Story Behind the Story: “By the Grit of the Page”

It’s our second interview with one of Defiant Scribe’s authors, and who better to speak with than Sean Sanford? To date, he’s written for four out of five of our editions, solidifying his status as a Defiant Scribe vet. While he has plenty of great work to choose from, for the purposes of this interview, we decided to speak with him about one story in particular: By the Grit of the Page, his most recent work.

Spoilers ahead.



Defiant Scribe: I love self-referential and meta stories, and I think the way you wove that into this piece was so well-done and clever. Have you written this type of story—where the character is self-aware and interacts with the author—before? And what made you want to use that device for this particular story?

Sean Sanford: Oh thank you. Well, I had written a story with a similar concept ages ago. This was back when I was too unread to realize the scarcity of an original story. I thought the concept was weird enough to stand alone. And that’s why reading that old story now is almost embarrassing, but I still thought the idea had a chance of being at least kinda rad and a fun concept or whatever. So after throwing up a little in my mouth when I read my story from fifteen years ago, I approached that idea from a completely new angle for Defiant Scribe and came up with By the Grit of the Page.

DS: Gerald’s animosity toward Ben was really interesting, especially since it seemed like Ben never did anything in particular to warrant Gerald’s resentment. Were those bitter feelings meant to help convey Gerald’s general dissatisfaction with himself and his own life?

SS: You know, I never thought about that, more because Gerald’s flaws are inspired by my own, but that sounds about right. Gerald’s feelings toward Ben germinated from social situations of my past, really. I was never a lady’s man by any stretch. I’ve always been an awkward bobble-jaw in the presence of a beautiful girl—I’m still kinda like that around my wife. But I was flabbergasted by the guys who I’d come across who were not only clearly born with looks and confidence, but carried themselves like they knew some kind of secret. It felt like a trick almost, like they were really good at fooling women into believing that they, the men themselves, are some kind of prize. I myself was born with an inherent suspicion that I was the opposite of desirable, so I silently stewed while trying to master the illusion of confidence. Ben was a creation born from a whole trail mix of youth-inspired struggles and envy.

DS: A lot of the story—like how Gerald views Kelly, his opinion of Ben, and later how he responds to, and ultimately seeks some sort of revenge about, Ben and Kelly’s tryst—felt like a commentary on masculine fragility and sexual/romantic entitlement. Was that intentional, or am I reading too much into it?

SS: No, I mean, I feel you’re in the zone there. I made these characters to represent certain aspects of people I’d known, and the eternal insanity of the mating dance. This is including myself, obviously. But Ben was very much a conglomeration of highlighted chauvinists who have graced my periphery. I’ve always felt that the way that some men hold themselves around women, like a prize that they’re daring women to try and win, is degrading toward women in general. I think I kinda wrote this story to—I don’t know, almost acquire a personal vengeance on dudes like that. They fucking bug.

DS: The revenge that Gerald ends up getting on Kelly and Ben really took me by surprise. How’d you come up with that?

SS: Oh jeez, I don’t even know. That was where I kinda went off the deep end and was maybe having too much fun writing this story. By then I just wanted to think of something that was absolutely horrible, but also something that most readers haven’t seen in countless movies or books. I was also kinda just trying to be funny and offer something that would make the readers chuckle or at least mildly cringe.

DS: You certainly achieved that! Any chance of a continuation of this story?

SS: I don’t think so. I usually let my stories lie where they fall.

Read our first-ever interview with a Defiant Scribe author here. And look for Sean’s latest story in our June edition, which will be released on Friday, June 16th.