My guest author for June is Gretchen Galway! Gretchen writes "romance for the rest of us"--romance novels in which the women are not all size 2 and "feisty," and the men are sometimes downright geeky (but still sexy, of course!). In Gretchen's world, love comes in all shapes and sizes, and with a huge helping of humor.
Gretchen has offered to give away a free e-copy of one of her books to a lucky reader of this blog. The winner can choose either Love Handles (pictured here), or The Supermodel's Best Friend. (You can click on the titles to get to the books' Amazon pages and be tantalized by the blurbs.) Enter below!
Hi, Gretchen, and welcome! Can you please tell us a little about yourself?
I grew up in Illinois, moved to California at 18 for college, and have lived in and around the Bay Area ever since. Right after graduation I worked in the garment industry in San Francisco, which was a poor fit for geeky, bookish me, but it led to a career as a children’s textile designer, which I really enjoyed. I’m married to a software guy and have two kids. I’ve been writing throughout all of it.
Note: Anyone who’s read my latest, This Time Next Door, might see some similarities to my own life there. (I was a plus-sized fit model, hubby’s a geek, true love, etc.)
What are three of your favorite things?
Hmm, for some reason I’m reminded of my fondness for The Sound of Music. I might have to go to Austria someday because of it, though apparently they don’t like or care about the movie there. Hard to believe, right? Okay, two other favorites… reading and eating. I’m pretty much an input-oriented kind of person.
Three of your least favorite things?
Assuming you mean other than big things like, oh, genocide, environmental disaster, and global poverty, I’ll keep it light: 1) mean people (who suck) 2) insurance companies, and 3) bad customer service over the phone, especially with credit agencies. (I just refinanced my house, so that’s fresh in my mind.)
When did you start writing? What inspired you to start writing your own stories?
Like most authors, I’ve been writing forever, one way or another. I didn’t get serious until I was a stay-at-home mom and had time to write while my son was a baby. Prior to writing my first novel, I’d been a freelance cartoonist and greeting card designer/writer, and was really eager to write longer pieces. Going from creating single panel cartoons (I really, really wanted to work for the New Yorker) to a full-length novel was a bit of a leap, but the hurdles of time, motivation, persistence, and impractical hope are the same. You have to ignore reality and keep at it.
Have you been influenced by other writers? Who and how?
I had a traditional literary education through the age of 21, when I graduated from Stanford with a degree in American Studies. I took fiction writing workshops with visiting writers and studied with great scholars. But meanwhile…all I read for pleasure was fantasy epics, mysteries, and some mainstream fiction. Everybody said you couldn’t make a living as a writer, so I didn’t even try for ten more years. Then I read Stephen King’s On Writing and got caught up in the chick lit boom (as a reader), and I decided I had to try.
As for romance, it was Jenny Crusie and Susan Elizabeth Phillips that showed me how awesome the genre could be.
Your tag line is, “Romance for the Rest of Us.” Can you talk a little about what you mean by that?
Flawed people finding perfect love. That’s my new one. I like realistic people, especially the men; it makes the romance seem sweeter and more intense.
What made you decide to take that approach to writing romance?
It’s what I like to read, I suppose. And I can’t help it. I don’t know anything about fashion magazines, designer shoes, celebrity stuff…it didn’t make sense for me to use it in my stories. I love unconventional people that are unconventionally attractive. People like the ones I love in real life.
If your writing could have an impact on the lives of your readers (besides entertainment), how would you hope it would impact them?
I want people to feel good when they read my stories—happy, warm and fuzzy, hopeful, all that deep sigh stuff. I think happiness is underrated, and I like to inflict it upon others as much as possible.
What’s the hardest part of writing a book/being an author?
For me, getting the words on the page is really, really hard. I’m a huge procrastinator. I listen to hypnosis tapes to help me with this.
What’s the most fun part?
Hearing from readers who loved my book. Reading reviews of people saying they laughed out loud at my jokes. I’m such a slut for praise.
What are some of your favorite words? (Syllabub? Xylophone? Whizbang? Taradiddle?)
“Holy cannoli” has been stuck in my head lately. Also, “crapola.” I guess I’m going through an Italian phase.
Do you have a writing routine?
Have tea and breakfast, sit down and write until it’s done. Drink more tea. I use noise-canceling headphones and a timer to do writing sprints. I will often use “Mac Freedom” software to block my access to the Internet. (The Web is a huge time-suck for me. See: Procrastination, above.)
Do you use an outline? Or just write the first draft “as it comes to you?” What other prewriting/story planning activities do you do, if any?
I start with the characters. With a romance, it’s two of them at first. Then I put them in a situation and write out an outline, then a synopsis. And then… I write half of it and have to redo it. That’s, unfortunately, where I am right now with my work-in-progress. At the halfway mark I see the flaws in my master plan. I have to work them out before I continue. It’s a painful stage.
Do you have a favorite character you’ve created? Which character is it, and why?
I love Miles in The Supermodel’s Best Friend—and not in a platonic way, either. He’s seriously the hottest guy ever. As for a female character, I love Rose in This Time Next Door for having so much confidence. She is not autobiographical.
What are the hardest types of scenes for you to write?
Beginnings, middles, and ends. The first draft of anything is hard. Revising, no problemo.
The most fun scenes?
When the characters say things that make me laugh out loud. That’s a great writing day.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
As per the “favorite things” question, I like eating and reading. Otherwise, I love gardening (I specialize in neglected, flowery chaos), Very Slow Jogging, hiking—anything to get me outside. Living in California has its perks.
What’s something people wouldn’t be able to guess about you just by looking at you?
That I’m totally neurotic. Though that might be more obvious than I’d like.
If you had a genie that could grant three wishes, what would you wish for?
Oh my. The first wish would tell me what to do with the next two. So I’ll have to find that genie before I can answer the rest of your question.
What can we expect from you in the future?
This Time Next Door, which was the sequel to Love Handles, is currently #1 Free in the Kindle UK store, which is a huge surprise. With so much sudden interest (over 100K downloads around the world just in the past month) I’m eager to get the third book in the series out there. However, before all this excitement struck, I began the sequel to The Supermodel’s Best Friend. So first I’ll finish that book, then I’ll get back to the world of Rose and Mark, Liam, Bev, and April.
How can readers get more information about you and your work?
Thanks so much for the chance to talk to you! I really enjoyed it.
So did we! Thanks for coming by.
Enter below for a chance to win an e-copy of one of Gretchen's books, free!
__Lauren Sweet is the author of the Bitter Snow series, a modern fairy tale in nine novellas, and Aladdin's Samovar, the first of a series starring Amber Polaski and Jasper the genie. Lauren lives near Portland, Oregon, where she is a freelance writer and editor.