Some of Daniel’s Thoughts & Advice on Writing

Daniel Grotta, writer, by Sally Wiener GrottaA portion of a 2013 interview with Daniel, reprinted from The Cult of Me

You’ve written for most of your life, what inspired you to start writing fiction?
As a photojournalist, I was frustrated by not being able to put words to the pictures I was taking. Then, as a journalist, I became frustrated not being able to write my own opinions and perspectives to what I was reporting. Fiction was simply the inevitable evolution of this process of discovering the world and wanting to make some sense of it. Creating my own stories is my attempt to understand human nature and my own place in the universe.

Did your experience in writing non-fiction help when you started your stories?
Of course. I not only use the editorial skills I developed and perfected over the years, I simply extended the reality of what I saw and observed by asking the question “what if” and letting it take me where it would. One of the more important lessons I learned from journalism is Read More

The Early Years

Daniel Grotta, young photographerDaniel’s foundation disciplines were philosophy, history, music and photography. Throughout his life, these four areas of study carried him along very different but often converging paths.

I imagine Daniel as a studious child with a wicked but quiet sense of humor. From the moment he picked up a trumpet in elementary school, he was committed to music, not just playing it, but understanding it within the context of history and personalities. Eventually, he received a music scholarship to Temple University. But a motor scooter accident that incapacitated him for several months put an end to his formal college education. After that, he gave up the idea of a career as a trumpeter, though music remained an abiding passion. (“I realized I would never be first trumpeter in a top-tier orchestra. I decided I’d rather do something I could excel at.)

That accident was a defining point, Read More

War Correspondent and Relief Activist: Adventures & Disillusionment


Biafra, photo by Daniel Grotta
Biafra, photo by Daniel Grotta

After the motor scooter accident that cut his time at Temple University short, Daniel worked in a photo store just long enough to buy some Leica M4 cameras. Then he set sail for England, which became his base for several years. As a photojournalist war correspondent, he covered several hot spots including Northern Ireland, the Middle East and the Biafran War.

The horrors of the mass starvation in Biafra hit Daniel hard. As a direct result, his next adventure was as a member of Operation Omega, in which a handful of relief workers/political activists drove an ambulance halfway around the world from England to Bangladesh. Read More

On the Home Front

Daniel GrottaStill needing to use his talents for some greater good, Daniel threw himself into investigative reporting. That was at a time when magazines still had budgets to support the kind of probing and fact substantiation that could take months for a single story. Covering politics and politicians, secretive sects, white collar criminals, the global munitions industry and such, his research was so solid that some of his stories resulted in indictments.

As magazines became less interested in supporting investigative journalism (a combination of shrinking budgets and fear of litigation), Daniel segued into producing more feature stories, which eventually led to syndicated columns as a books and classical music critic, and travel journalist. (“I was tired of being shot at, but still enjoyed travel.”)

During this period, he also worked as a book editor, as well as researched and wrote J.R.R. Tolkien, Architect of Middle Earth, which was the first biography about the creator of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

Team Grotta


Fantasy Man by Sally Wiener Grotta
“Fantasy Man” by Sally Wiener Grotta, from a photo by Peter Treiber

Soon after Daniel and I met, he taught me photography so we could travel on assignment together. Our work took us to all seven continents (including three times in Antarctica) plus numerous exotic islands (such as Papua New Guinea and Madagascar). Our articles and photo spreads  appeared in numerous glossy magazines.

When I bought Daniel a Radio Shack computer for its word processing capabilities, he immediately recognized the future. Using the same critical skills and instinctive insights that made him a successful investigative reporter and book critic, Daniel was soon delving into technology,Read More

Collaboration & Marriage: Strange Bedfellows?

Daniel Grotta & Sally Wiener Grotta

Here’s a piece which appeared on the Book Dude Blog (which apparently is no longer an active blog) that describes in part how our collaboration and creative relationship worked.

Intro: Daniel Grotta and Sally Wiener Grotta are long-time collaborators who happen to also be a married couple. They’ve written literally thousands of articles, columns and reviews for scores of major magazines, newspapers and online publications. In addition, they’ve co-authored numerous non-fiction books. This means they live and work together 24/7. Of course, they argue; they’re married. Not over the “usual” trivia (taking out the trash, money or whatever) but about split infinitives and Harvard commas. Gluttons for punishment, even when they go their separate ways, writing their fiction independently, they still edit and advise each other. And now, they’re stealing each other’s characters and places, as they dip into a shared fantasy of fictional locales and characters, to create their very separate stories set in the made-up village of Black Bear, Pennsylvania. The first two Black Bear, PA stories are Honor a novella by Daniel Grotta, which was published last summer, and Jo Joe a novel by Sally Wiener Grotta ,which will be published this May.

What’s remarkable is that both their marriage and their professional reputations have not only survived, but thrived. How do they do it?

Sally: Daniel, these folks want to know how we can work together and still remain happily married.

Daniel: Not now, Sally. I’m busy.

Sally: Okay, when?

Daniel: About 15 minutes

Precept #1: Just because you’re ready to discuss a crucial point doesn’t mean your partner is. Make appointments and keep them, as though you are strangers working together.

15 minutes pass

Daniel: Okay, Sally, now what is it you wanted to talk about?

Sally: How does our marriage survive our partnership? Or, vice versa.Read More

The Story Behind the Story of Black Bear, Pennsylvania

Black Bear, Pennsylvania fiction Reprinted from the Team Grotta blog on our previous joint website. 

This week, I was invited by Chrissy at Every Free Chance to recount how Daniel and I create and work in our shared fantasy world of Black Bear, Pennsylvania, where we both are setting novels and stories.

“Welcome to Black Bear, Pennsylvania. Similar to so many small towns you’ve known, driven through or possibly even lived in, Black Bear has a Main Street dotted with local businesses (active and defunct). Marge at Good Taste whips up the best hot fudge sundae you’ll ever have. Buck’s has been spruced up and modernized in recent years, and is now a franchised supermarket (though not as super as those you’d find in big city or suburban shopping centers). Grampa Schmoyer’s drugstore was driven out of business by the Rite-Aid that opened up in nearby Hamlin, about fifteen years ago. It’s now a charity consignment shop, run by the two local churches and the tiny new synagogue. And the old elementary school, where “everyone’s” grandparents went, is a boarded up derelict building where kids are warned not to venture. Schoolchildren are now bussed out of town….”

To read the rest of this essay about Daniel’s and my creative relationship and our personal writing processes, click here: The Grottas’ Literary Folie aux Deux .