THE CRAFT OF WRITING – AUGUST 2020
THE CRAFT OF WRITING – AUGUST 2020
This month I’m happy to welcome Gale Sears to the blog. Although Gale has previously published other titles, The Fifth Favorite is her first foray into middle-grade fiction. It was published and released in November 2019 by CrossLink Christian Publishers.
From the Amazon book blurb:
Eleven-year-old Allie Whitman is dealing with stress about her sixth-grade science project, embarrassment about her chicken costume for Halloween, and fear of the Mad Woman of Tahoe Meadow. Added to this, she feels that she is her mother’s fifth favorite in their family of six. She tries hard to up her status, but competing with her dad, a charming older brother, a brainy older sister, and a younger sister with autism; Allie laments that she may be stuck forever as low man on the totem pole.
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Gale Sears is the best-selling author of the well-loved children’s story, Christmas for a Dollar. She has a degree in play writing and a masters degree in theater arts. She grew up in the magic of Lake Tahoe, which colors the story of The Fifth Favorite.
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Welcome, Gale, and thank you for joining us!
Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get interested in writing?
I grew up in the wonder of Lake Tahoe which shaped my joy and imagination. I also spent time in Hawaii during my high school years, and then attended college in Utah and Minnesota. For many years, my profession centered in Theater Arts. I spent time acting, directing, and playwriting. Later in my life, the Lord moved me onto another path—novel writing, specifically Historical Fiction.
I am married to George and we have two children, Shawn and Chandler. Our son, Shawn, passed away ten years ago. It was a painful experience which brought our family to that crisis of faith faced by many. Would this great loss have us doubt the Lord or bring us closer to His divine love? We chose closer.
After having written other novels, what made you decide to write in the middle-grade genre?
I had a story bumping around in my head about life in Lake Tahoe during the innocent age of the early 1960’s, and a young girl’s discovery of the principle of seeing into a person’s life and not judging them on first impressions. It was a fun book to write as my historical fiction books require hundreds of hours of research and tons of organizing. With The Fifth Favorite, I was able to let my imagination fly! And, there were several characters who marched themselves onto the pages without invitation. It’s always fun when people or events magically pop into the book.
Give us a short synopsis of The Fifth Favorite.
Eleven-year-old Allie Whitman is growing up in a place of beauty and wonder, Lake Tahoe California. During her sixth grade year she experiences exciting adventures and encounters some difficult problems. She also comes face to face with school friends and neighbors who challenge her childhood perception of people. One of the main people who changes her thinking is Mrs. Hemmett, who is the frightening odd-ball character of the community. Allie thinks Mrs. Hemmett is completely creepy until she has the opportunity to get to know her.
What was the most difficult thing about writing a middle-grade novel?
I found the most difficult thing was going back into my middle-grade self to remember what those years felt like. It was important not to talk above the age level, but also not to make light of the real concerns facing the characters. It was vital to express the characters’ genuine stresses and emotions.
Describe your path to publication.
Years ago, when I was still doing theater, I had an idea for a story which did not work as a play. I began building the skeleton of the story and found it worked better as a novel. I wrote the first four or five chapters and an associate of mine knew a managing editor and suggested I meet her and show her the work. She encouraged me to finish the novel and present it to her publishing house. This I did, and they accepted the work. I have been very blessed in my efforts as an author, and I do not have any ego in my accomplishments, because EGO is Edging God Out. I am grateful to be able to tell stories that hopefully lift others.
Prior to this favorable outcome, I’d spent about a year sending out a manuscript which received many rejection letters. It made me evaluate whether I had the talent or tough enough skin to be an author. I kept going. That’s always my advice to new authors, keep going! Book publishing is a fickle business and the needs of the industry are ever changing. If you love your story and have done the work to make it clean and crisp—power ahead.
What one message do you want readers to take away from your book?
Be gentle and non-judgmental of other people and the path they’re traveling. You never know what they’ve suffered or are suffering. I realize that today life is gritty; we do not live in the innocence of the 1960’s, but we can still offer others understanding and compassion.
What single piece of advice would you give to new authors?
Be a good storyteller. You can study books and books on writing, but I think if you come up with an amazing character that goes on an adventure (either actual or of the soul—or both!) you will keep your readers interested.
What do you do when you want to get away from work?
I like to spend time hiking in the mountains or at home cooking! Some of my favorite things to cook—beef stew, chicken and dumplings, and banana bread. Also, when the opportunity presents itself, I like to travel with my cute husband, George.
What are you working on now?
I just finished an historical novel. The working title is “Sisters.” It takes place in 1898 and tells the story of the first sister missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They were only twenty-two years old when they were called from Utah to go to England.
Where can we find out more about you and your work?
My web site is http://www.galesears.com
Thank you, Gale, for sharing your expertise with us!
Thanks, Kay! And the best to all the wondrous writers out there!
Good morning, Gale, and welcome to the Craft of Writing blog! I know you live in a lovely part of the country near Lake Tahoe. How do you manage to keep your mind on writing when there’s so much natural beauty all around to explore?
Morning Kay! Nice to be with you. Tahoe truly was a magical place when I was young. I’d gather my pencils and papers and find a little nook somewhere and write. Now we have a cabin in the mountains near Park City Utah and I go there to capture some of that mountain magic.
Good morning, Gale & Kay! What a lovely interview, Gale. Thank you so much for taking time to share your writing journey, and a little bit about your life journey, with us. Your words are encouraging, and I noted how knowing someone who knows someone was an integral part of your path to publication. I’m reminded again and again that reputation and relationships are so important to a writing career, as much or even more than in any other field. I particularly love EGO as an acronym for Edging God Out. I’ve never heard that, and I won’t soon forget it. Godspeed on your writing and your books!
Lisa, thanks for dropping by. I appreciate your comments. The older I get, the more I value the importance of relationships!
Btw, this week’s NY Times Sunday crossword puzzle has a clue you would love. The clue is “Completely committed.” The answer is five letters long.
For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, Lisa Simonds’s debut novel is entitled All In.
I’m waiting for a clue “A dainty, gold device that tells more than the time.” Answer is 22 letters long. 😊
Oh, my Lord! Kay, that’s great!
Thank you Lisa. This life would be a tenuous place without faith. I’m very grateful for the people who have encouraged me in my writing journey. Best to you in all your endeavors! Gale
Thank you, Gale!
I’m wondering how you got pre-publication feedback for your middle-grade novel. Did you form a team of alpha-readers? (younger than beta), ask some relatives of appropriate age, or perhaps didn’t feel that step necessary?
Just wondering how it’s done.
Best wishes for success!
What a good question. Since I have written several books I do have a group of readers who peruse my manuscripts. Several are authors of middle grade books so they can give me focused opinions on that age group. It was extremely helpful as this was my first book for that genre. I am always so grateful for the wonderful people who support me.