I spent most of last week curled up in a cabin in northern Wisconsin, staring at Lake Michigan’s white-capped waves, marveling at how the water changed from slate gray to bright turquoise (we called it “Corona Blue“) as the clouds rolled across the lake, how the seagulls looked black or white according to the angle of the sun, how much the contours of the beach changed as the waves grew higher and the tide rolled right up to the edge of the sea grass. It was beautiful, but it was very windy and cold, and we spent much of our time curled up under blankets, reading.
It was absolutely the perfect, perfect setting to read Little Gale Gumbo!
Unfortunately for me, I’d already read Little Gale Gumbo — I read it back in August, the day I got it, because once I started reading it I couldn’t put it down — and didn’t like the book I’d brought, so I ended up reading one of those books that always seems to be in cabins, something fluffy and vapid and completely forgettable. WHY DIDN’T I JUST RE-READ LITTLE GALE GUMBO? Major reading fail on my part.
Seriously, folks. If you are curled up in an autumn cabin, preferably with a roaring fire and a big cozy sweater and some dangerous weather happening outside your window, ideally with some amazing New Orleans-inspired stew simmering on the stove — or if you’re in your boring old apartment with the neighbors playing Rock Band upstairs and the house smells inexplicably like old socks even though you just did laundry, but obviously you’d PREFER to be in a cabin with sweater, lake, weather, and stew — then you really ought to be reading Little Gale Gumbo.
Molly: As all Debs know, the process of writing your first novel can be a challenging one. Was there ever a time (or times?) when you thought you couldn’t do it or when you came close to giving up?
Erika: Oh, absolutely. But fortunately Little Gale Gumbo was the 14th manuscript I’d written (and submitted!) so I never worried that I would give up on writing, but I will admit that because this novel came closer to publication than any of the others, the idea of not seeing this story out in the world was harder than it had been for any earlier manuscripts.
Molly: Fourteen! You are amazing! So when the writing (or re-writing) got rough, were there certain characters or scenes you used as a touchstone to reassure yourself of the story’s worth or importance?
Erika: I know we all love our characters–even the baddies–because they are OURS and they come from our hearts. For me, there was always something so magical in the blending of these people who came from such different worlds. I would sit there and imagine them all waking up in this big old drafty house, Camille in her favorite kimono and Ben in his chamois shirt, so hopelessly in love with this woman who couldn’t have been less like anyone he’d ever known–Dahlia and Josie, every bit the sisters who are best friends but will fight to the death over a favorite pair of shoes–and Matthew, loving each sister in very different ways. They were such a family in my mind. I wanted to eat the day’s leftovers with them every night in the window booth after they closed the cafe. I wanted to get drunk with Dahlia on her porch and laugh ourselves sick. I wanted to make pralines with Josie and eat the whole plate before they’d cooled. I wanted to help Camille dress a love candle. I believed in my characters the way every writer does. And I loved them unconditionally.
Molly: “The way every writer does” — ha! I once had a dream that I stabbed my protagonist with an ice pick. But your characters are so fabulous, I’m sure you never had thoughts of violence toward them.
13 Replies to “Deb Molly Has Some Advice on How (and Where) to Read LITTLE GALE GUMBO”
And ice pick? Seriously? ROF,L! Now I can’t wait to read your book, too. *grin*
I read LGG on my Kindle back when the weather was still warm, and it was a wonderful experience. I fell right into the world of the book, and felt like I was a part of it. But you know what? I want to read it again when the weather turns colder. I want to sit by the fire, turning the pages of my new paper copy, with its gorgeous cover, while I sip strong coffee and munch on pralines. Mmmm. Sounds like perfection to me.
Yes, exactly! Keep it on your shelf for the next good snowday!
Ice pick!!! Oh boy–like Linda said, now I REALLY can’t wait to read THE PRINCESSES OF IOWA!
Molly, that was such a remarkably generous and truly delicious post–thank you, dear.
I often think about how we can’t help but treat our characters as anyone we care deeply for–wanting them to make the best choices they can–but as writers we know (and want!) for conflict and tension so we thrust them into chaos and sometimes they shape up quickly, other times they roll around in their misguided-ness so darn long we want to throw the laptop out the window! But when (and if) they come around, it is such a gorgeous feeling of relief, of closure.
Hey, let’s be honest: How many of us use characters to work through our own past, and maybe the choices we made–or didn’t make?
Nobody? Yeah, no, me neither. I was just wondering 😉
Yes, I think I had a few moments in the endless rounds of revision where I thought about abandoning my characters & then felt a big sadness for them, that I might even consider leaving them when their stories hadn’t been told.
I also lobbied my editor to let me end the book with everyone dying in a fire. She didn’t go for it.
Ha! Makes me think of the good ole days of soaps when death never meant death. Die in a fire? No worries! Come back two years later to love and cause chaos again! Brilliant!
I love the ice pick dream, Molly – see, it’s your subconscious working out how you should always torture your characters and thrust them into chaos, as Erika says.
And it’s clear that no one in LITTLE GALE GUMBO escapes the chaos, but it’s those chaotic, tough times that make us (and our characters) grow and shine the most.
Yes! I admire how Erika doesn’t pull punches with her characters.
Thanks, ladies. I appreciate that. I think one of the things that makes (in my mind, at least) a character worth caring about isn’t that they make the best choices, but that they make the real ones, the ones that are true to them, no matter the consequences–BUT that they learn from them. Even if it takes them so long you’re ready to pull your (and their!) hair out!
What a cool question – I think after you’ve read your own book for the hundredth time it’s impossible to still love all the characters with the same energy, so having some scenes that remind you of why you’re doing this is a great idea!
I’ve got LGG on my e-reader. Now, all I need is a fall cabin and a roaring fire…
Aren’t you surrounded by fall cabins and roaring fires in Colorado? That’s what the brochures said…
And pralines, Eleanor! That would be the holy trifecta, I believe. I’m still working on a mass-praline mailing so don’t give up hope 😉
I think I said this earlier in the week, but I read LGG while sick in bed. I had the crappiest flu, and was so grateful to have characters and a story to get invested in. It made me WANT to be sick so I could stay in bed and never stop reading.
So there’s another option — go out in the cold with your hair wet, or something, so you can cuddle up with a box of tissues and Little Gale Gumbo.
Oh, Rachel dear, the timing of your sweet words is perfect. We just came from the pediatrician’s to get flu shots (among a few others–gulp!)…
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