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Interview with Gail Graham, Author of Sea Changes

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Gail Graham is represented by the interviewer's Pump Up Your Book Promotion, a public relations agency specializing in online book promotion.


Gail Graham’s novel, Crossfire, won the Buxtehude Bulle, a prestigious German literary award. Crossfire has been translated into German, French, Danish, Finnish and Swedish. Three of Gail’s other books were New York Times Book of the Year recommendations. Gail lived in Australia for 32 years, where she owned and operated a community newspaper and published several other books, including A Cool Wind Blowing (a biography of Mao Zedong) Staying Alive and A Long Season in Hell.  She returned to the United States in 2002, and now lives in Tucson, Arizona.

Gail’s latest book is the literary novel, Sea Changes.  We interviewed Gail to find out more about her new book and her life as a published author.

Thank you for this interview, Gail.  Can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I’ve been able to read for as long as I can remember, too. I don’t ever remember being taught to read. But books were always magic carpets for me, and I always wanted to be a writer. I was born and grew up in South Orange, New Jersey. As soon as I could, I escaped to New York, and then to Los Angeles. I got married, moved to Hawaii, worked as a freelance correspondent in Vietnam during the war, got divorced, moved back to Los Angeles, got married again and moved to Australia, where I lived for thirty-two years. I was writing, all the time. Along the way, I got my PhD and taught in MBA programs in Australian universities. And for a while, I owned a community newspaper. I’ve published six other books and one of them, Crossfire: A Vietnam Novel won the Buxtehude Bulle, an important German literary award.

Was there anyone in your life that you can give credit to helping pave the way?

My late husband, Rollyn, encouraged me tremendously, giving me the self-confidence to attempt things that I never would have dared to do, otherwise. He was an intellectually brilliant mathematician and scientist, but he was also the most caring, tender, gentle person I have ever known. He passed away 20 years ago, but there isn’t a day when I don’t think of him and remember something he said, or something we did together. He had an incredibly open mind, and taught me to open my mind, as well. I think it’s true to say that Sea Changes could not have been written without him. Rollyn is the one who taught me that anything is possible.

Can you tell us a little about your latest book?

Sea Changes grew out of my interest in the concepts of sanity and reality. Sanity is not an absolute. What is considered sane – and insane – varies from culture to culture, and from century to century. 2000 years ago, the Virgin Mary was honored. Today, she’d be medicated. So I decided to create a character who must decide for herself whether she is sane or insane, whether to trust her surroundings or her instincts.

What message are you trying to convey with this book?

That anything is possible.

Why did you choose your particular genre?

I didn’t. Reviewers are describing Sea Changes as a “genre-buster” –- because it doesn’t fit easily into any single genre. And that was deliberate. I don’t read genre fiction, and I’ve never written what’s called genre fiction. I wanted to create a novel that was different, unique. I wanted people to say, I’ve never read a novel like this (actually, one reviewer did say that). Of course, writing a book that doesn’t slot neatly into a genre is anathema to huge publishing conglomerates – which is why I went with a small, independent publisher. There’s nothing wrong with genre fiction. It fulfils a need. It’s comfort food for the mind. But it’s not what I write.

Do you have an agent?  What were your experiences finding her/him?

I had an agent. Most readers don’t realize that agents are the new gate keepers, where American writing is concerned. Agents decide what will be published, and what won’t. Agents have taken over the work that used to be done by editors. Personally, I believe this is a bad situation for readers and an even worse situation for writers. It used to be that a talented, young writer had a chance at publication without first having to find an agent, but those days are gone. And believe me, compared to finding an agent, root canal work is unremitting joy. Happily for all of us (writers and readers, I mean) independent publishers are leaping into the breach, reading unsolicited manuscripts and publishing exciting, new works. Ten years from now, I suspect agents will mostly be a thing of the past. And that will not be a bad thing.

Do you blog?  If so, what can you tell my readers about the advantages of blogging as a useful tool in book promotion?

My blog is Driving Chairman Bao and it wasn’t created as a tool for promotion, although many of the people who read it have expressed interest in Sea Changes.  My blog is a “dog blog” – it’s about the day to day adventures (and vicissitudes) of my “pack” — me and my Shih Tzu, Bao (don’t ask who the pack leader is!).  That having been said, I think a blog is an advantage for an author, especially an author who writes fiction. Readers often want to know more about an author, and an ongoing blog is a good way to convey that information. On the other hand, I don’t find blogs that are specifically about being an author or about promoting a particular book especially interesting, mostly because they are too much like advertising. That’s just me, though. I’d say, if you’re going to blog, blog about something else – besides your book – that interests and engages you.

Do you have a website?  Do you manage it yourself or do you have someone run it for you?

Yes, I’ve got a website  I built it myself (I am tremendously proud of that!) and I manage it myself, too. It’s very simple and straight-forward. One of the things I hate about some of the websites I visit is the blaring music and all those little icon creatures leaping about – my website is quiet and serene, and I hope this encourages people to stay and browse. However, I have nothing against music and I hope when your readers visit my website they also take a moment to view the book trailer, because I think the music on it is absolutely wonderful.

Thank you for this interview, Gail.  Do you have any final words you’d like to share with my readers?

Thank you for being readers. Thank you for entering into authors’ imaginative worlds, for accompanying us upon our imaginative journeys to worlds that only exist in our minds until you help us make them come true. Thank you for inviting me into your lives, and for allowing me to share my life with you. We’ve never met, but you are the most important people in my world. If you’d like me to talk to your book discussion group, or if you just want to talk about Sea Changes, please feel free to contact me at g.graham001@comcast.net.

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About Dorothy Thompson