Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Interview with historical fiction author Gretchen Craig

I'm happy to welcome Gretchen Craig back to Reviews and Interviews to talk about her newest release
Theena's Landing.

Gretchen Craig is the critically acclaimed author of novels and short stories. Set in Louisiana among the Creoles, Cajuns, and African slaves, her ante-bellum historicals are lush with romance and complicated families. Always and Forever won the Colorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence for Mainstream with Romantic Elements and was chosen as an Editor’s Pick in the Historical Novel Society reviews. Continuing the saga of the same extended families, Ever My Love won the Booksellers Best Award from the GDRWA. The last book of the trilogy, Crimson Sky, an e-book inspired by the pueblos, mountains, and deserts of northern New Mexico, evoke the lives of long-ago people living under a searing sun among the stark beauty of mesas and canyons. Gretchen’s latest novel, Theena’s Landing, evokes the blue sea, searing sun, and clear skies of the South Florida wilderness.

Gretchen was born in the Florida Panhandle and grew up in St. Petersburg on the Gulf Coast. She and her husband have lived in South Florida, Germany, and Maine, and are now in Texas among the mesquite and sunflowers. Having lived in such diverse climates and terrains, Gretchen’s novels are notable for their strong sense of place. Readers swear they can smell the bayous of Louisiana and taste the gumbos of New Orleans.

Hi Gretchen, please tell us about your current release.
I worried I’d never get Theena’s Landing published. The heroine is in love with her sister’s husband, and my editor told me No! Your readers will hate you. But, I said, it’s not about a woman who betrays or cheats. It’s about a woman working very hard not to betray or cheat. It’s about a woman’s journey into independence and self worth. Didn’t matter. It was a no go. Same thing at another publisher. What was I to do? I believe in this book. Real people do love unwisely and have to deal with the consequences. Real people do have divided hearts. So I plunged into the new world of digital publishing. Theena’s Landing is an e-book at Amazon Kindle and at Barnes and Noble.

What inspired you to write this book?
Most of my writing begins with a strong attraction to a place. For the last book it was the pueblos of the upper Rio Grande in New Mexico. For Theena’s Landing, it was remembering the years I lived in South Florida on that narrow strip of land between the Atlantic Ocean and the Everglades. I love conjuring up the heat, the smells, the sunlight, and all those critters of the swamp. And I especially am intrigued with lives lived before roads, strip malls, and air conditioning. I imagined living on the Miami River before there was a Miami. Who lived there? How would a young woman make a life for herself in that environment? What were her opportunities and handicaps?

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m polishing Evermore, a novel that extends my first two historicals. The same extended family with ties to the Creoles, the Cajuns, and the African slaves of Louisiana loved and struggled through the 1830s and 1850s. In Evermore, the next generation now lives through the Yankee occupation of New Orleans, each character building a life during and after the upheaval of the Civil War.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
The day after I retired from teaching I got up Saturday morning, turned on the computer, and opened a new file. I’ve written steadily since that day, and even though I was not published for the first two years, I was writing and learning and improving. I was a writer.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I’m fortunate enough that I do write full time. I generally write all morning, have lunch, and then write another couple of hours until I’m too bleary eyed to go on.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I get hung up on research. I can be typing along smoothly, and then suddenly wonder did they indeed have ether right then. I have to stop, look it up, and verify before I can go on.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a woman with many lovely hats, high heels in every color, and matching handbags, of course. Other than that, I wanted to be a ballerina, mostly because of the satin shoes. A fighter pilot, because my brother had those Black Hawk comic books where the jets were sleek and blue-black. And a doctor. I was wrong about all those ambitions, though. What I really am cut out for is writing.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I’m passionate about my characters and their lives. They live and breath for me. I hope you’ll find them as real and vivid as I do.

Thanks for visiting again, Gretchen.

Gretchen's first interview, where she talks about Crimson Sky, can be found here.

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