Don De Grazia writes “About a Character”





Don De Grazia is the next author in the chain of this blog relay which started a while back, and to which novelist Thaisa Frank invited me. (Check out Thaisa’s responses to this series of questions here.) I met Don just last month when we were paired together to talk about my novel Cementville for an event at a Chicago bookstore, City Lit. I already knew he wasn’t a blogger when I tagged Don, but I wanted to hear him talk about the fascinating characters he creates, so I told him I would host his answers here on my own pages. Enjoy—then hie yourself to a bookstore to find his novel, American Skin.

1. What is the name of your fictional (or historical) character? Where is the book set?

Ryan Rocha is a fictional person whose story is set in 2012, Chicago.

2. What should we know about him?

He has worn a handlebar mustache and modified pompadour—both dyed jetblack—since about 1988.  Pretty much before anyone.

3. What is the main conflict? What messes up his life?

He becomes enraged when people point at his handlebar mustache and accuse him of being a hipster.  Also, people now assume that his shoepolish black hair is just a bad dye job to cover up gray hair, when in reality it is a sort of stylized homage to Elvis Presley.  Complicating matters is the fact that he is, in fact, starting to go gray, which makes him reluctant to stop dyeing it.  These are probably not really the main conflicts messing up his life, but they are easier to discuss and chuckle about than the fact that he is starting to contemplate his future with genuine terror.

4. What is the personal goal of the character?

Ryan is kind of a modern day renaissance man.  In ancient times, he might have been called a “man of virtus.”  In the age he lives in, however, he is called “a Starbucks barista.”  He wants to discover his true calling before he reaches retirement age.

5. What is the title of this book, and can we read more about it?

Ryan’s story is part of an untitled, unpublished manuscript of interconnected tales.  Many of these stories have been published in various journals–most recently “Black was Missing” (which includes a cameo appearance by Ryan Rocha) in The Chicago Quarterly Review’s 20th Anniversary Issue. This manuscript is third in a queue of manuscripts I’m polishing, but it seems pretty much done.


Don De Grazia has invited three writers to keep the blog relay going. Next week you can check out the responses to these same questions from Jessie Ann Foley, Mason Johnson, and Rob Jackson.

JESSIE ANN FOLEY is a teacher and writer whose first novel, The Carnival at Bray, was the recipient of the Sheehan Prize in Young Adult fiction and is forthcoming from Elephant Rock Books in October 2014. Her fiction and essays have appeared in Salon, The Madison Review, Midwestern Gothic, McSweeney’s, The Chicago Reader, Writer’s Digest, Hypertext,, Sixfold, Great Lakes Cultural Review and other magazines. She lives with her husband and daughter in her native Chicago. Jessie blogs at Chicago Now / Dispatches from the Northwest Side.

MASON JOHNSON is a writer from Chicago who currently works full time writing and editing articles for CBS. His novella, Sad Robot Stories, came out from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography in the summer of 2013. You can find his fiction—and the answers to his blog relay questions about one of his characters— at

ROB JACKSON received a B.A. from Ohio State and a M.A. from John Carroll University. He was an editor for Cleveland’s literary journal, Muse, and is currently the editor of Great Lakes Review. His novel, Silo Pilgrimage is coming out in September from BlazeVOX.