One of the pleasures of doing author interviews beyond meeting some really great people, is that I get to meet authors who write for the same publishing company. Black Rose Writing has well over 500 authors, and it has grown since 2018 when my first book, Caught in a Web, was published by BRW.
I met Gail through our publisher and the publisher’s Facebook group we belong to. She writes in two genres, contemporary fiction and historical fiction, neither of which I read regularly. After interviewing Gail, that might change. I found Gail to be witty and engaging, and I think you will, too.
What was it that made you decide you had a story to tell and to become an author?
My long-time friend swears I told her I wanted to write a book while we were still in high school. I honestly don’t recall saying that, but I actually trust her memory more than my own. I earned two business degrees and pursued careers, first in marketing in the telecommunications field, then as a college professor. The summers off while teaching finally provided me with the time to start writing. A family trip inspired my first book Jeep Tour to Sedona, AZ. Three more contemporary novels followed before I starting writing Landscape of a Marriage. I am inspired by the people I’ve met and the places I’ve been.
As an author or writer, what sets you apart from others?
That is a difficult question, but possibly the range of experiences that I’ve had in my life has helped me to create authentic characters with real challenges that readers can relate to. I came from a quite dysfunctional family, but managed to create a stable and happy home thanks to a wonderful husband, two great kids, now adults, and supportive friends. I have faced a number of challenges in my life and the struggle is real, but I choose happy whenever I can.
What genre do you write, and why?
My first four books are contemporary fiction, while my latest- Landscape of a Marriage is historical. What all five books share is a central theme of strong women as main characters, all seeking a do-over or a second chance at a ‘happy ever after’. I keep coming back to that idea, that nothing is pre-ordained and that we have the power to change our lives as we see fit.
If you were to name one or two books that you deem unforgettable and that had a major impact on you, what would they be, and why?
The books that have stuck with me over time tend to be sagas with memorable characters that are set in places and time periods I find interesting. My favorites are Trinity by Leon Uris and The Given Day by Dennis Lehane- both dealing with Ireland’s tumultuous history. My ancestors were Irish and I can never get enough of the stories- whether in books, films or music.
What authors do you read regularly? Why?
I have a number of favorite authors, including Stephen King, Elin Hilderbrand, Dennis Lehane, Michael Connelly and Karin Slaughter. A variety of different genres, but what keeps me coming back time after time is the level of character development. Their characters stay with me and the interesting storylines woven through their books rarely disappoint.
If you were to have dinner with 5 individuals living or dead, who would they be and why?
Not sure if it would make for an interesting dinner party (for anyone but me) but I would invite John Lennon, because he was brilliant and amazing; Stephen King for the same reasons; Eleanor Roosevelt to add some historical perspective; and Rick B. the ex-boyfriend who broke my poor silly heart when I was a young and foolish 21-year-old. Eat your heart out Rick! The fifth person would be my best friend Laurie who died in a car accident 14 months ago. She would be by my side, my co-pilot, my wing-person, my pal. I would serve grilled swordfish and for dessert, Laurie’s favorite key lime pie!
What is your writing routine? When you write, are you a planner/outliner or are you a “pantser”?
I’m a true hybrid- I plan out the major arcs in the storyline, but I let the characters direct me on what happens. I focus on character development. I want to know everything about the main characters to help me tell their story and make it feel authentic. All their quirks, flaws, mannerisms. I generally have a good idea of the story line until about the midway point, then the characters take over and write the rest of the book themselves. I rarely know how a story will end until it does!
When writing, how much do you read? Do you read in or out of your genre?
I am an avid reader, generally two books a week, occasionally three. I read a variety of genres- historical fiction, memoirs, contemporary women’s fiction, thrillers and mysteries. I seek interesting well-developed characters in any genre.
What tips would you give to new or even experienced writers?
Hire a competent editor and pay them fairly for their skills and expertise. That is money well spent! If you self-publish, hire a cover designer. Nothing turns readers off like book covers that were created in 30 minutes on Canva. Find out everything you can about your target readers and how they choose their next books. Learn social media and use the tools wisely. And finally, less is more, in just about every situation.
How do you handle a negative critique?
After I cry and eat my weight in chocolate, I generally re-read the review looking for something of substance and try to remember that not everyone is going to love my work. The ones that truly get to me are the one-star ratings with no explanation or the reviews that start out with- ‘I don’t generally read this genre, so I’m giving it two stars.’
Is there a type of writing/genre that you find difficult to write? Why?
I struggle with physical movement. I love describing characters and settings and writing dialogue is my favorite, but there’s something about writing, “she crossed the room after making sure the door was locked before she went upstairs” that I struggle with. I have been known to get out of my seat and try to actually perform these movements in order to write a more authentic scene.
How important are the elements of character, setting, and atmosphere to a story, and why?
Characters are the most important element of a good story, but the setting can play a major role. In Jeep Tour, the setting is Sedona, Arizona. One reader said she could practically feel the red dust from the rocky terrain. I was thrilled! In Driving on the Left, it was Ireland. I think the setting becomes a character in itself.
Do you see yourself in any of the characters you create? How/Why?
When my husband read Jeep Tour, my first book, he said, “It’s like looking inside your head, and having a conversation with you.” The main character, Jackie Sullivan and I share a lot of traits and quirks and we are both professors of marketing and lovers of pop culture, coffee and chocolate. Like Jill Griffin, the main character in Guessing at Normal and its sequel Second Guessing, I worked at the front desk of a motel when I was in my teens. In real life, the late Dan Fogelberg and his band stayed at my motel, which inspired Jill’s fictional romance with musician James Sheridan. Unlike Jill, I did not join the band on tour. Sigh.
Tell us about your most recent book.
How did you come up with the concept?
My husband is related to renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) and we have visited a number of his parks. He always sounded interesting to me, but when I read he married his late brother’s widow Mary and adopted her three children and together they had four more and were married over 40 years… that’s when I thought- a marriage of convenience leads to a life of passion and purpose. That’s a story worth telling!
How did you come up with the title?
I put a lot of thought into titles and generally come up with the one I will use fairly early in the process. In my latest, Mary Olmsted is married to a landscape architect and I love how ‘landscape’ fits with the concept of marriage- rolling hills, green pastures and a few jagged edges to shake things up a bit. And the occasional bumpy terrain!
From your book, who is your favorite character? Who is your least favorite character? Why?
Of course, I love Mary Olmsted. She is feisty, clever and fiercely protective of her family and friends. My least favorite? I guess it would be an influential character that I chose not to develop: Calvert Vaux. He was the British architect that teamed up with Fred on many of his major projects, and his wife was Mary’s closest friend and confidante. Although he gets mentioned frequently, I chose to not develop his character. I
What is the most important thing you have learned since you began writing and publishing?
I’m constantly amazed at the generosity and support that I have found with other writers such as yourself. I learn something new every day from connecting with my peers, especially other Black Rose Writing authors and staff. What a wonderful and welcoming community!!
I hope you enjoyed my interview with Gail. For your convenience, I’ve listed her social media links, as well as links to her work. I hope you check her, and her work, out. It will be worth it!
Links to Landscape of a Marriage
Barnes & Noble:
Black Rose Writing:
Website is www.GailOlmsted.com