Interview with Greg Messel: ‘It’s like the story starts writing itself’

Greg Messel has spent much of his life in the Pacific Northwest living in Portland, Oregon and in the Seattle area since 2008.  He has been married to his wife, Carol, for 40 years.  Greg and Carol were high school sweethearts just like the couple in “Expiation.”  He has lived in Washington, Oregon, California, Utah and Wyoming.  Greg grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and graduated from high school there and also attended a year of junior college.  Greg went to Brigham Young University with Carol and then began a newspaper career in rough and tumble Wyoming town of Rock Springs.  Greg and Carol have three married children and nine grandchildren.

Greg has always loved writing.   He worked as the news editor and sports editors of the Daily Rocket-Miner newspaper.  He won a Wyoming Press Association award for his column.  He also submitted and had published articles in various sports magazines.  He left the newspaper business in 1981 and began a 27 year career with Pacific Power.  Greg retired in 2008 and moved to Seattle.

It was there that he returned to his first love of writing.   He has written two unpublished memoirs and published his first novel with Trafford in September 2009.   His first novel was called “Sunbreaks.”   The second novel “Expiation” was published in the spring of 2010 with Trafford.  A third novel is in the works.

Currently, Greg and Carol live on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, just north of downtown Seattle. They have three adult children who are all married and have nine grandchildren.  He also enjoys running, he has been in several races and half marathons.

Visit his website at

Connect with him at Twitter at and Facebook at

Q: Thank you for this interview, Greg. Can you tell us what your latest book, Expiation, is all about?

The word “expiation” means to atone for a wrong that has been committed. In my novel, Dan and Katie are high school sweethearts. He leaves his hometown of Seattle to pursue an opportunity to begin his career as a newspaperman in San Francisco. Dan promises Katie he will return for her and eventually bring her to San Francisco. However, circumstances change and he is unable to return for her. They eventually lose contact with one another. Then 30 years later, at the end of 1999, he returns to Seattle and sees Katie. The former lovers have a chance to be reacquainted. They both wonder if it is possible to rekindle their love.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Dan is a young man who is just graduating from high school in Seattle. He is trying to make decisions about his future. He wants to become a newspaperman in a big city. His high school sweetheart is a girl named Katie who he dearly loves and vows to spend the rest of his life with. Dan is offered an internship at the San Francisco Examiner and a chance to attend the University of California in Berkeley. He jumps at the chance and leaves Katie behind, vowing that he will return to get her after he gets settles. Once in Berkeley and San Francisco, Dan meets a feisty flower child named Wendy, who is a political activist and involved in the protests against the Vietnam War. Dan also becomes involved in the anti-war movement and the vibrant scene of the Bay Area in the 1970s. As a result, he loses contact with Katie.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

It is a combination of both. Each character is made up of parts of people I know. The characters are from my imagination but there are portions of real people in each one of them. I have become acutely aware of this in my own writing. Joseph Wambaugh and Michael Connelly write about cops, John Grisham writes about lawyers…I guess I write about people I know.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

I think, long and hard for several months about a basic storyline. I lay out the chapter outline and a few bullet points of events which will occur in each chapter. However, once I start writing, the story evolves and changes. This is my favorite part of the writing process. It is really exciting when the novel takes turns that even you did not anticipate. It’s like the story starts writing itself.

Q: Your book is set in Seattle and San Francisco.  Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?

I live in Seattle now and I grew up in the San Francisco area. I am not only very familiar with both cities and their histories but I find them both very interesting and dynamic places.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

It does. San Francisco and Berkeley were fascinating places in the 1970s when key events occur in “Expiation.” Seattle is an equally interesting place in the final month of 1999.  In the last month of the century Seattle hosted the World Trade Organization meeting. There were massive protests which came to be known as the “Battle of Seattle.” On New Year’s Eve 1999, a massive celebration at the Space Needle was cancelled when terrorists were detected crossing the Canadian border. That was in addition to all of the other hysteria sweeping the world due to Y2K. I felt the Dan and Katie were going through a time of uncertainty personally at the same time the world was living in fear of the unknown impacts of the 21st Century.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

Dan and Katie have been reunited after being apart for 30 years. Katie is visiting Dan at his recently deceased mother’s condo. Suddenly, the physical desire they have for one another starts pouring out of them. Katie is sitting on Dan’s lap passionately kissing him. Suddenly, his cell phone rings. It is Dan’s adult daughter, Vicki. Dan tells Vicki she is interrupting a moment of lovemaking with Katie. His daughter thinks he is joking and doesn’t believe him.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?


 As we pulled in front of the familiar house in the old neighborhood I smiled and said to Katie, “Your house looks great.   Wow, the trees are so big.”

We walked onto the porch.  I grabbed Katie’s hand as she fumbled for her house keys.

She turned to look at me.

“How many times do you think I have kissed you on this porch?”

“I don’t know,” Katie said, “but I’d like it if you added one more to that total.”

Katie lowered her briefcase to the ground and put her arms around my neck.   I kissed Katie for the first time in 30 years.  I couldn’t stop.   A surge in emotion was overtaking me. I was actually getting tears in my eyes. I held her tightly and kissed her again.

As we broke our embrace I could see, in the faint glow of the porch light, that Katie had tears in her eyes.

“You‘re still the world’s best kisser,” I said to Katie.

“It’s funny,” Katie said, “it seems so familiar to me to kiss you, even after all of these years.  It felt so good.   You aren’t so bad yourself Dan.  You still have it.”

“Just like riding a bicycle.   I just realized how long it has been since I kissed a woman.”

“It’s been a damn long time since I kissed someone.   I really like to kiss you Dan.”  Before I could respond Katie added, “Let’s go inside.  We’re past the point of needing to stand on the porch in November and kiss.”

I laughed and said, “I just realized that the last time I was on this porch was when I left you my final letter.”

Katie opened the door, turned and asked “What letter?”

“The one I left when I came back from Berkeley.  I left it in this very same storm door when I came back to Seattle at the end of our first year of college,” I said incredulously.

“I never got a letter like that,” Katie said in a puzzled tone.


Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Greg.  We wish you much success!




1 Comment

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One response to “Interview with Greg Messel: ‘It’s like the story starts writing itself’

  1. Pingback: Historical Romance Author Greg Messel ‘Expiation’ July 2011 Virtual Book PublicityTour Promo – Day 3 | Let’s Talk Virtual Book Tours

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