So, Glenn obviously you get your inspiration from true facts and real life experiences, but do you draw from anything else to create great works like Underdog?
I take the true colors of life and paint them into stories that mingle with my own experiences. As you know from reading Underdog, I have a lot of personal experience with prison. At 13 years old I started as a runaway from a broken home. I was hyper sensitive to a fallen world and had a chip on my shoulder. Looking back, it seems like I had a death wish. I wasn’t cautious. It started with selling and smoking marijuana and business with the Mexican Mafia, Outlaw Bikers and street gangs became the evolution. The Criminal Justice system interrupted me and gave me over 10 years to research the insides of a bunch of different prisons. I also use the newspapers and other media to do my own research. I also stay in touch with a number of prisoners to keep my finger on the pulse inside.
How much of the personal relationships like Damon and the dogs you rescued from the shelter are true?
Damon shared a prison cell with me for a couple years. In California’s state prisons, every race is separated by cell. That has brought more organization and structure. It has also caused race riots. Things like a lack of respect, drug debts, and alcohol are some of the toxic elements that explode into violence. I watched young inmates who for the most part were drug addicts or homeless, feel the pressure to join a gang. It bothered me. In prison, perception is reality and you either lead or get led. It is also a predatory environment so if the right people aren’t leading it gets down right evil. I chose to lead and Damon was shoulder to shoulder with me and ready to go back to back against everyone if necessary. We chose diplomacy as much as possible.
Rescuing dogs from the shelter came from my imagination. While locked in a cell for at times 23 plus hours a day for months at a time, you can’t help but feel like a dog. During those times I imagined how good it would feel to go to a dog pound and let the dogs out of their cages. I imagined taking each one for a walk and petting them with a lot of love and encouragement so that when they had to go back in their cage they wouldn’t be as depressed. When I got out of prison I did go to a couple of shelters but they wouldn’t let me walk the dogs! They make you sign up for classes first. Finding somewhere to live and pay bills took over and I still haven’t been able to do it yet.
Do you have a system when you write? For example you must have a cup of coffee at your side while you sit in a triple cushioned chair with the phone off the hook?
I started waking up at 4 am in prison to write before everyone else woke up. I still wake up early when I’m writing another book. I leave the phone on but if I get interrupted, or if I get stuck, I get up and pace. Pacing helps me think. When I get to sections where everything is flowing and the characters are coming to life off the pages, I run back to my laptop and type off and on all day and night. It feels incredible. I do drink a lot of coffee!
Do you ever still go on visits to Pelican bay?
That part is fictional. I feel like I visit inmates there and other places through letters. I know what they are going through in intimate detail from being in solitary confinement. I have to get cleared to visit inmates first and it is a long process. I plan to do it as soon as possible. I also want to interview the inmates and help them see they can turn their lives around through God, writing and art.
Glenn, is California’s prison system still running the same way described in Underdog? The way the guards treat the inmates? If yes, what can your readers and anyone else who cares to, help with the situation?
Great question with a hard answer. To be totally fair to all the fantastic prison guards and workers in general let me say that Underdog paints the truth about a small percentage of them. With that said, it is even worse in some cases. It is so hard to explain what happens in there in an interview. This is why I write stories about it. The best part about my book Underdog, is at the end I get to use ex prison guard’s testimony. I also get to use attorney’s testimony who have fought for the abused inmates at Pelican Bay. So it isn’t just me, a former inmate writing a story. As far as helping inmates, or fighting against the system that creates so many prisons, God bless you for caring. The first thing is to pray for more compassion. God will give the answers.
If Underdog or anyone of your prison killers series were made into a movie….who would play BJ, Damon, or Stranger? Anyone else?
My friend Steven Smith was with me in another prison and plays Giant in my book, Prison Riot, A True Story of Surviving a Gang War in Prison. When we were in the hole ( Administrative Segregation ), another way of saying solitary confinement, I told him I was going to make him a movie star. The guy has the looks and style of Christopher Walken but bigger. BJ, my character, would probably be played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Damon is so classic looking he has to play himself. Who else can play a prison character better then a long time former prisoner? For Stranger, same thing, a true Mexican gangster.
Glenn are you working on anything else at the moment?
After every book I get stuck in marketing mode. Each time I learn a little more and get blessed with more interviews. I’m about to be on the front page of the Orange County Register for speaking at the University of California Irvine to 100 students in a Criminal Justice Class about solitary confinement. I’m going to start on the 6th book of the Prison Killer series any day now. I’m really excited about it because now I narrate my own books as well and it is so fun to throw my voice into different characters as if I’m still in prison!
Last buy not least! Thanks for answering some questions for Book2Buzz….is there anything else you would like to share?
Thank you for taking the time to read and review Underdog and interviewing me! Take a look at the rest of my books in print, kindle and audio book and let me know which kindle book you want for free. I would also like to extend that same offer to all of your friends and followers who can’t afford copies. Sharing is caring so please share this interview far and wide. Even more important, once in a while, say a prayer for all the prisoners and prison guards. God bless.