Thursday, October 18, 2012

Meet Author Gretchen Craig

Meet Gretchen Craig! She's a dear friend from Texas who writes dramatic love stories with a tremendous sense of place. But she recently branched out with a set of light love stories. 

You can find out a lot more about her here. Since she is both a traditionally published and self-published author, I think you will find this interview interesting.

Susan: I know your work and it's been admired for its drama and deep emotion. Your book, Lookin for Luv, is a departure from this. Did the stories come to you all at once or have you been concocting these upbeat tales while you were busy writing your longer, more dramatic novels? 

Gretchen: Yes, these are much lighter stories than what I usually write. I was involved in a novel full of angst and suffering, and I just needed a break. I’ve enjoyed reading light contemporary romance, and I thought I’d just give it a try. So they were done over several months whenever I needed a respite from the sturm und drang of my longer work. I had a lot of fun writing them.
Susan: These are all Louisiana stories. Your view of life on a houseboat on a South Louisiana bayou is so detailed and realistic. As a Louisiana girl myself, I know how well you evoke that setting. How do you do that kind of research and how do you get into a sense of place?

On Amazon Kindle
Gretchen: I’ve done a lot of book and library research about Louisiana history over the years, but for the feel of a place, I rely on having actually been to the bayous. I haven’t really spent much time there, just an airboat tour, and lots of driving in the countryside. But I lived near the Everglades for years and I know what humidity and heat and water and swamp are all about. The rest is imagination, and place has always been a strong stimulant for me. Everywhere I go, I see myself living there, especially if it’s combined with a sense of the place’s history (as in my pueblo novel set in 1599). The only place I’ve ever been that I thought I would not like to stay is a terribly poor, barren little town on the high plains of New Mexico. Everywhere else pulls at me to come explore and stay a while.

Susan: As a traditionally published author who's garnered success, awards and great reviews, why did you decide to go into e-book self-publishing?

Gretchen: The e-book question. It’s all so complicated these days. I still do query the major houses with new manuscripts, but I am grateful that in this era we authors do have other options. I do want an audience, and I’m gratified to be able to reach readers this way.

Susan: Do you have a e-book reader yourself?

Gretchen: I have a Kindle. I still love to have a book in my hands, and if it’s a book that I want to study, particularly non-fiction, I want a paper copy so I can check back to earlier passages and easily find sections I want to re-read. And to annotate with a colored marker. The Kindle enables some of that, but for me, it’s clumsier than a pen and dog-eared page. What I especially like about my Kindle, though, is the incredible number of titles available, and I can get them next thing to instantly. That’s pretty cool.

Susan: Do you think more authors will straddle both the traditional publishing and the self-publishing world? And are you planning to publish more books with traditional publishers? 

Gretchen: I do think more authors will pursue self-publishing. And many of us still want to be traditionally published as well. There is a certain validation in having a big house take you on and promote you, and they can reach readers that self-e-publishing does not. I certainly have hopes of continuing to publish in both venues.

Susan: I know that you travel for inspiration. Are there other writers who inspire you?

Gretchen: I’m constantly inspired by other writers, from all different genres. I’ve recently discovered Richard Ford, who’s been acclaimed for a long time, but I hadn’t come across him. His novels are tagged as literary; some of his novels feature the same protagonist, Frank Bascomb, who is a man who constantly struggles to find an equilibrium in life, to find happiness and to accept life as it is. That speaks strongly to me at this particular time in my own life. And there are romance authors who write outstanding novels even though they are seldom given critical respect because they are writing in romance. I admire Mary Balogh and Judith Ivory for depth of feeling and character in their historical romances. I’m very impressed with Michel Faber’s big novel The Crimson Petal and the White, which is a historical set in Victorian times.  I also have just finished another Lee Child novel featuring Jack Reacher – Die Trying – that I couldn’t put down. I read lots of different kinds of books, and the best ones always have something to teach about pacing or characterizations or mood, or best of all, just life.

Susan: What's your next project? 

Gretchen: I haven’t decided on my next topic. I have several possibilities perking in the background, but I might decide to try something new. These light romances have made me smile, myself, as I wrote them. Maybe I’ll think about something longer along those lines, though I’m not as funny as some writers, like Susan Denney, for example. 

 Thanks to Gretchen for insights into her writing process and the changing world of publishing!