Author Spotlight no.105 – Gale Martin

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the one hundred and fifth, is of novelist Gale Martin. Click here for a list of the other spotlights.

Gale Martin is an award-winning writer of contemporary fiction who plied her childhood penchant for telling tall tales into a legitimate literary pursuit during midlife. She began writing her first novel at age eleven, finishing one three decades later.

Her first novel, Don Juan in Hankey, PA, is a humorous homage to Don Giovanni, Mozart’s famous tragicomic opera about the last two days of Don Juan’s life. It was named a Finalist in the 2012 National Indie Excellence Awards for New Fiction.

She blogs about opera–the art form, not the platform—at Operatoonity.com, and is an opera reviewer for Bachtrack.com, an online site featuring classical performance worldwide. She can name any aria in three notes. Okay, five notes, perfectly sung, with full orchestration.

Her second novel Grace Unexpected was just released this month, and is wryly witty women’s fiction. It features a protagonist who can hear her ovaries ticking, with a heart of pure gold, wrapped in lead. But a string of crummy boyfriends would do that to any lovable woman who’s waiting and waiting and waiting for Mr. Right.

Martin would commit a misdemeanor to score some Babybel cheese and goes weak-kneed for hummingbirds. She is a wife and mother of one and a communications director by profession who owes her signature joie de vivre to regular Curves workouts.

She has a master of arts in creative writing from Wilkes University. She lives in Eastern Pennsylvania, which serves as a rich source of inspiration for her writing.

And now from the author herself:

Serving the reader

I enjoy reading across many genres—mainstream contemporary, historic fiction, cozy mystery, thriller, literary. Not surprisingly, my reading is reflected in my writing. I have written full-length fiction in a number of genres as well and enjoy the freedom to do so.

Also not surprisingly, faithful readers expect a certain style and standard from the authors they like, myself included. I’ve just published my first two novels which are contemporary humorous fiction, which most people have considered to be funny books. But I’m nearly finished with another that is contemporary suspense with only the gentlest of humor used here and there, to lighten the tension. I have one editing pass to complete, and then I’m shopping it.

So, I understand why authors use pseudonyms. One of my favorite writers of Victorian-era mystery suddenly went fantasy with a new release. And I hated it. I couldn’t finish it. I was disappointed in the writer and in myself for a long time. Then I asked myself why I’d felt betrayed by her latest literary effort.

It wasn’t until I began writing creatively myself that I understood why this writer wanted to try something different. Perhaps she’d always wanted to write fantasy but knew that historic crime fiction was more marketable. So, she made her reputation on a certain kind of writing and then had earned enough clout and success to write what she wanted.

As much as the writer in me would like to holler, “Don’t fence me in, readers,” I realize that a publisher might want me to adopt a pseudonym as a condition of picking up the suspenseful novel. I wouldn’t object either because the person who matters most in this triangular relationship is the reader.

I’ve read books, sometimes famously authored, in which the author has forgotten about the reader. The worst offender in this category was Colleen McCullough’s Antony and Cleopatra, a book so dense with the rotted fruit of torturous research that I gagged on it. I wanted a book with wonderful, sweeping storytelling like The Thorn Birds. I got Encyclopedia Cleopatra. Did I do my homework, you may be thinking, preparing myself for the newer release? No, I didn’t. I listed her as a favorite author in my local library’s nifty new release distribution program, and when I got the phone call, I picked up the book.  She’s not the only offender, but readers do know when the writer is writing to serve the story or to serve themselves. I’d previously thought Colleen McCullough brilliant. Now, she seems arrogant.

Perhaps you find the tone of this Author Spotlight confusing, even brassy. The bio is cheeky, but this essay is rather straightforward. The fact is that I have two funny books on the market. If and when another book is published, I intend to address the style and tone of the overarching author bio that serves all my work.

Sometimes the best pieces of advice are simply said and easily internalized. I remember hearing a story about a famous navy admiral universally held in highest regard. When people would ask him how he became so high-functioning, this was his response. “Every day, I go to my safe, unlock it and pull out a piece of paper. On it is written, ‘Port—left. Starboard—right.’”

My port and starboard happen to be “serve the reader” and “serve the story” (but “serve the story” is the stuff of another post, though they are related topics).

How about you? What simple precepts guide your writing day in and day out?

Morgen: Knowing I have to get my story online every day for 5pm. 🙂 Thank you, Gale.

And for more about Gale and her writing via…

Both of Gale Martin’s novels are currently available on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com and some independent bookstores in print and ebook. Her blog “Scrivengale” can be found on her website at http://galemartin.me, where she features author Q&As. You can also find her on:

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The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with historical and non-fiction R L Tecklenburg – the four hundred and forty-second of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.  I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Author Spotlight no.58 – Juliet Greenwood

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the fifty-eighth, is of Juliet Greenwood.

Juliet Greenwood lives in a traditional Welsh cottage on a hillside halfway between the romantic Isle of Anglesey and the beautiful mountains and ruined castles of Snowdonia.

After studying English at Lancaster University and King’s College, London, Juliet worked in a variety of jobs, from running a craft stall at Covent Garden Market to teaching English.

She began writing seriously ten years ago, after a severe viral illness sent her from being fit and active to barely able to walk for several years, and left her struggling for even longer with M.E. / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It was a horrible, frightening experience, but it also made Juliet look with very clear eyes at her life and what she wanted to do with it. When you have only enough physical and mental energy for an hour or so’s activity a day, what you do in that time is very precious – and it doesn’t half focus the mind.

Juliet is now well and back to dog walking and working in her beloved garden. She recently managed to walk to the top of Snowdon again (embarrassingly bursting into tears as she reached the top), and has become the proud owner of a small polytunnel, complete with a cutting from the Hampton Court vine. She lives in hope of grapes. Her dog lives in hope of more home-grown tomatoes. This is under severe discussion.

Juliet’s book ‘Eden’s Garden’ is her first full-length novel, and will be published by Honno Press in March 2012. Under her pen name ‘Heather Pardoe’, she writes stories and serials for magazines.

And I have two of them! (Driftwood Summer and Separate Lives – I’ll go and dig them out and read them… yes, it’s official I’m a nerd; I have an Excel spreadsheet of over 3,000 short stories!… “research” :)) And now from the author herself:

I never set out to write a time-slip.

When I began writing Eden’s Garden I knew there was an overgrown garden with mysterious statues that pointed to a mystery somewhere in the past, but I didn’t see it as anything other than a contemporary story.

I suppose I should have known. I love time-slip books, like Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden and I have always had a passion for Victorian novelists, such as Elizabeth Gaskell, Charlotte Bronte and Charles Dickens. In fact, when I first began writing seriously, it was as a historical novelist. I’ve got several family sagas set in Victorian and Edwardian times stashed away in a bottom drawer. Amongst my first publications were six ‘pocket novels’ – almost all of them rip-roaring historical adventures with crinolined heroines sailing away in hot air balloons or meeting dastardly spy-masters on the top of Snowdon for pistols at dawn.

But my most successful fiction had always been my magazine stories, which are almost always set in the present day, dealing with contemporary dilemmas and family crises. I really enjoyed writing my first published book, a short contemporary novel called Elissa’s Castle, and that seemed to settle it: Juliet Greenwood, contemporary novelist.

I was so convinced, that at first the voice from the past buzzing in my ears as I wrote Eden’s Garden was one I ignored. I was not writing a historical. After all, I reasoned, Eden’s Garden was my first ‘serious’ book and my days of crinolined daring-do were over. This Victorian woman, the rich, spoilt beauty standing destitute, at the turning point of choosing life or death on Westminster Bridge, was not the story I was writing. Yes, it was the story Carys, my contemporary heroine, was following to the coast of Cornwall in a journey of her own self-discovery. But it was not the story I was telling.

It was only when Honno said they were interested in the book, but it needed quite a bit of work, that the breakthrough came. When I met with my Editor, the wonderful Janet Thomas, she suggested that maybe that part of the story might be better told as it happens. The old ‘show, not tell’ scenario. It was like a light going on, big time. It was as if the wall of my resistance had been broken down – a wall I have to confess I’d put there myself to still the treacherous little voice that had been telling me that writing two intertwining stories of two young women, set a hundred years apart, was quite beyond me.

At that moment, Ann’s voice was finally freed from my cowardly inability to listen. I can still remember the extraordinary way in which her story fell into place as I drove home. Almost every scene appeared with utter clarity in my mind, and the next few months were spent in a total frenzy of writing them down.

And that was where all my experience with the historical novels and my magazine stories met, and became the time-slip that is Eden’s Garden. I’d always been told that nothing you ever write is wasted – even the bottom-of-the-drawer-forever stuff. Until Eden’s Garden, I’d never quite believed this was true. I believe it now.

🙂 Reviews for Juliet’s writing:

‘Eden’s Garden’ follows the intertwined stories of the Meredith family of Plas Eden, a dilapidated mansion with a collection of mysterious statues in its overgrown garden, and the servants who once served there.  If you love ‘Downton Abbey’ and the novels of Kate Morton, this is the book for you!

‘It’s a great romantic read and also a very atmospheric, ingenious mystery.’ Margaret James, Writing Magazine

‘This powerful and moving story… held me gripped.’ Trisha Ashley
‘Beautiful writing and a charming, intriguing story.’ Sue Moorcroft

‘Juliet’s characters are so believable and richly drawn the reader really cares what happens to them…’ Anne Bennett

Eden’s Garden on Amazon (ebook edition will also be available from March 15th)

Juliet’s new website can be found soon at: http://www.julietgreenwood.co.uk

You can find out more about Juliet and Eden’s Garden at her blog: http://julietgreenwoodauthor.wordpress.com

You can follow her on Facebook and on Twitter.

I bought Downton Abbey Series 1 only yesterday! 🙂

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with multi-genre author Sandra Yuen MacKay – the two hundred and eighty-first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can read / download my eBooks from Smashwords (novels to follow on Amazon).