At the Doors of Strangers

At the Doors of Strangers - Greg Needham

I've always enjoyed books of short stories. It began with my love of Ray Bradbury. Short stories often showcase an author's strengths in that so much time and effort is devoted into just a couple of pages. To me, those short stories can say a lot about an author. 

Greg Needham's book is a great compilation of short stories that jumps around in topic, but flows together nonetheless. It held my attention and was a wonderful distraction from my regular routine. 

The writing is well done, the characters are wonderfully developed in each short story, and I had no trouble reading the entire book in one sitting. 


Some Bio Information

My name is Greg Needham and I’m a life-long learner who’s dabbled in many things but always stuck with words. I’ve wrote and edited published research papers, blogs, and indie video game scripts. But I consider my most important writing accomplishments here: writing in the mud as an infantry Marine; writing inappropriately wordy descriptions under pie-charts; writing philosophical responses to spam email; and creating my own alphabet. I wrote At the Doors of Strangers, which is an often surreal collection of short stories.


Q&A

1. What inspired you to write this book? 

I wrote this book in an act of rebellion. I had just received my Masters of Science and didn’t want to give up my literary background, so I decided the only way I could get this book out of my head would be to travel to eastern Europe and put it together. Many of the stories floated in my head for years and I had to do them justice. Between work and education, I couldn’t seem to infuse my thoughts onto paper with the purity I wished. Traveling to eastern Europe was my “blank spot on the map,” to borrow from Joseph Conrad, and ended up being the necessary catalyst. So I traveled, wrote, and edited until I finished eight months later.

2. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process?

Generally, I wait until it’s bursting out of me and into my everyday life – where on the outside I’m apparently having a watercooler conversation or filling up my car with gasoline, but really I’m testing the best way to describe the story in my head. Once I keep coming back to an idea or story against my will, I know it’s time. 

3. Describe your favorite short story in this book.

I would have to say the title piece, “At the Doors of Strangers.” I tried really hard to capture the feeling of my hometown in central Michigan, where the people are decent and good but live with the frustration of a stagnant area.

I’d also like to sneak in the story of Buzludzha, which is secretly a non-fiction piece I wrote after visiting the old Soviet monument in Bulgaria. I recommend seeing pictures of one of the strangest places I’ve come across.

4. What does the perfect writing environment look like to you?

For me, it’s a new place. The infusion of differences show me details I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. So I try to write in new spots, with new people around. Comparing two experiences will highlight the important parts for me. For an example, I don’t think it’s possible to fully understand an American breakfast until I’ve experienced a different one.

5. How would you describe your writing style?

I really wish I could say. Weird, probably. I can’t think of a comparable style, and that both alarms and delights me. It’s very flexible, changing depending on the story.

6. What would you like readers to take away from your book?

I tried very hard to impart bits of myself into the book. So each story generally has something truly personal to me, and I hope readers will recognize those feelings within themselves as well. Failing that, I hope they take away a unique experience they didn’t have before.

7. What’s your ultimate writing goal?

My goal is to consistently describe stories that no one else is telling, but are important all the same