I know, I know, it's Saturday - and I usually feature author interviews on Writers' Wednesdays. BUT today is a special day...it's a stop for debut author Gayle Trent, who's doing a virtual book tour and was kind enough to choose Allie's Musings to visit today!
Gayle Trent is a full-time author. She is currently at work on a new cozy mystery series involving her hobby, cake decorating. The series features Daphne Martin, a 40-year-old divorcee who has begun the second phase of her life with a new home and a new business venture--Daphne's Delectable Cakes.
Gayle lives in Bristol, Virginia with her husband, daughter and son. She previously worked in the accounting and legal fields, and her last such job was as secretary to a Deputy Commissioner in the Virginia Workers' Compensation Commission. Though she enjoyed the work, it was a long daily commute and she felt she wasn't spending enough time with her family. Now she writes while her children are at school; and thanks to a crock pot and a bread machine, can often have dinner ready when everyone gets home.
"I think it's important to be here for my children...to take part in school functions and to be an active part of their lives," Gayle says. "I can certainly sympathize with moms who work outside the home--been there, done that--but I would encourage everyone to make time to visit their children's schools, to have lunch with them [at school] occasionally, to get a feel for who their friends are...little things like that."
Welcome, Gayle, and congratulations on your brand new book. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Murder Takes the Cake tells the story of Daphne Martin, a forty-year-old divorcee who returns to her fictional hometown of Brea Ridge, Virginia to start her life over. She has left behind an ex-husband who is in prison for an attempt on Daphne's life, a dingy apartment and a stale career. She has started fresh in a new home with a new career, Daphne's Delectable Cakes, a cake-decorating company Daphne runs out of her home. She is thrilled to be living closer to her beloved niece and nephew, although being close to other family members brings up lifelong resentments and more than a couple complications. Daphne is also reunited with childhood friend, Ben Jacobs, a full-fledged HAG (hot, available guy). Then Daphne finds her first client dead.
Ooh, sounds intriguing! So how do you go about developing your characters?
I try to empathize with each one. Daphne, of course, was the easiest because she's the main character. Other characters, such as Myra, were a little more difficult. Myra provides comic relief, but I didn't want her to come across as a caricature or stereotype. She's lonely. Her husband is dead, and her children have moved away. She tries to be helpful. She loves to talk, and so her character provides a lot of information as the story progresses. Even though Daphne sometimes groans when Myra comes to the door, I want the reader to understand each character's perspective and to see the friendship developing as the women get to know each other better.
Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?
I do suffer from writer's block. Often I'll write a scene and not know where to go next to get the characters where they need to be to advance the story. When that happens, I'll put a "What Next?" header at the top of my page and write possible scenarios. I let my imagination run wild, and sometimes the scenarios can get pretty bizarre when I have no clue what should happen next in the story. But, as I'm writing my A, B and C scenarios, usually something will click and I'll realize that's it. Other times it helps to talk it out with someone. When I was writing my novel The Perfect Woman, I discussed possible killers with my husband. I'd talk over the reasons Person 1 should be the killer, then I'd explain why, on second thought, Person 2 would be the better choice. When the book was published and my husband read it, he said he was really surprised by who the killer turned out to be. "Why?" I asked. "I told you who it was." "Yeah," he said, "but you kept changing your mind!"
Describe your writing space for readers.
Wow, what a mess, right? But everything has a purpose...even if it's just to keep me entertained. I write mysteries, so it's good to have "Nancy Drew's Guide to Life" on hand. Plus I have some serious writing books to my left and on a shelf to my right. The greeting card is one I bought when my husband used to come home for lunch every day. It depicts an old woman in a long black dress and an old man in a suit and hat on a bicycle. The woman is asking, "Coming back at lunch, Tiger?" And he's replying, "You know it, Baby." Beside that, I've printed out one of my favorite Bible verses, 1 John 4:4.
Atop my desk, I have a number of toys. I have an M&M decision helper. You ask a question and then pull its arm down for the answer. I have finger cymbals; a snowglobe; Chinese relaxation balls; a figureine of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus; two globes - one small crystal one and a larger one I bought at Target for $1 so I can figure out where those obscure foreign countries they sometime talk about on the news are; a "pupper-weight" which is a Chocolate Lab puppy because in the series before this one the heroine had a Chocolate Lab named Matlock; a chick which chirps when placed on your hand; a Pooh cross-stitch pic advising "Put it all off till mornin'"; a YoYo and Hoops Christmas ornament my son and I added just last week; a kitty mail holder; and two Madame Alexander dolls I got in McDonald's Happy Meals because they reminded me of the costumes my MIL made my children when they were 2.
On my tiny corkboards, I have a button I got at BEA in 2006 which says "Don't Even Think About It"; a candlewick Christmas ornament I made for an article earlier this year; a keyring; an Origami heart my son made me; the orthodontist's card; and a Valentine featuring Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow. Hmmm...bet you wish you hadn't asked. ;-)
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I like to read, do cross-stitch and other forms of needlework, bake and decorate cakes, play games and watch movies with my husband and children, travel and spend time with our pets.
When you write, do you use the computer or compose by hand, oral dictation, or some other method?
I write in longhand in a composition notebook. After I've finished writing for the day, I transcribe that into the computer. It gives me a chance to edit and revise as I go along.
Gayle, thanks so much for being here today. Readers, here's a peek at the trailer for Murder Takes the Cake...and if you want to know more, hop on over and visit Gayle's website! She also loves to hear from readers who can contact her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you share an interest in cake decorating, please visit Daphne's website, available via click-through from either of Gayle's sites or at http://gayle24202.tripod.com/id9.html.
P.S. - A special thanks today to WOW - Women on Writing for including me as one of Gayle's blog book tour stops. Look for another featured WOW author next month!