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Interview with author Gretchen Craig
by Julie Williams

Gretchen Craig’s debut novel, Always and Forever, has received four stars in Romantic Times. Here she shares her recent experiences.

WFD: “How long have you been writing?”

GC: “I wrote my first novel in my early thirties. I had three small children at that time, a job, a house and a husband. Where did I find the energy? I don’t know. I guess I was young and hungry for the writing life. Then I started teaching and that career is absolutely consuming. I didn’t begin writing again until I left teaching four years ago. Since then I’ve written five novels. Always and Forever is the fourth one written but the first one published. That first novel is still in a drawer, waiting for a rewrite.”

WFD: “Place seems particularly important in your books.”

GC: “Yes. I’m especially taken with books that help me feel the ice under my feet or the sweat on my brow when I’m reading. The climate, the bugs, the birds, the terrain—all those things affect the way we live our lives. For instance, it’s hard to be romantic in the moonlight if the mosquitoes are biting your neck, or the bears are roaming around outside. Instead of traffic, my characters have to deal with bedbugs and privies, but they still struggle and love and persevere.”

WFD: “Did you have to send your novel to a lot of agents and publishers to sell it?”

GC: “I expected to. That’s the usual experience. This one, however, was a different story. I attended the Frontiers in Writing Conference in Amarillo, Texas, in June 2005 and signed up for a critique group led by an editor at Kensington. My turn. I read aloud the first pages of Always and Forever. Silence. My heart sank. Then the editor said, “I want that on my desk first thing Monday morning.”

JW “You had no agent?”

GC: “I signed my two-book Kensington contract without an agent. For a debut author, it’s not a bad contract at all, and as the standard offer, there is not a lot of wiggle room. I do have an agent now who will negotiate any future contracts I’m offered. I think agents certainly earn their commissions. So, I recommend getting an agent, but go ahead and query publishers while you’re looking for one.”

JW “What happened after you signed your contract with Kensington?”

GC: “The editor read the whole book and thought about it. Then she called me and offered me the contract. Next she spent quite a bit of time re-reading and making notes. She finally sent me ten single space pages of revisions suggestions. Sometimes she only wanted a word changed; sometimes she wanted a more substantial revising. I remember one request was to tone down the cholera epidemic. Just more smelly details than she wanted to know. Other places she wanted me to up the tension or drop some deadwood. I made all the changes she asked for because I thought she was right every time.

I really enjoyed the revision process. It’s like finding someone who is as fascinated with your new baby as you are, and wants to talk about every smile, dimple, and coo. I think Always and Forever is a better book for my editor’s suggestions.”

JW “What about your title and cover? Did you choose your own?”

GC: “My editor’s team chose the title and the cover. If you have a good strong title, I’m sure you can insist on using it. But the publisher knows the market, and I’m content to let them handle that.”

JW “What are you doing to promote your book?”

GC: “Lots of authors have bookmarks made to pass out at signings and appearances. Some of the authors I’ve talked with have 5,000 or even 10,000 made, but my imagination fails me—how would I ever use that many? So I’m starting with 1000.

I’ve also had 500 recipe cards printed. At my book signings, I’m going to have a tray of pralines on the table for people to sample AND the recipe cards titled Josie’s Pralines, Josie being the main character in the book. (Did you know that recipes can’t be copyrighted? I just found a great praline recipe and rewrote it to fit on a 3x5 card.) Even if they don’t want a book, I bet they’d like a praline and a recipe card, which advertises Always and Forever on the back.

Do you know what an ARC is? I didn’t. It’s an advance reader copy of your book. Some publishers send out a lot of these, some only a few. You can have these made up yourself (mine cost about $15 each) and send them to people you’d like to review your book. There are lots of on-line sites devoted to every kind of book reviewing, plus newspapers.

Having said all that, I’ll pass along what my editor says about book signings, book marks, and so on: ‘You’re better off spending your time and effort writing the next book.’”

WFD: “What are you writing now?”

GC: “My second Zebra book is set in the wilds of southern Florida, right on the edge of the Everglades. It’s about 1890 and the Theophilus sisters live on the banks of the Miami River (before there was a Miami). The sun is hot, the skies blue and full of birds. Jack Spode is the object of every woman’s lust up and down the river, and he, poor fellow, loves two of them. I love this story and this setting. The Everglades is full of interesting perils, too - gators, snakes, storms, muck, bad guys, and on and on. When will it be out? I don’t know; maybe by the end of the year.”

WFD: “Are you available for talks or workshops?”

GC: “I love to talk to and with book groups, either in person or by speaker phone. As for workshops, I’ll be doing those too. My first one will be about self-editing: how to be succinct and how to be ruthless to get there.”

WFD: “Do you have a website?”

GC: “You bet. You can read the first chapter of Always and Forever on the site and find a few links. There you’ll also find a discussion guide for book groups. If you’re interested in arranging a talk, or if you’re just interested in books, please stop by.”

Note: More information about Gretchen and her books can be found at http://www.gretchencraig.com

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