Gail is the award-winning author of our thirty novels. When I interviewed Gail last month, her step-daughter Brenda was battling cancer. Since this interview, Brenda has since gone on to be with the Lord. Please continue to keep Gail and her family in your prayers.
1. Tricia: Your newest release is “In His Eyes.” What do you love most about the story?
Gail: The island setting fascinated me and I created a four book series set on Michigan Island. Harsens Island is a real place, and the ice jamb is a true occurrence so I enjoyed recreating what might happen when stranded on this island. The setting forced the characters of this second chance romance to face the past, and the Connor’s meddling aunt was so fun to work with in the
novel. I have a difficult time pinpointing one thing that I loved, but I suppose it’s the setting and characters.
2. Tricia: You’ve received numerous awards. Congratulations! What are three elements you feel are vital to an award-winning story?
Gail: Awards are strange critters. What one reviewer sees as a Top Pick another gives the book three stars. Many of my books that have received rave reviews with 5 star ratings get below average scores from the RITA judges. I’ve often asked myself what they’re looking for. What makes a winning book is in the “eye of the beholder,” I guess.
Three things that stand out in my mind from my readers’ comments that make the books winners to them are:
1. My stories are rich with emotion
2. My books are page-turners
3. My stories are about realistic people with real life problems that readers relate to.
These are the usual comments that I hear in letters and emails.
3. Tricia: Sometimes the biggest challenges we have in life have nothing to do with writing. What are some of your biggest challenges during this season of your life? How do you make it through?
Gail: For the past year, my 37 year old stepdaughter Brenda has been fighting stage 4 ovarian cancer. The disease has taken its toll on us as well. Trying to write fiction when my heart is sitting beside her in her hospital bed, listening to her moans of pain, take tremendous effort and focus. Sometimes I’ve failed.
(Brenda passed away in September, please be praying for her family–Tricia)
I’ve written more slowly than usual, and can barely afford to with five looming deadlines, but I have made progress. I realized after sitting and staring at the computer’s blank page without a creative thought in my mind that I needed to turn the book over to the Lord. I prayed that if it were His will for me to write the book, I needed His help. Within a day, my fingers flew across the keyboard and have since that time. When I have moments of faltering, I continue to pray and God has been true to His Word. He has lifted my burden and made my load less heavy.
4. Tricia: If you could travel anywhere to research a novel, where would you want to go?
Gail: I have been very blessed with the gift of travel. I’ve been to many countries in Europe including all four countries in Great Britain, every state in the US including Alaska and Hawaii, many islands in the Caribbean and in parts of Mexico and a few in South America. Being from Detroit, Canada is like an old friend. When Brenda was diagnosed with cancer, my husband and I canceled a trip that I had been looking for and that’s where I’d like to go next.
We had planned a Mediterranean Cruise visiting the Greek Islands, Croatia, Turkey, and some of Italy (although I’ve been there). We were to begin the trip in Athens and we had three days there before we sailed. I have a writer friend who lives there and had promised us a tour of all the well-known places and places no tourist would go that were wonderful. I would love to set a story in Athens so I’m praying the Lord allow us to take that trip one day.
5. Tricia: What is one movie you’ve watched more than any other? What makes it a favorite?
Gail: Recently a movie that I can’t help but watch is You’ve Got Mail. I love Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, but I also love the story and cry every time I see it. Another is the original An Affair to Remember with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. Oh my goodness, give me tissues just thinking of it.
6. Tricia: Which one of the characters that you’ve crafted is most like you? In what ways?
Gail: I hate to even connect with this character, but it’s probably true. A few years ago I wrote two books for Silhouette Romance, then decided I just didn’t fit the line. I missed the depth and faith element that I could include in my Christian romances. The book called Her Secret Longing is about a woman who’s very orderly, organized and a neatnik. She has no patience with laid back people (the hero) who don’t get the job done on her schedule and she spent a lot of time straightening rugs. She did have a deep love for family though and she was intelligent. By the end of the book, she learned to relax and let life happen to some degree . This lets you know how I can write so many books a year, doesn’t it?
7. Tricia: If I were to give you a gift certificate to any store in the mall, which store would you choose? Why?
Gail: My first thought was Office Depot. I spend a fortune on office supplies, but if I’m thinking of myself, I would say Nordstrom’s. Lovely clothes – but best of all their spa. They have wonderful pedicures. I’m schedule for one in September. If I were realistic, I’d say Kohls. I shop there too since I like their clothes and they give discounts.
8. Tricia: Looking back at some of your first stories, do you see any change or growth as a writer?
Gail: Funny you ask this question, I’m in the midst of writing a book for Writers Digest called Writing The Christian Romance. Although I’m using lots of examples from other author’s work, I was looking for a specific excerpt from mine and I went to a book I love and one that won a Holt
Medallion, A Love For Safekeeping. The book is a romantic suspense. As I skimmed the pages looking for an example, I cringed seeing my writing. I’m amazed at how much my style has changed over the past years. Although I still love that book, I know that I’ve grown as a writer. Periodically I ask my editor and agent for an evaluation — what I’m doing well and where I
need to improve. My editor is so kind and says I have few flaws, but she does come up with a couple places for improvement, and I always agree with her. I then set a goal to improve that element of my writing. When I read someone’s work that I enjoy, I first read for enjoyment and then I analyze. What made that books stand out to me. I can then give thought to improving
my own writing. Right now I’m working on redundancy.
9. Tricia: In what ways do you enjoy encouraging and inspiring others?
Gail: Presenting workshop at writers conference and speaking at women’s events at churches, civic organizations and business womens’ groups is one of my greatest pleasures besides writing. I was a teacher in my first career, teaching English and public speaking at the high school level and later at the university. I have also received wonderful feedback from those in the audience, and I love doing it. I am very disappointed when I attend a conference without participating by using one of the gifts God gave me. I’ve taught at most of the well-known Christian conferences in the country except Mt. Herman. I’ve been a presenter at numerous secular conferences
including RWA and some of its chapters.
My web site also has a section called For Writers which is filled with workshop logs from on-line writing workshops, articles I’ve written on writing, and frequently asked questions.
10. Tricia: In the world of Christian fiction, do you see interaction between writers more as a competition or a partnership?
Gail: In the CBA, I see tremendous partnership between writers. When I was learning to write not that many years ago, many CBA authors took me under their wing, and now I do the same. Besides my web site, I’m a cofounder of American Christian Fiction Writers with a growing membership of 1100. Published authors have provided so much help to newer writers, and we’ve had the pleasure of watching some of them sell their first books.
Authors send out newsletters and speak at conferences touting the books of their fellow authors. I belong to an organization called Christian Author’s Network where we participate in book promotion, not only our own but those of our fellow authors. Authors of Christian fiction do as God has commanded. We love our neighbors –or fellow authors — as our selves and we support and uplift them in all the ways we can.
Thanks so much for inviting me to participate in this unique interview. I
love your questions.
Hold On To Your Heart. . .