George Polley

I’d like to introduce you to the thirty-fourth interviewee in my ‘Meet the Author’ series. He is George Polley.

QUESTION: Hi, George! Welcome to Susan Finlay Writes blog site. Can you tell us a bit about your background as a writer?

ANSWER: I began writing a novel in the mid-1960s. Though I never published it, it got me hooked on writing stories and novels. I sent two short stories (I no longer recall what they were about) to the editor of a literary magazine in Japan whom I’d met through the American author Henry Miller, and he published them. That really got me going. When I moved from California to southwest Minnesota in 1968, I met novelist Frederick Manfred, who became my mentor, read two of my stories, and encouraged me to send one of them — “Jonah’s Birth” — to John Milton, the editor of the “South Dakota Review”, who published it. From that point on, I considered myself a writer and author.

I also began writing poetry, and had some success publishing it in literary magazines around the country in the 1970s and 80s. I published one chapbook “We Play Each Other Like Jazz Musicians,” and a long poem (“For Jonathan, who at eight, is a poet”) was published by the Smith Park Poetry Series, St. Paul, Minnesota, both in 1975

QUESTION: You have three books published by Taylor Street Publishing. Can you tell us about each of them? What inspired you to write them?

ANSWER: “The Old Man and the Monkey” (a novella) is the first of the three. I wrote it in response to a dreams I had in 2006 about a big Japanese “snow” monkey. Wondering what he was doing in my dream, I sat down at my computer and “asked” him. The story evolved from there. It’s a gentle story about a friendship between a 75 year old Japanese villager named Genjiro Yamada and a bigger than normal monkey he names Yukitaro, and the misgivings the friendship causes with Genjiro’s wife and the villagers, who do not like monkeys at all. One reviewer had this to say about the story: “This was one of the most touching stories I’ve ever read. It really shows what it means to be a friend,” which is what I hoped people would see, and also a respect for each other in spite of differences.

“Grandfather and the Raven came from an encounter with a raven that buzzed me one morning as I started out on a walk. Wondering what that was all about, I sat down at my computer when I returned home and began to write. Twenty one chapters (each one a story by itself), the book was finished. It was tremendous fun to write, especially when grandfather and the raven get into squabbles, a local policeman hears the raven speaking Japanese, and grandmother objects to raven’s coming around because ravens are messy and have lice. A Sapporo reviewer said that reading it was “like that piece of chocolate that you have with your afternoon cup of coffee, short, sweet and leaving you wanting another piece.”

“Bear” is a story about a boy named Andy and his unusual dog. Because he’s big, looks like a bear, has a special ability to sense danger and listens attentively to people he scares people. About the story, one reviewer had this to say: “Told in an uncomplicated way that will appeal to children and adults alike, it’s a charming, heart warming story with a very loveable main character, who manages to steal every scene.” “Bear” was published in late October 2012 as a novel for boys age 10 and 11.

QUESTION: You’ve completed a fourth novel, “The City Has Many Faces”, about Mexico City and its people. Do you have an anticipated release date yet? Can you tell us anything about the book?

ANSWER: I don’t have an anticipated release date for the book, Susan. I’m going to send it to my publisher around the middle of May, and we’ll go from there.

The book comes from the love affair I’ve had with Mexico City, its history and its people since I lived there in 1973-74. I began taking notes for it while there, wrote a novel, tossed it except for a few chapters and a lot of notes, then began again about four years ago when I wrote several short stories about Mexico City. It was finally time for me to sit down and write about Mexico City..

The main character is Mexico City itself, seen through the eyes of several characters over a period of about three years. The two main human characters are American psychologist and expat Joseph Manning and Gerardo Pulido de los Dios, an elderly Indian shaman. As the various stories are told, the character of the city itself is seen. To me, Mexico City, rich in history, is an exciting place that is always alive, always moving at many levels at once. There are ghosts, a cranky Aztec god, a comically inept expat, two freak storms, music, dance, celebration, love, brutality, beauty, unbelievable stories, masses of people, music, humor and sound, all operating at once in a sometimes dizzying manner. And then, too, there’s a love story between Joseph Manning and Elizabeta (Lisa) Galván, who isn’t about to let her guy get away from her. I love it!

QUESTION: You retired from the mental health field in 2007, and moved from Seattle, Washington, to Sapporo, Japan, in March, 2008. Why did you move? How difficult has the transition been for you?

ANSWER: We moved to Sapporo, Hokkaido because my wife, Aiko, is from Hokkaido, and had always wanted to move back home if we had an opportunity to do that. We did, and we moved. How difficult has the transition been for me? I’d have to say it’s been difficult for both of us, as she spent 29 years in the US, so was unprepared for life in Japan again after all the years of being away. We’ve grown to love it here, have friends, and connect with friends and family back in the US via Skype and email.

QUESTION: You are getting ready to work on a new book, “Coming Out of Crazyland: Addiction and Recovery”. Will that be your first non-fiction work? Can you tell us about the book? Where did you get the idea? Will it also be published by Taylor Street Publishing?

ANSWER: “Coming Out of Crazyland” will be my first nonfiction book, but not my first nonfiction publication. I published several mental health booklets in the early years of this century under the imprint “Tortoise & Hare Publications,” and an article in a mental health journal in the early 1970s.

The idea for the book comes from an offhand comment an acquaintance made about ten years ago about living with an addicted spouse being like living in Crazyland. At that moment it hit me how radically different the world in which addicts live is from the world where the rest of us live. Since I had spent twelve years of my own life living in that world (I left it on March 3, 1979), and since “crazyland” made so much sense, I began taking notes for a book, and published several booklets on the subject (coauthored with psychiatrist Ana Dvoredsky, MD) before I retired.

I’ve discussed the book with my publisher, who likes the title and is interested in publishing the book, which is exciting.

QUESTION: How much research to you do for your books?

ANSWER: I do quite a bit of research for them, as I want to get location, history, and other relevant details sorted out and accurate. I enjoy doing the research, as it makes the era and place real for me so I’ll know what kinds of things people were experiencing back then. For sure I don’t want to give a character in 1973 Mexico City a cellphone by mistake (unless the person holding it is a time-traveler), dressed inappropriately or using the wrong slang. I’ve seen that, and it’s a real turn-off.

QUESTION: Can you do in-person book promotions, reading events, etc. now that you’re living in Japan? Do you travel much?

ANSWER: Sadly, I’m not able to do in-person promotions or reading events here, as the books are in English. I don’t travel that much, either, as it’s expensive.

QUESTION: What has your experience with your publisher been like? Is it everything you’d hoped for?

ANSWER: My experience with my publisher has been everything I had hoped for, and more.

QUESTION: What is your favorite or least favorite part of writing?

ANSWER: My favorite part of writing is writing the story. Since my writing is character driven, I “listen to” the main character and let him or her lead me. With the Mexico City book, I made a list of characters as I knew or thought of them, then wrote their stories.

QUESTION: Do you have a writing routine, a special place where you go to do your writing, or a certain time of day? Do you listen to music while you write, and if so, what kind of music?

ANSWER: I write at home for 3 or 4 hours early in the morning, from 4 or 5 AM. I rarely listen to music when I write. When I do listen to music, it fits with the theme or fits the mood of what I’m writing.

QUESTION: How do you get past writers’ block or distractions like the internet?

ANSWER: I rarely have what’s called writers’ block; when I do, I shut the computer down, get up, go for a walk or do something totally unrelated to writing. I sit down again when I think I’m ready, and take it from there. Ah, the internet with all its time-devouring demands. That I limit to when I’m having breakfast (normally at my desk) and after I’m finished writing.

QUESTION: Please list any websites or social media links for yourself or your book. Thanks!


My Facebook pages:

My website:

My amazon author page:

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