reading the biographies of leading historical figures, whether heroes or villains. Most fall in between. I also love any good book, fact or fiction about the sea. That’s ironic, as I am prone to sea sickness. That brings me to my favorite writer. I name him as my favorite writer, because he wrote my favorite book. Walter Lord wrote A Night To Remember, about the sinking of the Titanic. No book before or sense ever captured my imagination more than his iconic telling of that iconic tale of tragedy at sea.
Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
There was no writer’s organization or school that I turned to, but if you take my group of friends as a single entity, they were always supportive. I am fortunate to have many close friends for many decades, and we always support one another however we can.
Do you see writing as a career?
Absolutely. I will be winding down my business career soon, and I will be in a position to write as a career. I have to accept that the odds are against it being lucrative. I am very fortunate that having worked hard until now, if it doesn’t pan out, I won’t go hungry. What I do find unpleasant about a career in writing today is that it is much less about writing, and much more about the business of sales, marketing, and self-promotion.
If you had it to do all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
You know, I had a hard time letting go of the story. I could always find something that might be improved upon. Very few books can ever be called perfect. I had to learn to accept that, and let it go. If I think about what I would change, I’d be back in the state of mind where I didn’t think the story was ready for its public debut – and it’s too late for that. I eventually made the decision to look to my next project, and not reconsider the book.
Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I learned so much through the writing, editing, and rewriting process about what makes a good sentence. Of course, I brushed up on all of my rules of grammar and punctuation as well.
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
For the lead as a child, I will leave that to the casting directors. I don’t know many child actors. Since the lead character as an adult is semi-autobiographical, George Clooney would suit the physical qualities of the lead. Kidding aside, when Dustin Hoffman was in his fifties, he would be a good fit.
Any advice to other writers?
I don’t presume to have any advice that hasn’t been said many times before. Distilling the wisdom to a few pearls is difficult. Keep writing. Tell a story that you want to tell. Edit.
Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
What book are you reading now?
The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty, by Caroline Alexander. It combines history and adventure at sea. For me, that’s perfect. I so admire the hard work that goes into writing accurate historical books.
Do you remember the first book you read?
My late sister, who was older than I, read many stories to me. I remember one called Katie the Curious Cow. I was of the American generation that learned to read from the stories about Dick, Jane, and Sally. The first book that I was proud to have read because it had very few pictures, and seemed thick like a novel that grown ups would read was called, Mr. Apples Family.
What makes you laugh/cry?
I laugh at comedy that is based on ordinary life as seen through the eyes of someone who copes with life’s challenges through a neurotic lens. I have always cried anytime I witness an animal hurt or suffering. My mother could not take me to see many children’s movies if she knew in advance that an animal was lost, or hurt, or God forbid, killed. I’ve never outgrown that.
Is there one person past or present you would love to meet? Why?
There are many people whom I would like to meet just so I could punch them in the nose for all the harm they’ve done to us. However, since I don’t like confrontation, I’ll avoid that path. I think Moses could offer astonishing insight. He codified the notion that we are not just toys in the hands of some whimsical forces of nature or gods, but instead have meaning and purpose in our lives, and that this comes with responsibility and moral imperatives. That took civilization in a whole new direction. I’d ask him to come clean about whether he had help writing everything down, and if he really had direct contact with God, or just embellished reality to give the laws and commandments the power of authority.
Do you have any hobbies?
There are many things that I enjoy doing, and try to do often, such as exercise, play the piano, read, volunteer at an animal shelter, follow the Chicago Cubs, and other activities, but I don’t think I can elevate any of them to the level of a hobby. I love to putter around our family vacation house and garden in South Haven, Michigan. Maybe that’s my hobby.
What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I enjoy watching two genres: historical and horror. Regarding the horror films I enjoy, they do not include movies where people are the victims of knife wielding slashers. I enjoy psychological horror. My favorite horror move is the 1963 version of The Haunting, based on a Shirley Jackson novel. I think the movie is even more frightening than the book, and there are no special effects. You never see anything horrifying, yet the movie gets under your skin and makes your hair stand on end. I’ve watched it many times.
Favorite foods, colors, music?
I have a sweet tooth, and every dinner is simply a prelude to dessert. Favorites include any cake with frosting, banana cream pie, and desserts with coconut. The colors I like are in the cooler side of the palette: blues, greens, and their combinations. As for music, I am a devotee of what is known as The Great American Songbook, and I follow the cabaret community in Chicago. Many of the artists in that genre are personal friends.
Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I do many things other than writing, so I imagine myself doing more of the same.
What do you want written on your head stone?
The world is a better place because he was here. My family and religious (Jewish) instruction taught me that this is the reason we all pass this way.
Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
My website includes all of my blogposts and reviews: www.thecolorofcharacter.com
Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Color-Character-Glen-Shuld/dp/1508955158/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1507664559&sr=8-3&keywords=the+color+of+character
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