On July 14, we’re releasing Long Live Grover Cleveland, a novel that will keep you turning pages to see what happens when a used-car salesman answers the call to preside over a dying college in the wilds of Maine. “The author, a college professor, does a very nice job of keeping the tone light and of using his characters to generate the laughs. There’s even a nifty twist ending. Good fun for fans of campus satire” (David Pitt, Booklist). Get to know author Robert Klose here.
What inspired you to write Long Live Grover Cleveland?
I have been teaching college for many years. Higher academia is a bottomless pit of inspiration. The list of administrative inanities is almost endless. As a writer, it would have been foolish not to tap into this experience.
Which character do you identify with most? In what ways?
Probably Brisco Quik. I’m not manic the way he is, but like Brisco, I often find myself getting wound up about something only to find that I am inveighing against vested interests which have far more power than I and don’t care how wound up I am.
Which character was the most fun to write?
Marcus Cleveland was a fun character to develop, because it was necessary to have him succeed in spite of his glaring unsuitability to run a college. I had to somehow find a way to make this unsuitability his greatest strength.
Which character was the most challenging to write?
Brisco Quik was a minor challenge. He’s an angry person, but I think readers weary of characters who express nothing but anger. So I needed to create some level of sympathy for him by delving into his background and exploring the limitations of his ability to both accept and give love.
Brisco is an arch-antagonist, full of oppositional energy. Once I had settled on what kind of person my protagonist, Marcus Cleveland, would be—agreeable, forgiving and oblivious—the idea of Brisco suggested itself. He needed to be uncompromising and intemperate.
What types of research did you do while writing Long Live Grover Cleveland?
After teaching college for so many years, I had the culture of the academy down pat and didn’t need to research the structure and function of an institution of higher education. I needed only to look into the life of Grover Cleveland to ensure that any references I made to him were accurate.
Who are some of your writing influences?
My writing bears absolutely no resemblance to that of the authors I most esteem: Isaac Bashevis Singer, Flannery O’Connor, H.L. Mencken, Philip Roth. So I am “influenced” by them only in the sense that their work inspires me to keep on writing.
What is your basic writing process, from idea to final draft?
I try to write first thing in the morning. If I can create 500 to 1,000 words of clean prose, I consider it a good day’s work. I rarely have an idea how a narrative will resolve; I simply have faith that my characters will have safely guided me there by story’s end. Once I have a first draft, I begin the real work of writing, which is the editing process. I reread and edited Long Live Grover Cleveland eighteen times before I felt it was where I wanted it to be.
How do you push through writer’s block?
I simply don’t believe in it. I’m mindful of the writer Henry Roth, who is said to have endured a 40-year writer’s block. I find this astounding. How can any writer with his eyes open not be constantly inspired by the world that parades before us?
What’s one of your own tried-and-true writing rules?
The only one I abide by is to write even when I find the going difficult—it often turns out that I do my best work when it’s like pulling teeth.
What are you working on now?
I’m making progress on a novel that explores a near-future America where extreme right-wing tenets—the disavowal of evolution, climate change, and even the moon landings—have become conventional wisdom and colleges and universities have become little more than conduits for the “new science.”