“Before writing Graced Land I had not given Elvis Presley a thought since the day he died.”
Of all the novels I have published, all the stories, all the work and words and time I have invested in creating fictions, Graced Land has had the most impact on my life. In 1992 it was released to rapturous reviews both here and in the UK where the London Observer selected it as one of the Best Books of the Year. It won prizes. It paid for a new roof and bought our first computer. On tour with the book, I met people who have remained friends ever since. I still use the coffee mugs and tee shirts I bought on my first trip to Graceland. More poignantly, Elvis became a sort of presence in our lives. And on June 28 2022, Paint Creek Press will reissue Graced Land in all its rock-and-roll glory.
The novel emerged from a seemingly random collision of circumstance
The New York Times described Graced Land as a “charming, wonderful book.” The pages ripple with humor and energy because even the writing was joyous and rewarding. Elvis’s music pulsated through the speakers while I pounded on the typewriter. I reveled in creating the first-person voice of Cilla Jackson, a sassy, snotty know-it-all thirteen year old girl. I re-arranged the mental furniture for Emily Shaw, a bookish young woman afflicted with too much imagination. (I have autobiographical access to both of these characters.) There were chapters where I wept to finish them, but there were also chapters where I (still) laugh out loud. Some of these chapters (“Burning Love,” for instance) I needlessly revised again and again just to enjoy the high that went with them.
Once the novel was finished I worked with an enthusiastic agent, Charlotte Sheedy, and when offered a choice of a corporate house or Grove Press, I opted for Grove and their artistic cachet. At Grove I worked with energetic young editors and creative publicists in a relaxed and supportive atmosphere on the phone and several trips to New York. The book got optioned for a TV movie that came out the following year, and though I was not happy with the movie, I was happy with the money.
Laura Kalpakian is the author of seventeen works of fiction in both the US, the UK, and abroad. Winner of an NEA fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, and the PEN West Award, among others; she also twice won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers’ Award. She has served as a regular book critic for both the Miami Herald and the San Jose Mercury News. A native Californian, Laura Kalpakian was educated on both the east and west coasts with a BA and an MA in history. She lives in the Pacific Northwest. You can find more about Laura at her website laurakalpakian.com