10 Questions: Gale Martin

I'm happy to be a stop on Gale Martin's blog tour for her new novel Don Juan In Hankey, PA. When she asked me for a blurb, I was more than happy to delve into the juicy drama that happens both on stage and off when an opera production goes deliciously awry.

Today, Gale has been nice enough to answer 10 questions on writing and life as a writer. If you're a published author and would like to subject yourself to the 10Q treatment, send me your info

Visit Gale's site for more info on Don In Hankey, PA, where to pick up a copy for yourself and find out where her next blog tour stop will take her.

1. Any writing rituals you have to get it going?
Every time I sit down to write, before any text hits the page, I check out the Classical Composers Database to see if there are any milestones to Tweet on my opera Twitter page (@Operatoonity) and/or opera Facebook page (Operatoonity), such as opera premieres or composer birth or dying days. Many opera lovers are based in Europe. By the time I roll out of bed at 5:30 a.m., Europeans have been up for five or six hours. I like to share something for them to chew on, to enjoy, which several followers will kindly Retweet for later risers. After that's done, I find I can get to work.

2. What’s your cure for writer’s block?
I have numerous projects going at one time. (I must have Adult Deficit Disorder undiagnosed, seriously.) If I can't get into the project I'm working on, I jump to my opera blog or my writing blog or the cozy mystery I'm writing or the suspenseful novel I've been writing and dive in. Sometimes when I'm really stumped, I go do something physical-- mow the lawn, take a walk, go to Curves--and then come back to my laptop, usually ready to work.

3. What do you tell people who ask what you do at cocktail parties and such? I say that I'm a marketing officer who used to be a teacher and that I write creatively in my spare time. Then they often ask me if I'm vying for some lofty prize like the National Book Award or Pulitzer Prize, as if I'm in that class of writers, as if that's the only reason to write, to make that grade. Or they (used to) ask whether I expect my novel to make Oprah's Book Club. "Wouldn't that be great?" they ask. Oy! Thank goodness the Oprah's Book Club obsession is now moot. I say this because there are so many other wonderful reads (thousands of them) out there that never earn those singular accolades.

4. What’s the worst part about being a writer? You're not really a writer in the estimation of others in the publishing world until someone else publishes your work. Unpublished writers belong to a low caste, a clan whose family motto is "Kick Me." Also, even if people know you're writing a book, they tend to give up on you long before you publish. It's hard for non-writers to understand how much time, life energy, and patience the whole process takes (and how little control a writer has over much of it). I've withdrawn from lots of fun things--picnics, parades, dinners--to meet writing deadlines imposed on myself, and I'm sure those choices endeared me to absolutely no one. Now that I have one of my books published, I see more parties and parades in my future. And I am really thankful to have a spouse and a few friends who all understand the ups and downs of the writing life.

5. If you could have written any book, which would it be?
I loved The Princess Bride by William Goldman. It's hilarious, dramatic, romantic, fantastic, exciting, and clever, page after page after page. I love Goldman's characterizations throughout--even minor characters such as Miracle Max and his witch are just exquisitely drawn. His genius is in the details--exquisite tangents--how Fezzik landed his first punch, the reaction of Buttercup's parents when the Count comes to visit, and all about Inigo Montoya's charmed boyhood.

6. What were you doing ten years ago? Ten years ago, I was teaching my own daughter's seventh-grade English class at a local parochial school. As I recall, I was sweating my students to turn in their Newspapers in Education features to see if any of them might have futures as journalists. Up to that time in my life, I had not written a creative word, other than comments on report cards such as, "Your child is a pleasure to have in class." Actually, most of my students were great in class. It does take some creativity to compliment badly behaved and poorly performing students. So, I owe those students a debt after all. They launched my creative writing pursuits.

7. What do you hope to be doing ten years from now besides writing? I only recently began teaching adult undergraduates in a degree completion program and discovered I really liked that whole scene. Working adults are wonderfully engaging students and make the job of teaching fulfilling. I would like to be able to do that or teach part time in a graduate creative writing program.

8. What’s your biggest anxiety about your writing/writing life?
The writing life is sedentary and solitary--not exactly life choices for zestful living and longevity. In order to be published, writers have to realize a bit of luck and find at least one entity in a position to help them advance--an ombudsman or advocate in an agent, publisher, or editor. I'm very fortunate that the publisher and other creatives at Booktrope have the same idiosyncratic sense of humor as me, that a core of talented people in a position to advance my writing career also "get" me. As a certain wise and wonderful author once said, "The most important factor in surviving, if not thriving in publishing no matter the genre, is to have someone in your corner." I certainly have felt supported and lifted up by the folks at Booktrope Publishing, almost like catching a leprechaun and stumbling onto his kettle overflowing with appreciation.

9. If you could have anyone’s job/life but your own, whose would it be?
I wish I could be an opera singer but only at curtain call. (Being a professional opera singer is too tough otherwise.)  At the opera, the curtain call is a love fest. I don't understand audience members who cut out of the theater right before curtain call (and I want to scold them for doing so). Honestly, it's my favorite part of the opera, where you can lavish praise on a performer, and they openly can accept your admiration. Opera curtain calls are the most extraordinarily indulgent things, going on for multiple ovations, hauling everyone up on stage. I adore curtain calls. I'd switch places with opera singers at bows in a heartbeat!

10. What’s the biggest misconception about you now that you’re a published writer?
The greatest misconception? I wonder how many people think that the bit of success you've realized was easily won. No one knows how many words and pages you've written, how much rejection you've experienced to get to this point, how many pages and stories you threw out, how many derisive comments from contest judges, agents, and other writers you've endured en route to getting your first novel published, or how your characters invade your waking life and even your dreams. Writing may sound like a glamorous pursuit, but it can be gritty, sobering work, especially when you realize how much better you've gotten over time and how much better you have to become to be truly admired. Also, a writer's work is never done. There's always more to write about and stories to improve. There are always insights and gifts to gain from continuing to write and engaging with other writers and their work. And new things to learn, with the nature of the publishing industry changing so quickly.

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