Gemma had a hard time figuring out what she wanted to be when she grew up. She worked as a film and television actress, a teddy bear importer, a department store administrator, a preschool teacher, a temporary tattoo artist, and a 900 number psychic, before finally selling her first book, Spying in High Heels, in 2005 and deciding to be a writer.
Since then, Gemma has written several mystery novels and been the recipient of numerous awards, including a National Reader’s Choice award and three RITA nominations. She now makes her home in the San Francisco Bay area where she is hard at work on her next book. Gemma is a lovely woman with a riotous side she showcases in her hilarious novels and was kind enough to take some time for an interview with me, so sit back and enjoy!
How would you say you have evolved as a writer over time?
I would like to think that the more I write, the better I get at it, but I’ll leave that to readers to decide.
When you’re not writing, what are your favorite ways to relax and have some fun?
I’m a shopaholic. I feel most at home at the mall, so I love to spend my down-time there. When my wallet can’t take it anymore, I like spending time at the beach or at the park with my kids.
Of all the books you have written, do you have a favorite? If so, which one and why?
It’s hard to say I have a favorite, but one book that will always have a soft spot in my heart is SPYING IN HIGH HEELS, mostly because it was the first book I ever published.
Do you have plans to write other genres in the future?
I’m currently writing four different series, so that’s enough for me to keep track of. All of them have elements of mystery to them, but two are more humorous (the High Heels Mysteries and the Hollywood Headlines Mysteries), one is more of an action thriller (PLAY NICE), and one is for young adults (the Deadly Cool books).
Has your life changed since you’ve become a published author? If so, how?
I get to do what I love all do long! Okay, I’ll admit that it is work sometimes, but it’s really an amazing thing to be able to make a living off of your passion.
Have you ever had an embarrassing moment at a booksigning?
I guess the most embarrassing thing for me is that I’m a terrible speller. I always ask people to spell their names for me when I sign books. Which earns me some interesting looks form the “Janes”s and “Susan”s of the world.
I have found that some authors listen to music while they write. Do you listen to music or is it something that is distracting to you?
Usually, I don’t listen to music. But once in a while, if I’m at a really noisy Starbucks and need to drown people out, I’ll listen to classical music while I write.
Do you ever fear writer’s block or that you’ll let your audience down?
All the time. I think every writer has this fear. With every book that I start, I worry that it won’t be as good as the last one. I just try to push that voice to the back of my head and write anyway.
Do you belong to any writers groups and what do you feel you have gained from the social sites?
Writing is very solitary, so it’s been amazingly important for me to belong to writers groups. Most of the groups I belong to are online, but it gives me somewhere to go where others get what I’m going through. I can whine about edits and everyone knows exactly what I’m talking about.
Are there any characters in your books that represent you?
I think there’s a little bit of me in all of my books, but I’d say that the character that is most like myself is Maddie Springer, the heroine from my High Heels Mysteries. When I first wrote her, my mother read the book, then comments, “You wrote a book about yourself!”
How much of the characters and story lines come from people you know and your own experiences versus your imagination?
I steal a lot from people I know. Usually my basic plots are totally made up (I’ve never actually found a dead body), but a lot of the characters and places I write about are real.
Can you tell us one thing about yourself that most of your fans don’t already know?
I’m very short and always have to ask for help reaching items from the top shelves in stores.
What do you feel are the benefits of the new electronic readers to the environment?
I love paper books, but what always bugged me about them is that bookstores generally order way more copies than they need, keep them on the shelves for a couple of months, then strip the covers off of the leftover books and send them back for a refund. Usually at least 30-40% off the books originally ordered are destroyed and returned. Not only is this sad to an author – my babies are being destroyed! – but also incredibly wasteful. So, I love that with ebooks some of that waste is eliminated.
What impact do electronic readers create on the bottom line for authors in the end? Do you feel they have a negative impact or positive, or no impact at all that you can see?
For me, they have had an incredibly positive impact. I’ve been self-publishing several titles in primarily electronic form, and the returns have been staggering compared to what print returns in the past have been.
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