Welcome to the one hundred and seventy-sixth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is romance and mystery novelist Gordon Aalborg (a.k.a. Victoria Gordon). A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Gordon. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Gordon: I got into journalism while in my 20s, in Canada, then moved to Australia in 1973, where I worked as a print, radio and television journalist. I wrote my first “novel”—CAT TRACKS—while working in Canberra. I got into Romance writing on a sort of bet, prompted by Alan Boon, then head of Mills & Boon, saying that no man *could* write category romance to the standard required by Harlequin / M&B. 🙂 Three of us male journalists—upon hearing this—insisted that men (if romantic at all) were even more romantic than women, so why shouldn’t a man be able to write romance, etc. About a year later, with time on my hands, I tried one just for fun, enjoyed the process immensely, and was well into the second before the first was (quite deservedly) rejected. By the third, I was treated to a visit from then chief editor Frances Whitehead and the rest, as they say, is history.
Morgen: They do, what a wonderful story. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Gordon: My first novel, CAT TRACKS, is a sort of animal survival epic about a feral cat in Australia. I then wrote the 20 Harlequin / M&B romances no man was supposedly able to write, then turned to writing mystery thrillers when I returned to Canada from Australia in 2000. I found myself married to mystery / romance author Denise Dietz, and it was sort of a “keeping peace in the family” gesture. She always claimed it was easier to write mysteries than romance (it is NOT!) while I always claimed writing romance was (and is) easier.
Morgen: Ah yes, Denise (interviewee no.104). I think I’d find mysteries easier because although I’m quite a romantic person it’s not a genre I write. I like dark and so mysteries appeal more. What have you had published to-date? If applicable, can you remember where you saw your first books on the shelves?
Gordon: When my first Harlequin / M&B—THE SUGAR DRAGON—hit the newsstands in 1980, my then wife was editor of the Bundaberg, Queensland “Drum”—as was the heroine of the novel. And I, like the hero of the novel, was Dragon Lady the Editor’s restaurant columnist. To make a long story short, we didn’t know the book was due out until my wife went out for lunch one day and the first person she met on the street said something like: “Gee, Vic … I didn’t know you were a 28-year-old virgin.” Vicki, who was and is a rather private sort of person, went straight back to her office and hid for the remainder of the day and was, I believe, immensely gratified that M&B editions were only on the shelves for a month. 🙂
Morgen: Oh dear. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Gordon: Now that my work is pretty much only available on KINDLE, (G.A. @ Kindle Store, G.K. Aalborg @ Kindle store: Kindle Store, Victoria Gordon @ Kindle store) I’m having to do a bit more marketing. Which is difficult because I’m hopeless at it. Thankfully, my wife Deni (Denise Dietz / Mary Ellen Dennis) is quite good at blatant promotion, especially on my behalf.
Morgen: Hopefully semi-blatant. I’ve been underplaying myself for months because I had nothing ready. Now I have it’s so tempted to keep tweeting about it but twice a day in amongst other (informative) stuff is plenty… at the moment anyway. 🙂 You mentioned your pseudonym earlier, do you think it makes a difference?
Gordon: In the beginning, I was forced to write romance under a pseudonym because Harlequin / M&B insisted on it. The claim was that no man could write category romance, and they stuck to that story right into the 1990s.
Indeed, I was advised before attending a Romance Writers of America conference in the early ‘90s – “Keep your head down and your mouth shut and remember you don’t exist.” My muse and pseudonym, Victoria Gordon, has chosen part of that line as the title for the memoirs she keeps insisting I write for her.
Morgen: <laughs> Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Gordon: Tried it … twice. Didn’t like it.
Morgen: Tried to get one… eight times via email, four times in person… didn’t, but don’t mind, there’s more freedom with the eBook route. 🙂 You mentioned that some of your books are available as eBooks, what was your experience of that process?
Gordon: My work is now *only* available in eBooks if you ignore the second-hand market. It was something of a learning curve getting them up there because I had no electronic files of my entire backlist, and had to re-edit from scans. Not fun. Slow. Boring.
Morgen: Ouch. Do you read eBooks?
Gordon: I, personally, seldom read eBooks. Old … and old-fashioned. Or maybe it’s just that my *kindle* has gone out. 🙂
Morgen: I have a generic eReader that has travelled with me (once!) since I bought it a year ago, I have so many pBooks to read but I think both serve different purposes. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Gordon: I’ve been rejected … often. Being an author is no task for the faint of heart.
Morgen: And some are less faint than others. 🙂 What are you working on at the moment / next?
Gordon: Lately I’ve been doing more book editing than writing. I really enjoy the process of helping new, or at least less experienced authors get their act together. But I’m also writing the Victoria Gordon *memoirs*– an interesting project except I’m having trouble getting past the notion that it’s all terribly, terribly pretentious … and twaddle in the bargain. LOL.
Morgen: Oh no. it sounds like fun. Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Gordon: One *should* write every day. Quantity is irrelevant—QUALITY is what counts.
Morgen: It is, although NaNoWriMo’s mantra is quantity vs quality because it gets it down. You can’t edit a blank page but certainly doing four edits of my third NaNo (a 117,540-word chick lit) was quite painfully. 🙂 What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it?
Gordon: Writer’s Block is your subconscious trying to tell you’re doing something wrong. The trick is to figure out what it is. At least that’s what I tell myself. Sometimes I even believe it. 🙂
Morgen: I think you’re on to something there. 🙂 Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Gordon: Running with ideas is safer than running with scissors, but plotting is vital for mystery / thriller writing. Romances are more … linear?
Morgen: I’d say so. Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Gordon: Pictures help, I find, to give me a sense of character.
Morgen: They do, don’t they. It’s one of the tools I use in my workshop Monday nights. Who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to?
Gordon: My esteemed wife, fellow author and fellow editor, Denise Dietz. One CANNOT be one’s own editor!
Morgen: One can’t, absolutely. This was something being talked about on LinkedIn recently with some insisting that they don’t need anyone else but I stressed that not only does an editor (professional or otherwise) find errors (there are ALWAYS errors) but they can (mine does) come up with some great ideas. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Gordon: Writing is rewriting is rewriting is … 🙂 And the reason one cannot edit one’s own work properly is that after the 2nd or 3rd draft, you tend to see what you expect to see, and errors thrive and multiply without you even noticing.
Morgen: You do…. though / through / thought in aforementioned epic chick lit). Do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?
Gordon: My first books were written (carbons and all) on a manual typewriter older than I am now. Then I worked my way through various and sundry computers and can think of no more wonderful invention for a writer.
Morgen: Oh yes. At secretarial college I learned to type on an electronic typewriter (probably the first model) but with carbon paper so we couldn’t cheat. I wouldn’t be without my MacBook now. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Gordon: It is a solitary existence, and comes with “issues.”
Morgen: It must do if you’re married although presumably Denise is more understanding than many wives. I only have my dog to get told off by although he certainly does his fair share. If anything, what has been your biggest surprise about writing?
Gordon: How easy it is. How hard it is. How much work it is. How truly satisfying it can be.
Morgen: Absolutely, all those things… and I love it. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Gordon: Take up macramé, or golf. Those who are *going to be writers* will ignore any and all advice anyway, and just fight their way through to whatever success they can manage. No sense wasting time offering them advice. 🙂
Morgen: That’s me. 🙂 What do you like to read?
Gordon: I read mostly mysteries / thrillers these days, and you’ve not got room for all the top-notch mystery authors who are out there.
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks? 🙂
Gordon: I carve / sculpt in wood, or attempt to train my chocolate Labrador as a Hunt Test competitor. Difficult to train a dog who’s smarter than you are. LOL.
Morgen: Mine would like to think he is. 🙂 In which country are you based and do you find this a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?
Gordon: Until I met Deni, it had been my intention to stay in Australia, but living there wouldn’t have worked for her, and I had no interest in living in the U.S., so we split the difference and settled in Canada. Good choice, proximity to markets, networking, etc. We actually got married at a Novelists’ Inc. conference in Vancouver.
Morgen: Oh yes, I remember that… well, I mean I wasn’t there, but remember Denise mentioning it. 🙂 And Canada’s always struck me as a beautiful country. And I covered it in ‘O’ level geography so I have an affinity to it. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Morgen: What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Gordon: eBooks … and freedom … and competition … and technologies I daren’t even dream of. It’s going to be a helluva ride!
Morgen: Hey let’s hope so. I’ve bought my ticket and am sitting comfortably. 🙂 Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Gordon: I have never read J. K. Rowling, but I bow to her achievement of bringing an entire generation to the bookstores, and to reading! She deserves every accolade for that.
Morgen: She does indeed. I have the books and not read them either but have seen some of the films – definitely an amazing imagination. Thank you Gordon.
Gordon: YOU’RE WELCOME – and THANK YOU!
Gordon Aalborg has been a journalist, broadcaster, editor and novelist in both Canada and Australia, where most of his novels are set. Writing as Victoria Gordon, he is generally credited with being the first long-term male Harlequin / Mills & Boon contemporary romance author. He was a columnist and bureau chief for The Edmonton [Alberta, Canada] Journal before moving to Australia in the ‘70s. He returned to Canada permanently in 2000.
He spent more than twenty years in Tasmania, and has travelled extensively in the areas where his suspense thrillers The Specialist and Dining with Devils are set. A keen gundog enthusiast, Gordon is a life member and foundation president of the Tasmanian Gundog Trial Association. He now lives on Vancouver Island, in Canada with his wife, fellow mystery and romance author Denise (Deni) Dietz.
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