Monday, February 6, 2012

A Conversation with Frank Mundo

Frank Mundo is the author of Brubury Tales and Gary the Four-Eyed Fairy. You can read his book reviews on and you can follow him on Twitter We were lucky to grab a few minutes of his time to ask him a some questions. Check it out.

I read that you worked as a security guard at the Getty Museum when you wrote “The Brubury Tales”. How did you keep your eyes off all the great exhibits at the museum. Also, how much of the book's main character, J.T. Glass is based on your experiences? 

Working at the Getty was an incredible experience. I got to stand around for hours every day guarding some of the greatest art in the world. I can’t think of a better job for a writer. It was powerful and inspiring, and I had a lot of time to think about what I wanted to say. I had a small notebook that I kept in my shirt pocket and, when the supervisors weren’t around, I would write down my thoughts and the first draft of the tales. After work I would go home and edit what I wrote. And while the narrator, J.T. Glass, is my basically my alter ego in all of my stories, the tales themselves are completely fictional and based on works of the classic writers.

Geoffrey Chaucer wrote “The Canterbury Tales” and it’s the inspiration for your book. “The Canterbury Tales” is about pilgrims and written in Middle English in the 14th century. “The Brubury Tales” is about security guards and is set in Los Angeles right after the ’92 L.A. riots. What was it like trying to create a modern day version?

Trying to modernize The Canterbury Tales was challenging in many ways. One way in particular was the clothing. In Chaucer’s time, for instance, the pilgrims could be identified by the very clothes they wore – their station or position in life was announced by their clothing. In The Brubury Tales, the “pilgrims” are security guards on the graveyard shift who wear the exact same uniform. This meant that I had to come up with a different way to identify them. I chose physical and personality traits, race, and religion – and right away, this spoke volumes about our time and our values. It was exactly the spark I needed.

The Brubury tales has won several awards including the Reader Views 2011 Reviewers Choice Award for Poetry Book of the Year. Describe how rewarding it feels to receive such recognition for your work. 

  I originally wrote the General Prologue for The Brubury Tales as a personal challenge in college, and I never expected to finish the work. But the response from that first piece was amazing. It won the Poet Laureate Award nomination at UCLA and CAL and other awards and was published by Indiana University. This and the response from friends and teachers made me want to finish the book – which I did over the next 7 years. For 12 weeks, I even got to work with UCLA’s Chaucer expert in a class designed specifically for this project. It was an amazing time I’ll never forget. Winning the publication awards was just icing on the cake.

On March 8th we’re holding our first “Music Behind the Words” Open-Mic program here at the library. I’ve heard you read from your book at Luis Rodriguez’ Tia Chucha’s Cultural Center in Sylmar.  How would you describe your experiences getting up in front of a crowd and sharing your work? Also, how important would you say programs like this are for aspiring poets/writers?

  I believe programs like Tia Chucha’s Cultural Center and Music Behind the Words are essential to our community. These are positive places and events that encourage literacy, creativity, art, openness and change. I was honored to read my work several times at Tia Chucha’s and the response was great. I can’t wait to read at Cypress Park Branch Library on March 8th. I’ve done more than 50 readings in the last couple of years, but I do still get nervous for the first couple of minutes. The environment at Tia Chucha’s is so welcoming, which makes it much easier. For any writer who is nervous about reading, beginning at an open mic at a place like Tia Chucha’s or the Public Library is a great way to get started. If you’re not sure you’re ready to read, just stop by and watch a few open readings first and learn from others.

You review books for a living. How did you deal with negative reviews on your book early on (assuming there were some) and how would you suggest other writers deal with criticism?

Every writer will get a range of criticism from constructive to negative. It’s a part of the process. Writers will also face a lot of rejection from publishers and editors of publications. That’s why people say you need to have “thick skin” to be a writer – and that’s something that comes over time. The best way to deal with criticism and rejection is to accept them and see if they offer any opportunities to better your writing. Because no matter what you write, someone, somewhere isn’t going to like it. A good way to see this is to go to Amazon and look at the reviews for some of your favorite writers and see for yourself the wide range of opinions their work receives. I write book reviews and have for more than a decade, but my readers understand that my reviews are just my opinion. They trust me to analyze and discuss the work fairly and honestly.   

Finally, Frank, what kind of advice would you offer young people who might be considering a career as a writer?

Read. Read. Read. Write. Write. Write. And then read and write and study some more. The best way to become anything is to immerse yourself in that thing. In sports or music you have to practice the fundamentals for years and years in order to achieve at a high level. It’s the same in writing. Read everything you can and practice writing every day. Writing takes more than just passion or talent. It takes discipline and hard work. Find friends and teachers and family members who encourage you and push you to reach your goals. Places like Tia Chucha’s and the Public Library are great places to start.
Thanks for your time, Frank. We here at Cypress Park Branch Library really appreciate it. 
Gary the Four-Eyed Fairy... and other stories
The Brubury Tales

Frank Mundo is a book reviewer for The New York Journal of Books and LA Books Examiner. He’s the author of The Brubury Tales and Gary, the Four-Eyed Fairy.


  1. Great interview, Frank. When people ask me what it takes to be a good writer,I tell them the same thing - read, read,read, write, write, write, and also submit, submit, submit. There's no magic formula. It takes hard work, talent and luck.

  2. I just finished Frank's book, "Gary the Four-Eyed Fairy" and absolutely loved it. He is a true artist with words.

  3. This is wonderful advice for writers and emerging writers, Frank. Your balanced perspective is a boon to all. I am very intrigued by your project now, which had such a fascinating start...

  4. What an awesome honor. It's fascinating to learn the backstory of The Burbury Tale's creation. Wow, Frank. Not many people can say a whole class was developed for their book. You're amazingly talented. And I learned you've written another book. Had no idea! Awesome. Looking forward to learning of your next project :-)

  5. Great interview!! Looking forward the reading. What a great program for the community!