Well, it's Saturday, and that means it's the end of Whitney week here at Dee and dee Dish. Whitney has been more wonderful than I could have hoped. She's donated signed copies of her latest book, Testing Kate. She's put up with way too many e-mails from me, asking crazy questions for the interview I'm posting today. She even mentioned us on her own blog. Frankly, I can't think of a better person to have picked for the first FAb Pick of 2007. Whitney was all that I hoped a FAb author would be, and more!
I really wanted to review my favorite Whitney book, True Love (and Other Lies), this week. It didn't happen, as you can tell. Wanna know why? Well, I've loaned it out a few times. Normally, I loan out almost all of my books, and don't care if I get them back. See, I read so much that it really takes something special for me to actually keep a book, like meeting/knowing the author, or having the book signed. But once in a while, a book will make my 'keeper shelf' just because it's great, then it only leaves my house if I can be totally sure it's going to come back. With well over 2,000 books in my office, my husband doesn't care if any of them come back! So I couldn't find True Love in time to review it. This really upset me, as I'd called my friends to find out who had it and nobody was fessing up. Well it finally turned up, yesterday. Guess where. In my 14yo daughter's room. Yep, she'd snatched it, because she said that I'd read it so many times that she knew it had to be good, and I'd told her it was ok to read, so it was safe in her room the whole time. What a relief! Still though, one day isn't enough time to re-read a book for a review, so you're going to have to trust me that it's wonderful. And I promise, when Whitney's next book is released, I will review it, and True Love. Now, on with this interview... (I asked 'block style' questions, to hopefully give a broader range in which Whitney could answer. Since the purpose was to really get to know Whitney, instead of just wanting specific information, I felt this was best. Hope you agree!)
dee: I've read on your site (bio, maybe) that you were a lawyer before you began your writing career. Can you explain what prompted you to make the transition to writing? Were you still working in the Law when you started writing? How scared were you to try writing, and what gave you the courage to actually go for it?
Whitney Gaskell: I'd always wanted to be a writer, but I knew how hard it would be to break in. I thought the law would be a much more sensible career to pursue . . . the only problem was that I hated it right from the beginning. Then I read a book called THE ARTIST'S WAY, and in it, the author said that the difference between published writers and unpublished writers was often not talent, but nerve. That really resonated with me. I'd always written as a hobby, but I decided to start seriously pursuing it. Once I was out of law school, I'd write in the evenings and on the weekends, and basically treated it as a second job. I was still practicing law when my first book, PUSHING 30, got picked up . . . but I immediately left to write full time, and I haven't looked back.
dee:What is your writing process? Do you borrow a lot from real life? How long does it generally take you to finish a story?
WG: I often get asked this, and honestly, I have no idea how ideas come to me (although I love the idea of waking up in the middle of the night, with the story all planned out . . . does that happen to other writers???). I'll usually just get a scrap of an idea - a relationship between a younger woman and an older man, or a woman who falls in love with her best friend's ex-boyfriend - and then the story will evolve from there.
My books are entirely fictional . . . I just have a rich inner life! It takes me anywhere from four to six months to get a book written. Then I give it to my husband, who critiques and edits it, and gives it back. I go over it again, and send it off to my agent, who also critiques it. I'll do another round of rewrites, after which the manuscript finally goes to my editor. She does a really intensive critique on it, giving me pages of notes, and I'll do one last massive rewrite. The whole process can take anywhere from nine months to a year, although usually I'm working on other projects at the same time.
dee:How many people do you allow to read your work before you are finished? Do you have a writing partner or a critique group? If so, how important is that in your process? How much do you let 'suggestions' from others influence what you write?
WG: I get really superstitious about letting people read my work before it's ready. My husband, George, reads it first, and then my agent, and finally my editor. And only after my editor has approved it, do I pass it on to anyone else.
dee:Did you pitch your stories at a Conference? How did you go about getting an agent and an editor? How many books did you write before "Pushing 30" was published?
WG: No, I've never been to a conference. I found my agent the old-fashioned way, after I'd written PUSHING 30, I sent out queries to a number of agents. I had a few nibbles of interest, but the agent I ended up signing with was the most enthusiastic about my work. He sold it to Bantam a few months later.
Before PUSHING 30, I'd written three full books . . . each and every one of which was so awful, I have deleted all existing copies.
dee:Which of your books was the hardest to write? Why? Which was the funnest? Which main character do you most identify with? Have you ever modeled a character after someone that you really didn't like? After someone that you really love?
WG: The hardest book for me to write was TRUE LOVE (AND OTHER LIES). I was grieving the loss of our first son, who was stillborn, and going through a very difficult pregnancy with my son, Sam. But working on the book also gave me something to focus on, and a goal to work toward, which did also help.
Interestingly, my favorite character is Claire, the protagonist in TRUE LOVE. I thought she was so funny, and flawed, and wise.
None of my characters are modeled on any real life people, for better or worse. Not that I'm admitting to, anyway.
dee: Reading the LC entry from your husband, it seems like you guys are a perfect fit. How long have you been together? Were you a writer when you two got married? What does he think about your job? It's obvious that he adores you (YAY, YOU!!), and he seems very understanding. Was there a transition time, or has he always been the Supportive Husband of a Writer?
WG: George and I were law school sweethearts. We met during our One-L year at Tulane Law, and have been together ever since! This March, we'll be celebrating our eighth wedding anniversary.
I wouldn't be a writer today if it weren't for George. He encouraged me when I needed encouraging, and pushed me when I needed pushing. Most of all, he never stopped believing in me.
I am very, very lucky in love.
dee: Your book dedications are beautiful. One of them, in particular, really moves me. When writing, do you actually have people in mind for your dedication, or does that come later? I mean, do you start out a book with the idea that "This is Blah's story, I'm writing this one for her", or does that only come after you've finished?
WG: Thank you! I always know who I'll be dedicating the book to while I'm writing it, and I do write with that person in mind.
Thanks so much, Whitney, for being the January FAb Pick! You've been more than wonderful, you've been FAB-ulous!! I can hardly wait for your next books! I'm especially interested in GEEK HIGH. Maybe with that one, my daughter will leave my other books alone!
CONTEST news... JILLIAN, get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your snail mail addy, and I'll send you a copy of She, Myself & I ! For the final contest, the very last signed copy of Testing Kate, all you have to do is tell me which one of Whitney's books you really want to read (or re-read!), and why. It can be because you're already a Whitney fan, because of any of the reviews this week, or because you simply like the cover. One lucky winner, drawn at random, will win a signed copy of Whitney's newest release Testing Kate! Please only enter this contest ONE time, and make sure your entry is on THIS post, by 10am Monday morning. I'll announce the winner early next week.
Have a great weekend and...
Keep turning those pages!