An Interview with Gini Grossenbacher
What is your favourite dragon in literature?
Maleficent. I appreciate that the wicked fairy transforms into a reptilian creature, the embodiment of evil. I saw the Disney film as a child in the 1950s, and the dragon image stayed with me all my life. I think I have a love-hate relationship with that dragon. She is larger-than-life, powerful, and gorgeous.
I’m not going to be reviewing your newest novel, but from your other published novels, is there one that is your own personal favourite?
Madam in Silk has a special place for me, since I not only did extensive research into the heroine Ah Toy’s history in San Francisco, but I had to do lots of reading about Guangzhou, the Pearl River, and the porcelain trade where her fictional father gained his wealth. I immersed myself in Chinese ancient cultural practices, familial relationships, and the class system.
Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?
Luckily, I hired an excellent editor to shepherd me through the revisions of Madam of My Heart, my first novel. I do have an “in the drawer” World War II novel that has been through tons of revision and editing, but I have never gone back and published it. My readers wanted me to continue the “American Madams” trilogy, so continuing to write those novels seemed more important at the time. My next trilogy is called “Artistic Women.” After I finish those books, perhaps I’ll return to the war story.
Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?
I am a two-to-three-year percolator. I do extensive research for each of my novels, multiple revisions, and work with beta readers and critique groups.
I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down, and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?
I write on my laptop in the morning hours or late afternoon. I have a spacious office with artwork on the walls, candles burning, and my little terrier Murphy in her bed. That keeps me happy.
Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers and choose an editor?
I have a trusted group of fellow novelists who critique my story, then I have two or three well-read friends who read and provide opinions. My patient husband helps me when I encounter a plot wrinkle.
I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?
My favorite bookshop is the Avid Reader in downtown Sacramento. They always have the latest bestsellers available, in addition to a wonderful children’s literature section where I tend to get lost. They’re also quite willing to host my book launches and sell my novels and poetry.
I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?
As an English teacher, I taught the classics of course, along with works by diverse authors of color. I read widely in fiction and non-fiction, yet I always return to historical fiction, my genre, in order to see the latest trends.
Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?
I did hire a social media manager a few years ago. She helped me set up my platform, website, and initial presence on Facebook and Twitter. When she eventually moved away, I handled the platform myself, yet it is a big job, and I find myself always feeling guilty for not posting enough. I have a publicist, Cristina Deptula, from Authors Large and Small, and she has been a great help to me in gaining contacts and reviews over the years.
I like Facebook because the brief posts seem to fit my time and genre. I also belong to FB reader/writer groups, and I enjoy reading the posts of other authors and readers who love their books as well as my own.
I supplement social media with selling my books at bookstores, fairs and festivals, especially at those events with a vintage theme since they complement my historical fiction genre. I will wear a fascinator or frilly skirt, decorate my booth with lace and flowers, and set out my books. I make many sales that way, and people love to see an author’s booth next to the painted rock table.
Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next?
Not really. My career keeps evolving with the times, so my answers are relevant today. Tomorrow’s interview could be completely different since I’ll have a new novel out or a fresh book of poetry!