I’m beyond amazed by the response I’ve had to the Weekly Indie Word Slinger posting. Thank you all for your interest and I am doing my best to figure out the best way to provide the most exposure and attention I can for you and your books.
My Word Slinger for this week hails from my neck of the woods, or I guess I can say my home neck of the Penn’s Woods. Author of Don Juan in Hankey, Pa, Grace Unexpected and upcoming Who Killed ‘Tom Jones’?, Gale Martin has shown infinite patience while I was flu-ridden and gave me a lot of leeway when I was fearful that I might be very late getting these Weekly Indie Word Slingers out. Thanks, Gale!
Indie Word Slinger: Gale Martin
Gale Martin is an award-winning writer of contemporary fiction who plied her childhood penchant for lying into a legitimate literary pursuit during midlife, writing her first novel at age eleven and finishing three decades later. She invents soundtracks (in her head) for birds who visit her feeders hanging off her back deck. She commit a misdemeanor to score some Babybel cheese.
Her debut novel DON JUAN IN HANKEY, PA is a humorous backstage story about an opera company trying to stage Don Giovanni. Her second novel GRACE UNEXPECTED features a professional woman with a heart of fool’s gold, who unexpectedly gets entangled in a love triangle. On January 21, she has a new novel coming out, a knee-slapping murder mystery about the death of a Tom Jones impersonator called WHO KILLED ‘TOM JONES’? Now through January 20, you can win a copy on Goodreads.
She has an MA in creative writing from Wilkes University and lives in Eastern Pennsylvania because she has to.
This Word Slinger’s Thoughts:
Gale, I have to say your book is probably one of the most humorous novels I’ve had the joy to read. Grace is juggling a lot of things at once in Grace Unexpected. Is it particular to her character or a personal philosophy of yours that bleeds through innately to laugh in the face of those things that would otherwise cause tears? I ask only because the wit seems entirely too natural and even the low parts of the book were buoyed by clever levity.
It isn’t particular to Grace’s character to find humor in adversity. While Grace’s creator is many things that Grace is not, I suppose you’ve found me out. I have faced so many challenges from little on up, that it impacts not only my own world view but often times my viewpoint character’s perspective. Tragedy can be devastatingly funny. Once in a dramatic TV movie years ago, Mary Tyler Moore fell into an open, freshly-dug grave, and it was a laugh out loud funny moment. Macabre and slapstick can be two sides of the same coin.
Grace is a fascinating and charming heroine; I couldn’t help but fall in love with her notion of the Shaker curse and the subsequent actions she took to stick to the “Plan”. When you were first developing her character was Grace as whimsical as she ultimately became in the final draft of Grace Expected?
Initially, Grace was a good bit darker. She was more deeply impacted by the thought of spending her life alone, uncoupled, than in later drafts. Some beta reader feedback I got was that they didn’t understand how a tour of Shaker Village could arouse such angst and regret in anyone. Sometimes writers need to listen to their guts as much as they listen to their beta readers.
I couldn’t help but be incredibly impressed with the atmosphere of college life in your novel. I am one of those people who can boast about going to college for ten years and never getting a four year degree, despite having over two hundred and twenty units (The politically correct term is lifetime student, not directionless bum). I’m dying to know just how you got the voice of True down so well–that entire lecture feel? What sort of homework did you do for the administration aspects?
Besides more than one advanced degree, I have the student loan debt to attest to my time spent in college classrooms as a student. In addition, I’ve audited and visited many more classrooms. I’ve worked with faculty superstars and high-level academicians for decades now. True is a type in higher ed that I know well and a type that I admire, too. Grace’s world is the world I’ve worked in now for more time than I care to admit.
Was there any significance or ironical statements being made in the etymology of the names of your characters? True and his personal character or Grace, Lacy and Goody?
Great question. I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about character names consciously. But the duck’s feet were paddling under the surface, no doubt, on an unconscious level. I wanted the reader to trust True, despite his past failings, so that’s why he ended up as Truesdale. Grace is a shitstorm magnet, so, yes her character name is sheer irony. I wanted to name Lacy something suggestive because I was exploring how girls named Lacy make their way in the land of grown-ups.
I feel very limited in my questions here because you book was excellent in keeping the suspense going until almost the last few pages as to Grace’s romantic fate. I don’t wish to spoil anything since the story is exceptional. How hard was it for you to keep the back and forth between the love triangle going? Did you ever feel at any time that you were tipping the scales further in any particular way beyond a point of return?
I am sure other writers will confess under scrutiny (or the bright light of an interrogation lamp) that they prefer some characters to others. Yes, I did prefer one of the men in the triangle more than the other. The literary agent who first represented this book fell for the other man, and asked me to change the narrative. And I sort of regret now that I did though it was fun exploring an alternate ending. But I love surprises or twists as a reader, so I tried not to lose sight of the element of surprise in Grace Unexpected for my readers.
You have many incredibly keeper quotes from this novel. Is there any one or a few that you are especially proud of or that really stood out in your mind more than any others?
Indeed there is one passage that is my favorite in the entire book. After every man Grace has known (in any sense–corporeal or whatever) in the last few months of her life hits on her, she can only compare the experience to harvesting zucchini and remarks to the reader:
“If you’ve ever grown zucchini, you know they all ripen the same day. You wait all of June and July for zucchini. August rolls around, and one day—bam! You have more zucchini than you know what to do with. You start handing them out to your neighbors and friends at work because there’s no way any single person can handle all that zucchini. Not even if you’re smart and resourceful and have accumulated dozens of good recipes, not even a person who likes zucchini as much as I do.”
Your bio says that your Master’s Degree is in Creative Writing. What was your focus as a post-grad and have you published anything from your Master’s Seminars or your Master’s Thesis? Were your works in college along the same vein as what you are currently publishing?
At the Creative Writing Program at Wilkes University, my major was fiction (with a minor in creative non-fiction). My first published novel DON JUAN IN HANKEY, PA was my master’s thesis from Wilkes. In addition to emerging from the program with a polished novel, I also emerged with an opera blog because we had to do a semester of research during the program (and my research area was classic opera). My opera blog (Operatoonity.com) has been more successful than I ever could have imagined, exceeding 3 million visits since I started it in 2010.
I know you have Who Killed ‘Tom Jones’? being released later this month. What are your feelings on this new title? Compared to Grace Unexpected and Don Juan in Hankey, PA how do you feel this novel fits into the “bookshelf” being made with your published books?
I began WHO KILLED ‘TOM JONES’? as a NaNoWriMo book in 2008. So finishing it this past fall was like darning a favorite pair of kitschy socks so you could keep wearing them–you know, the jet black ones with the cat ears and whiskers that you only whip out around Halloween and have loved for years? TOM JONES is not as broadly funny as either book. It is more like GRACE UNEXPECTED since it tells the story from one viewpoint only. I love the senior citizens Ellie spends her time with in WHO KILLED ‘TOM JONES’? And strangely, Ellie has multiple suitors, like Grace. People who liked my quirky characters in my first two books will definitely find more of them in this one. Ellie of TOM JONES is the most virtuous of all my heroines, without a doubt. I like that people really like her and don’t judge her as much as Grace. Grace has been largely misunderstood but the readers who “get” her really did get and love her.
Would you review one of your own books for me and tell me what you think is the strong and weak points of the novel? (This can be any of the three novels you have written and a summary review. You needn’t write an essay. I promise to grade you only on the key points.=))
In a knee-jerk reaction to perfect women in fiction who won’t allow butter to melt between their legs, I crafted Grace. Then I wondered why women who adored Mary Higgins Clark perfectly predictable and chaste heroines couldn’t abide my Grace. I love several of the characters in GRACE UNEXPECTED–unabashedly–even the evil ones. Especially the evil ones. Perhaps there are too many self-absorbed hurtful people in the book. But my time working in higher ed has thrown some of the most hateful people walking Planet Earth in my path, and I exorcised some demons, truth be told, and exacted a considerable amount of revenge in writing this book. Yes, a sequel is planned also set against a higher ed backdrop, featuring new people to hate. Maybe Grace was too sex-starved, but I know plenty of unmarried woman who crave intimacy and sex and talk openly about wanting and needing sex. I tried to make Grace a real person. But perhaps literature and art shouldn’t imitate life but should be elevated to a higher plane. Who really knows? In the next GRACE book, she will have to have evolved and refined her soul some for all the pain and suffering I subjected her to in this one.
As a self-publishing author how do you feel about book pirating? Do you think that indie authors are more strongly impacted by illegal book downloading than publishing companies? Would you be willing to make your books free and request donations if you found that was a better earning model as a self-publisher?
I don’t know what protections are in place for Big Six authors. Honestly, in my view there is a crime much more horrific than stealing my book. It’s not reading my book.
What does being an indie author mean to you? What would you wish to change about it?
It has certainly meant a limited marketing budget, which the author has to make up by working her behind off. Being an indie author is a lot like being an up and coming opera singer. In the world of opera, and I have seen and reviewed many productions at major houses on the East Coast, some people only applaud if they recognize the name of the singer. Often, indie authors face the same uphill battles as lesser-known opera singers.
Are there an opportunities that you would like to find out about or network with that you don’t have available to you currently that would help you become a more accomplished writer, increase your fanbase or help establish your work publicly that you would be interested in having someone contact you about? (Writing workshops, online writing jobs, printing press companies, beta readers, reviewers, editors, illustrators, photographers, web designers, etc.)
I am always looking for more book reviewers who are willing to post their reviews on an online site. Indie authors will happily furnish complimentary copies for honest reviews. Yes, they are that important. I’d love to conduct a few more writing workshops, too, on-ground or online.
To see my review of Grace Unexpected check out: Tongue Wagger – Grace Unexpected by Gale Martin.
This Word Slinger’s Reviews:
AMTEN on Tour – Hello from Lancaster from tenor Nathan Granner 11/06/2011
Grace Unexpected from Kirkus Reviews 04/12/2012
Grace Unexpected from Curled Up With a Book
Don Juan in Hankey, PA from WPSU/PBS 07/05/2012
Don Juan in Hankey, PA from Kirkus Reviews
Don Juan in Hankey, PA from Curled Up With a Book 12/07/11
A Comic Opera is the Basis for Funny Fiction from Lancaster Online 12/03/2011
Grace Unexpected from Endless Days of Literary Ecstasy Blog 10/07/2012
Opera in Daily Life: Don Juan in Hankey, PA from Great Moments Blog o3/07/12
Reading List: Don Juan in Hankey, PA from Opera Obsession 01/07/2012
This Word Slinger’s Interviews:
Author Interview with Gale Martin from An Avid Reader’s Haven Blog
Don Juan in Hankey, PA: Surprise Blog Tour Visit from Opera Singing in Germany and Other Adventures Blog
Guest Blogger: Gale Martin from The Musings of a New Englander Blog
One Author’s Experience With a New Publishing Model: Q & A With Gale Martin from MuseInks Blog
High notes and horned helmets: An interview with Gale Martin from Gordon Darroch’s Unreal Domain Blog