LITTLE GALE GUMBO launch week – Deb Joanne’s Q&A with Erika

It’s LAUNCH WEEK for Deb Erika’s LITTLE GALE GUMBO!Little Gale Gumbo, by Erika Marks

We thought for our launch weeks, we would mix things up a little and do a interrogation Q&A with the author.  Each day, a Deb will ask the launching author s a question about her process/craft/whatever as it pertains to her book.

Here’s my question to Erika:

“One of the things that amazed the writer in me about this book is the many layers the story had and how each chapter seemed to peel back one layer at a time.  Honestly, this was so artfully done that I am in total awe of your skill at weaving this story.  How were you able to keep this all straight in your head as you were writing – how much to reveal, what you already had revealed? Did you use some sort of system or storyboarding? I have trouble with complex plotting and would love to know your secret.”

Erika’s answer:

Joanne, you’re a sweetheart, that’s the first answer. Second answer, I wish I could say there was a great deal of well-organized plotting but the truth is I was often flying by the seat of my pants. This is really when drafts are crucial for me. Since I am no good at outlines and storyboards, I did a lot of the “peeling” (I love that, by the way) through drafts. It was tricky to be sure. Several drafts in I decided to make two files–one for the present story and one for the past story–and that helped a great deal. As a writer, I have ALWAYS struggled with plotting. I’ll never forget the first agent who showed interest in my work sixteen years ago–the wonderful Ruth Kagle who was at The Jane Rotrosen Agency at the time–invited me to her office and said she loved my writing but I needed a great deal of work with plotting, and she was right! Some things, I think, come more naturally to me as a writer–characterizations, dialog–but not plotting. (What can I say? I watched too much episodic TV in the 70s and sometimes it shows!) Trust me when I say LITTLE GALE GUMBO was many, many drafts before it saw submission.

Thank you so much for this, Erika!  And now I’m even more in awe of both your skill and willingness to work and work to get it perfect – because you absolutely did.  It’s also kind of comforting to know that this is something that can be worked at and maybe there is hope for me and plots yet, because sometimes I plotz about plots (groan, I know).

But I also want to say that this book is so much more than just its plot.  It is made up of charismatic, flawed characters who, despite some of their flaws and sometimes questionable choices in life, injected themselves into my heart and made me love them and want to know more and more about them and their intertwining stories.  From the strong, stoic Camille, to the defiant and troubled Dahlia, to the sweet, but heartbroken Josie, these women became like family to me because they were so real and beautifully written.  I can’t say enough about LITTLE GALE GUMBO, but I will stop now because I want to leave plenty for those of you who haven’t yet read it to discover and I know Molly, Rachel and Linda have plenty to say this week as well.

Raising a glass to you, Erika, on a job very well done!

24 Replies to “LITTLE GALE GUMBO launch week – Deb Joanne’s Q&A with Erika”

  1. CONGRATULATIONS on the release of LITTLE GALE GUMBO, Erika! This is so exciting!

    Joanne, I couldn’t agree with you more. LGG is a fantastic read, with characters that stick in your mind and your heart. Loved it!

    Erika, I’m a pantser, too. My plots unfurl in the first draft or two, and I spend many subsequent drafts polishing the rough patches. Just the way my mind works.

    Enjoy your week, craziness and all! 🙂

  2. Thank you, Joanne, for such a sweet send-off to this week! I am so excited for the new format (thanks Deb Molly for the brainstorm!) for launch weeks and getting to hear even more about the processes we all went through.

    1. You’re so welcome, Erika – so well deserved! And I feel so honored to dance with you this week as you celebrate your launch and really, the culmination of so much work and awesomeness coming together!

      All the best for your launch and may it be everything you dreamed of!

  3. Whee! So excited to see Little Gale Gumbo out in the world tomorrow!

    I agree with drafting – I cringe when I hear people say they rewrite the entire book from scratch (I’m not that brave), but I draft and draft and draft, and even now that the book is published, I refuse to read it because I know I could happily go through and do another draft or twelve.

    For me, writing definitely is rewriting.

    1. Thanks so much, Eleanor!

      And oh, I’m with you on the reread. It’s so hard! I don’t think you can ever have the distance or the closure to read your book once its out there. Adverbs haunt, they really do!

  4. Congratulations on the release! I have the book on my to-read list – can’t wait! 🙂

    So good to know it’s not just me. Characters and dialogue seem to flow so easily for me but plot? Ugh. And I have no idea why.

    1. Thank you, Madeline!

      And glad to hear I’m not alone in plotting-angst. I’m definitely learning to go slow-and-steady when I’m plotting (which is hard for a pantser!) but I’m trying to see the plot in a larger sense with each draft, see it as something truly nuanced, and whether it offers a well-rounded structure and opportunities for layers, etc.

      I think as writers we are always works-in-progress. Constantly working on our craft and learning from one another. Which is a GOOD thing.

    2. Everyone seems to have their strengths, don’t they? And I think Erika’s right that we’re always works in progress. Always learning and room for growth. I think that’s why I love seeing what other writers do – we can all learn from each other.

  5. YAY!!! So excited for the rest of the world to enjoy LGG as much as I did. The fact that you had two different manuscripts going is so fascinating to me. And then what, you just wove them together at the end?? I would never be able to do that I dont think. So tricky! It’s almost as if you wrote two books!

    I just love getting a peak into other writers’ process. I’m so thrilled we are adding the author q’s this year!

    1. Thank you, Elise. It seemed so far away! And after spending the last year reading all the excitement of your launch and those of the rest of the Debs of 2011, I can’t believe mine is finally here!

      It really is something special to be able to share it with everyone here. I feel so fortunate!

  6. I’m looking forward to reading this! I agree that plotting is a challenge. I like the idea of using files to keep track of the present story and the past story — I’ll have to try it out!

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