20 Questions with Margaret Gracie (#Authorinterview)

Today Fictionophile welcomes Canadian debut author Margaret Gracie.  Margaret has generously agreed to answer my questions and share her writing journey with us.

Margaret’s book has recently been published by The Porcupine’s Quill.

“Plastic” has arrived from the Publisher. Margaret is overjoyed to open the boxes containing her book!


F  Congratulations on the publication of “Plastic”! What do you think is the single most influential factor in your success as a debut author?

MG  Dedication. It is easy to begin writing. Halfway through, the challenges seem insurmountable. Pushing past those doubts and believing in the work, putting words on the page and seeing it through to the end is an almost Herculean task, only made possible through dedication.

F  How long did the writing process take?

MG  I wrote the first story in the book in 2008. At the time, I thought it was a standalone piece, but the other characters wanted to share their stories. Gradually, the individual stories formed a book. In total, I worked on it for eight years before finding a publisher.

F  How long did it take for you to find a publisher for your novel? Was it ever rejected before finally being published by Porcupine Quill?

MG  I spent about six months researching publishing companies before sending out a single query letter. I knew it had to be the right fit. I started sending out query letters in the spring of 2016 and the Porcupine’s Quill responded in early July. I had received a few rejection letters by then, but I think the research paid off. It isn’t uncommon to have dozens of rejections and perhaps never find a home for a book.

F  Did you have family and/or friends proof-read your book, or did you depend on Porcupine Quill’s editorial staff?

MG  I work as an editor so I was confident that the staff at the Porcupine Quill and I could handle the proofreading.

F  What part of your new career as an author do you dislike the most?

MG  At the moment, I dislike how little time I have for actual writing. I want people to discover and read Plastic, so I am investing time in the marketing of the book. But I do look forward to getting back to my writing schedule.

F  How important is place/setting in the linked stories of “Plastic“?

MG  The setting is very important. This is a book about the American Dream, and La Jolla/San Diego represent the epitome of that dream.

F  Do you identify in any way with your protagonist, Deborah Pearce?

MG  I identify with her struggles to have it all. I gave Debbie success in far more areas than I have had, which served to highlight where she was failing.

F  Your book presents several different person’s perspectives of the Deborah Pearce character. Do you think that people can really accurately understand another person, or is their judgment inherently flawed by their own experiences?

MG  One of my preoccupations when writing the book was image. With the advent of social media, we are all able to create a public face or persona. The difficulty arises when we start believing we are this person and try to live up to the always smiling persona we created. Those closest to us see a much different person. Yes, their judgment is clouded by their own experiences but they see beyond image to the person underneath.

F   You were born in Nova Scotia and now live in Victoria, British Columbia.  What made you decide to set your book in California?

MG  Although the themes are universal, this belief in achievement (or money) being a panacea resonates most in the United States. California is so beautiful and welcoming on the outside, like Debbie. But, as Keegan says, there are vermin teeming under every house.

F  Reviews, both good and bad, are part of the writing experience. How important do you think they are to the success of a book?

MG  Reviews introduce your book to people who may have never heard of it otherwise. I think they are crucial, especially if they touch on aspects of the book that might appeal to readers.

F  Writers are also avid readers. What type of book do you like to read for pleasure?

MG  I spent the last six years reading short stories and books of linked short stories. I absolutely loved Black Swan Green by David Mitchell and used it as inspiration for my book.

I generally read books about family dynamics and the complicated web of relationships. I also love to read books set in different countries so that I can learn about the place through the eyes of the characters.

F  If you could sit and enjoy a chat and a glass of wine with another author (living or dead) – who would it be? Why?

MG  Wow. Too many to list. It’s one of my greatest pleasures to sit with another author and discuss books or the craft of writing. I wish I’d had the chance to discuss short stories with Raymond Carver.

F  Are you working on another book?  If so, can you tell us a little about it.

MG  I am working on a novel. This one is set in Canada and centres around a family who fled certain death for a calm and happy life in this country. Things do not go as planned.

F  How much input did you have in choosing the cover for your book?

MG  Luckily, I was able to send the Porcupine Quill a few designs I liked for the cover. They chose one of the options and created a cover for my approval. I was very happy with the end product.

F  Plastic” is your first book and you recently participated in your first ever ‘book launch.  Can you briefly share this experience with us?

MG  The book launch was such a wonderful evening. So many people came out to share in my success. It was the closest thing to a “love-in” I may ever experience. After so many years working on the book, I had the chance to celebrate its culmination. That rarely happens in writing, which made me appreciate it all the more.

Margaret Gracie at her first ever book launch on June 22, 2017 which was held at the Victoria Central Library

F  Are there some books that you find yourself recommending to all your friends?  Tell us two titles that you recommend.

MG  I loved Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels. I cannot say enough good things about it. It is beautifully written, evocative and powerful.

I also recommend The Book Thief to everyone. I would happily reread it to visit those characters again. I loved Marcus Zusak’s narrative device. A true gem.

F  What current novelist do you feel is underrated or deserves to be more well known?

MG  Having spent so many years reading short stories, I have to say that the entire cannon of short story writers deserves more recognition. Writers like Deborah Willis, Peter Orner and Nam Le, to name a few. Check them out!

F  Have you ever ‘people-watched’ to gain inspiration for any of your characters? And, how did you pick your character’s names?

MG  I went down to the San Diego area for five or six years in a row to people-watch. Once I decided on the setting and the characters, I needed to have a good feel for how they would stand, speak and interact.

The four main characters’ names arrived with them. The minute I wrote the first story, they were Debbie, Greg, Keegan and Tiff. I could never see them as anything else. For other characters, I might go through a process of elimination. I try names to see if they fit. As I learn more about them, it becomes clear what their names are.

F  What interview question have you never been asked that you wish had been asked? What’s the answer?

MG  I’m new to answering interview questions and find them all interesting. No one has asked me yet what I hope for the future. My ideal is for people to read and enjoy ‘Plastic’ and for me to keep writing and publishing my work. I feel that I have a lot more to say and explore in my writing.

F  How do you wish to be contacted by ‘fans’?  Facebook? Twitter? Your own website?

MG  For the time being, I’d like people to contact me via my website, margaretgracie.com. If I develop a fan base, I promise to start a Twitter account so people can keep track of what I’m working on.

Thanks SO much Margaret for taking the time to answer my questions so graciously.


The blurb of “Plastic” from Goodreads:

Deborah Pearce has it all. The former Miss America lives an enviable life in La Jolla, California, with a modelling career, a doting husband, two kids and all the fashionable clothing money can buy.

Somehow, it isn’t enough. Image-obsessed Debbie is plagued by dissatisfaction, anxiety and an unquenchable desire for admiration. Her once-promising career is stagnant, the value of her brand diminishing with every passing day. Her two children, neither beautiful nor charming, become petulant and resentful in the face of her ill-concealed disappointment, acting out in ways that have far-reaching consequences for the entire family. But Debbie refuses to let that stop her from striving toward the life she craves … until one day her seemingly perfect world pulls her under, threatening to drown her in disappointed hopes.

Told from the perspectives of eleven interconnected characters, Plastic is a story of loneliness and longing, of alienation and acceptance, and of the never-ending pursuit of the American Dream.

 

Margaret Gracie grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia and graduated with a Philosophy degree from Dalhousie University. She lived and worked in Germany and Quebec before settling on the West Coast of Canada. She now lives in Victoria, British Columbia and works as an editor for the federal government. This is Margaret’s first published book. She is currently working on a novel.

Posted in author interviews, Authors, Canadian fiction, Short stories | Tagged | 3 Comments

#Blogging platforms (WordPress vs. Blogger)

For some years now I’ve maintained this blog on the WordPress platform. I find it user friendly, easy to customize (even though I use a FREE version of WordPress), and I love the WordPress reader which allows me to easily follow other bloggers as much, or as little, as I want to – regardless of what blogging platform they use. Also, the huge advantage of WordPress is the fact that I rarely, if ever, get spam comments. Akismet saves me from the annoyance and hassle of spam.

For several years I maintained the blog of my in person bookclub, Whodunit.  This blog was hosted on Blogger.  It too could be customized, though not as easily or as varied as WordPress. It too allows me to follow other bloggers who use the Blogger platform. The biggest problem with Blogger, for me, was the fact that I was constantly inundated with SPAM!  This meant I had to spend valuable blogging/reading time dealing with these comments.

I am interested to know your feelings about these two blogging platforms.  All the positives and not so positive experiences you’ve encountered.

Personally, I’ve found many Blogger blogs that I like and enjoy reading and following. However, I find them not as easy to ‘Like’ a post, not as easy to leave a ‘comment’. and not as easy to ‘share’ a blog post as with the WordPress blogs I follow.

There seems to be a noticeable divide between WordPress and Blogger.  WordPress bloggers tend to follow WordPress bloggers – Blogger users tend to follow other Blogger bloggers.  So much so that I’ve seriously been thinking of hosting a shadow/ghost site for Fictionophile on the Blogger platform.  This of course would create a lot more work for me, as every time I’d post Fictionophile on WordPress, I would then post the same identical post on Blogger… Seems like this should be unnecessary, but the ‘divide’ is making this more and more tempting.  I cringe at the thoughts of dealing with the spam though…

Also, I would like to hear from bloggers who have migrated their WordPress blog from the free version, to a paid version.  Did you lose followers doing this?  Do you feel your blog is ‘safer’ when you own the site? How problematic was the move?

Other questions that I’d like you to weigh in on are: How do you back up your blog?  How often do you do this?

I would appreciate any thoughts you have on these topics.
If you LOVE WordPress, WHY?
If you LOVE Blogger, WHY?

Posted in Book bloggers, ramblings & miscellanea | Tagged , | 32 Comments

“Magpie murders” by Anthony Horowitz

“Masterful, clever, and relentlessly suspenseful, Magpie Murders is a deviously dark take on vintage English crime fiction in which the reader becomes the detective.”

It has been a while since I’ve read what I would consider to be a ‘traditional’ mystery. Anthony Horowitz delivers just such a book in “Magpie Murders” which is an homage to the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie.

Magpie Murders” is a book within a book that bibliophiles, and lovers of Dame Agatha will enjoy.

The current day story features Susan Ryeland, the editor of a small London publishing house called Cloverleaf Press.  They have just received the latest novel from their most popular author, Alan Conway. It is the ninth novel in his best-selling Atticus Pünd series of historical mysteries. Susan takes it home to read it over the weekend – only she is frustrated to discover that the last chapter is missing from the manuscript. From the beginning of the book we are told that her decision to read this manuscript essentially changes her life.

Common Magpie

Magpie Murders” is the title of this 9th installment in Alan Conway’s series and features a traditional English mystery. Set in 1955 it involves a country house murder(s), an insular Somerset village, several plausible and eccentric suspects, and a detective who is an outsider – in this case the series protagonist, Atticus Pünd.  Atticus is terminally ill and this will, in all likelihood be his final case. The first murder victim was the housekeeper at a manor house named Mary Blakiston.  She was considered to be a busybody by her fellow villagers.  The second murder victim was the owner of the manor house, Sir Magnus Pye.  He was generally disliked and the village held many possible murder suspects including his wife and his twin sister, Clarissa Pye.

“Her physique was against her too: not fat, not masculine, not dumpy, but perilously close to all three.”

As Susan read this manuscript I found myself immersed in the ‘novel within a novel’ and like her, was somewhat taken aback when it abruptly ended.

“Everyone in the village thought they knew who had killed Sir Magnus Pye. Unfortunately, no two theories were the same”.

Then, much to the chagrin of Cloverleaf Press, the author’s body is found at his country house in Suffolk. He is believed to have committed suicide. Like his fictional character, Conway had discovered he had a terminal illness and ended his life. Although they didn’t care for him personally, his loss to the publishing house would be hard felt. Susan comes to suspect that he did not commit suicide and that in fact he was murdered.  Now, she has to prove it. As she tries her hand at being an amateur detective she is also searching for the missing pages of Alan Conway’s novel.

I must state up front that I truly enjoyed both stories, especially the one set in the 1950s. It was very cleverly written with several references to the work of Agatha Christie. I enjoyed the language of this classic whodunnit. I also appreciated the writing references which touched on the writing process, character naming, plagiarism, and other facets of editing and publishing.

“We need our literary heroes”

With essentially two novels contained within its pages, “Magpie Murders” is quite heavy on characters and I can understand how this could be confusing and would put some readers off because of it. Despite this, I recommend this novel due to its ingenious plotting and extremely clever writing with use of hidden codes, anagrams, and other wordplay. It was an enjoyable mystery that held my interest throughout. I had never read anything by Anthony Horowitz before, but can now understand why he is an award-winning author.

If you like classic mystery fiction, I suggest you add this book to your TBR.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from the publisher via Edelweiss. I downloaded this title in February and unfortunately I didn’t read it fast enough for them (my copy expired), so in order to fulfill my review commitment, I purchased a Kindle copy from Amazon.ca

“Magpie Murders” is my 5th book of my #20BooksOfSummer challenge
Anthony Horowitz is one of the most prolific and successful writers working in the UK – and is unique for working across so many media. Anthony is a born polymath; juggling writing books, TV series, films, plays and journalism.
Anthony was awarded an OBE for his services to literature in January 2014.

Posted in book reviews, Edelweiss title, Mystery fiction | Tagged , , | 15 Comments

Cover Love: part 28 – Sideways

The covers of novels entice the reader to enter a different world. Covers are, after all, the way the publisher hooks the reader into choosing one book over countless others.

In this, my twenty-eighth installment of ‘Cover Love‘, I’d like to show you books that feature sideways graphics on their covers.

I have noticed several covers lately that are following this trend.  As if it wasn’t bad enough that librarians and book browsers everywhere have to tilt their heads sideways to read the titles on book spines. Honestly, it is a wonder that we all don’ t permanently look like this:

Personally, I am NOT a fan of these sideways covers, but… to each his own.

Some of the following books I’ve already read, some are on my ‘to read’ list,
and some I chose only for their covers.

Some, perhaps, will now be on your TBR!

Just click on the cover to read the book’s synopsis from  Goodreads.

You might just find your next favorite book!

 

Stay tuned for Cover Love Part 29: “Butterflies“

or… revisit any of the previous installments of

Cover Love – some of which I’ve updated recently

 

Posted in Cover Love series, Dustjackets | Tagged | 18 Comments

Blogrolls are SO useful (#bookbloggers)

I follow quite a few blogs.  I mean I FOLLOW them, not just on my WordPress reader, but I read their posts, ‘Like’, ‘Tweet’ and ‘Comment’.  I am very fortunate to also have several bloggers who follow my blog diligently.

When I visit other book blogger’s blogs I often take a gander at their blogroll.  I have found many wonderful blogs this way.  Hopefully, I am included in other people’s blogrolls so that when visitors visit their blogs they might find a link to me.  Or, is it just wishful thinking on my part? I admit that I do get a wee thrill each time I see Fictionophile listed in someone else’s blogroll.

Since earlier this year, when I did some blog housekeeping, I have been trying valiantly to be a supportive book blogger to all those who I have included in my BLOGROLL.

If you want to find some other GREAT book bloggers, look no further than those listed beneath this graphic on my sidebar.  Happy visiting!

All in all, I find I am a member of a very supportive book blogging community.  It was never so evident as one evening several weeks ago when we almost ‘broke’ Twitter.  What fun!

Bloggers know what hard work blogging can be – so we try to support each other in our efforts. With no financial remuneration, support is all the payment we require.

In addition to my BookBloggers blog roll, I have two other blog rolls in my blog’s sidebar. One is for authors that I follow and another for blogs that I follow that are not book blogs.

I’m curious… Do YOU look at the blogrolls of the blogs you visit?  Have you ever clicked on a link in a blogroll and found a GREAT blog?  If you have, please share your findings in the comments. If you have never found blogrolls to be useful, please explain why not.

Posted in Book bloggers, ramblings & miscellanea | Tagged | 58 Comments

“Pieces like pottery” by Dan Buri

Blurb: “Pieces Like Pottery is an examination of the sorrows of life, the strength of character, the steadfast of courage, and the resiliency of love requisite to find redemption. Offering graceful insight into the human condition, each linked story presents a tale of loss and love. Charged with characters mercifully experiencing trials in life, the book reminds us of the sorrows we all encounter and the kindness we receive, oftentimes from the unlikeliest of places.”

Pieces like pottery” is a literary anthology with themes that cause the reader to reflect upon their own lives. Isn’t that what fiction/literature should do?

“In the annals of time, age remains undefeated, no losses to date.”

The last story in this book links the previous stories, tying the book into a cohesive whole. One of the titles contained within its pages was in fact a poem.  Interestingly, the poem was one of my favorite sections of the book.

“Things turn out best for those who
make the best out of the way things turn out”

Didactic in nature, and sometimes in tone, the book provides a lot of life lessons that can be beneficial to all who read it. The stories expound on the vagaries of fate and how everyday people react to the hand that life deals to them. It expounds on human insecurities and the universal wish to ‘belong’ and to be loved and appreciated. Written in a raw and deceptively simple style, the author cuts to the heart of the matter with articulate, thought provoking, elegant, and insightful prose.

“Life’s simple moments are not wasted and unimportant. They are the foundations that shape our lives. They are the formational moments,
one added upon another.”

Some of the themes touched on were: loss, parenting, homophobia, mindfulness, hope, nature vs. nurture, and how powerful words can be – both to inflict hurt and to inflict joy.


My interpretation of the title (which in my opinion is genius – the title – not my interpretation LOL):

When pottery is broken the shards scatter and sometimes it is mended.  A truly devastating break will ensure that the mending is slow, if not impossible. Sometimes the cracks are obvious, sometimes the healing is visible to only the most discerning. Sometimes the mending is almost perfect, but a piece is missing…

Often, when the break is catastrophic, mending is impossible, but it IS possible to reassemble the pieces into something vastly different from the original, yet beautiful.

Substitute the word ‘people’ for the word ‘pottery’ and you get it…

This book has been lingering in my TBR for far longer than it should have been, and for that I apologize to the author.

Read an interview with Dan Buri from the Confessions of a Readaholic blog.

In this blog post, Dan Buri discusses writing “Pieces like Pottery”.

A Huffington Post interview with Dan Buri

“Pieces like pottery” is my 4th book of my #20BooksOfSummer challenge

From Goodreads: Dan Buri’s first collection of short fiction, Pieces Like Pottery, is an exploration of heartbreak and has spent time at #1 on multiple bestseller lists, including for inspirational short stories and inspirational fiction. The writing is uniquely heartfelt and explores the depths of the human struggle and the human search for meaning in life.

Mr. Buri’s non-fiction works have been distributed online and in print, including publications in Pundit Press, Tree, Summit Avenue Review, and TC Huddle. The defunct and very well regarded Buris On The Couch, was a He-Says/She-Says blog musing on the ups and downs of marriage with his wife.

Mr. Buri is an active attorney in the Pacific Northwest and has been recognized by Intellectual Asset Magazine as one of the World’s Top 300 Intellectual Property Strategists every year since 2010. He lives in Oregon with his wife and young daughter.

Posted in book reviews, Literary fiction, Short stories | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Summer reading infographic from “The Expert Editor”

It’s summer, which means vacation time. The sun is out, and the weather is warm. One of the best ways to enjoy a summer day is to sit in the shade with a glass of your favorite beverage and a good book. But which book, you ask?

The team at The Expert Editor has outlined a clever flowchart which will help you plan your next reading excursion. This flowchart outlines brief information about each book it contains, and as you follow where the chart takes you, it will help you select your next book as well. You can rest assured that your summer will be an exciting one!

Whether you want to peruse what the classics have to offer, or enjoy the more modern titles, this chart has selections for everyone.

Posted in Choosing what to read next, Guest post | Tagged , , | 8 Comments