Welcome to the three hundred and sixth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with novelist, non-fiction author, screenwriter and spotlightee Germaine Shames. 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, Germaine. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Germaine: As a lifelong writer I have dodged bullets to report from a war zone, advocated for the rights of street children, profiled a convicted terrorist, survived the world’s highest bungee jump, formed part of the first U.S. press delegation invited to Romania after the fall of Ceausescu… When asked for a home base I usually respond “Roaming”, though I find myself perched for increasingly long stretches of time in a tiny adobe in the Sonoran Desert.
Morgen: Oh, wow. Plenty of fiction (or non-fiction) fodder. What genre do you generally write?
Germaine: In recent years I have gravitated toward fiction and write both novels and screenplays. Regardless of genre, my “product” is a compelling story lushly told.
Morgen: What have you had published to-date?
Germaine: Hundreds of articles on topics ranging from Aboriginal theatre to environmental politics. Two non-fiction books. Two novels, the most recent of which—You, Fascinating You—debuts this month.
Morgen: I love the title. Out of everything you’ve done, have you had any rejections?
Germaine: Heaps. I’ve learned a great deal from them.
Morgen: On the other hand, have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions?
Germaine: One of the happiest days of my life was when I received a call from the Director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts, informing me I had won my state’s Literary Fellowship in Fiction. I have also won a handful of residencies, scholarships and grants.
Morgen: Well done. Are your books available as eBooks? Were you involved in that process at all? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Germaine: My novels are available both in print and as eBooks. I embrace any new technology that encourages people to read and spares trees.
Morgen: I do think more people are reading now because of eBooks; they’re able to always have something at the touch of a button. I’m all for it although most of the people I’ve spoken to will use both formats so I don’t think paper needs to be worried just yet. How much of your marketing do you do?
Germaine: There is no avoiding self-promotion. The challenge is to keep one’s focus on the work—creating, honing, and surpassing oneself with each new piece of writing.
Morgen: Ah, yes, that’s the thing… writing in amongst everything else. (note to self: write more) What are you working on at the moment / next?
Germaine: I am juggling several projects at different stages of development, all of which are set in the Arts—a literary ghost story tracing the histrionic rise and fall of Abstract Expressionism, a screenplay about the flight of Germany’s “degenerate” artists to Paris amid the gathering maelstrom of war, and others still too nebulous to thumbnail.
Morgen: You sound prolific and with such varied works, do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Germaine: I don’t have the luxury of believing in writer’s block.
Morgen: With your fiction, do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Germaine: When I give myself over to a story, my characters create themselves.
Morgen: They do, don’t they. I love that. With such a lot of experience, do you have to do much research?
Germaine: My books are all heavily researched. Understanding the layer upon layer of context surrounding any story enables me to provide a readable balance of action and backstory, plot and description. My aim is to draw readers first into the setting and period, then into the psyches and skins of my characters.
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Germaine: I dabble in Arts journalism and review art exhibitions. I also sculpt.
Morgen: How lovely. I enjoyed sculpting at school – not the same, I know but I’d love to do it again… and draw, and… Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Germaine: For more about my current novel You, Fascinating You: http://germainewrites.com
To purchase You, Fascinating You: http://palefirepress.com
For an overview of my work: http://sitekreator.com/germainewrites
To follow my blog: http://germainewrites.com/from-the-heart-germaine
Morgen: That’s great. Thank you, Germaine.
I then invited Germaine to include an excerpt of her writing and this is from You, Fascinating You:
Without warning the maestro sank to his knees on the dusty cobbles. “Marry me, Margit.”
“Marry me right now. Marry me or I’ll crawl after you all the way to Monte Carlo. I’ll do worse: I’ll commandeer a fighter plane and smoke bomb the theater. I’ll drop tomatoes. There’s no telling what I’ll do.”
“I’ll stand atop the Eiffel Tower crying out your name. They’ll have to drag me down and put me in a cell. They’ll have to shoot me.”
We might have stemmed the course of events with a simple “Come now, let’s be sensible,” but we were artists, lovers, and what was the art of love if not to risk all?
“Marry me or I’ll haunt every stage you ever touch. I’ll compose my own dirge and broadcast it to kingdom come. I’ll open my veins and rain blood on your ovation. My ghost will stow away in your tutu …”
I raised him up and kissed him full on the mouth. “My dear maestro, when have I not been your wife?”
Germaine Shames scours the globe in search of compelling stories. She is the author of Between Two Deserts, two earlier nonfiction books, and three feature screenplays. A former foreign correspondent and contributor to Hemispheres, More, and National Geographic Traveler, she has lived and worked in such diverse locations as the Australian outback, Swiss Alps, interior of Bulgaria, coast of Colombia, Fiji Islands, and Gaza Strip. With You, Fascinating You Germaine returns to her roots in the performing arts to reveal a hidden story painstakingly researched across three countries over the course of five years.
Update October 2012: You, Fascinating You, the novel showcased in this interview, has gone on to win the Editor’s Choice award from the Historical Novel Society. Germaine Shames has a new novel, Hotel Noir, slated to debut in November under the pen name Casper Silk. Critics have compared the mysterious Silk to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Graham Greene, Thomas Mann and other literary luminaries. Read an excerpt here.
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