CJ: Hello, Gail. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to us. We’re excited to have you here today!
Thanks for giving me the chance to get some exposure to your readers!
Q: So, first of all, we want to know about your latest short stories. What can you tell us about them?
Fast Friends concerns the romance between Stan Ryan and his new neighbor, Rachel Hartman. They're both runners, and begin to run together every morning. A friendly wager becomes the focus of the story, as Stan pursues Rachel every morning in hopes of catching her.
The Wild One is pure erotica. It's the story of Angela, who along with her girlfriends, is invited to see a sex party. It's shocking and arousing, and they don't stay long. But while Angela's friends are content to talk about what they witnessed, Angela decides that she wants to experience it and goes back....
Q: I think everyone would love to know what inspired you to write these particular works. Can you tell us about that?
Fast Friends came about when it occurred to me that we read about the hero "pursuing" the hero all the time. I decided to make the hero's pursuit of the heroine literal.
The Wild One comes out of the oft-recited advice to "write what you know." I've been involved in swinging for years, and I've been to many a hotel or house party very much like the one my heroine, Angela, discovers.
Q: I’m dying to know more about some of your characters. Can you give us a brief description of your favorites?
My favorite character is Leah Wright, aka Iron Maiden, she's been the heroine of three of my published tales, and has been a supporting character in two others. She was raised in neglect and abuse, and took responsibility for her siblings as a teenager. She's smart, level-headed in a crisis, and aside from her fictional superpowers is based on a real woman I know and love.
Victor Kruger, the Black Knight, is a man given a second chance at life. He volunteered to fight in World War II, and survived to come home where he promised his wife never to scare her that way again. And he kept his word. He grew old in a life circumscribed by his wife's ever-growing fears. At age 90, a widower simply waiting to die, he was transformed by magic--he's young again, strong, virile, and fearless. He's got a second chance at life, and he intends to relish every thrilling moment of it.
Q: Okay, I’m a huge fan of quotes. Would you tell us one of your favorites quotes from your work?
Sure. This is from Three On A Rooftop.Leah is in bed with two men, Jiang and Dylan, who've just made love while she watched.
"Oh my God, she said afterward. "That was so fucking hot!"
Leah sat on the end of the bed. Jiang and Dylan reclined against the headboard. All three of them were sipping champagne. Leah was certain she drank from the most expensive crystal she'd ever touched.
"Glad you enjoyed it," Jiang said with a smirk."We aim to please," Dylan added.
"Yeah?" Leah rose and knee-walked closer to the two men. "So please me."
Jiang and Dylan looked at one another. Another inscrutable look passed between them. They put their glasses aside, then each raised a fist and pumped it three times. Dylan's scissors beat Jiang's paper. Dylan signed heavily. "Oh all right, if I must."
Jiang plucked Leah's glass from her hand as she narrowed her eyes at Dylan. "Talk like that will not get you laid--" Dylan's kiss cut her off.
Q: A little about you. When did you decide to write your first short story?
I've been writing all my life, but mostly only for my own entertainment. It was only in the last couple of years that I Got Serious (tm) about it. I've been writing and submitting stories to paying markets ever since.
Q: Do you have a system or particular ritual you do before/ during writing to keep the words flowing?
I use a kitchen timer. I set it for 60 minutes, start it, and start writing. I don't allow myself to rewrite, revise, or start over. If I write myself into a corner, I jump ahead to a new scene and keep going. I do this until the timer goes off, then I take a few minutes' break before leaping into another hour-long timed session.
It's all in the service of stifling my inner critic and learning to trust my process. When I'm writing quickly and consistently, that's when my writing tends to be the best. My subconscious is a much better writer than my conscious mind, though my critical conscious mind has its role to play--after I've written, while editing.
Q: What do you find the easiest part about writing? The hardest?
The easiest part about writing is, paradoxically, also often the hardest part. When I'm in the proper frame of mind, when I'm able to set my ego (my "inner critic") aside and allow my imagination to hold the reins, the words just flow. It's almost like transcribing the action I see in my mind's eye. I can write between 1,000 and 1,500 words an hour--or four to six manuscript pages per hour. It's a wonderful feeling to know at the end of the day that you've produced 4-5,000 words (or more) of entertaining fiction.
On the other hand, when my ego gets the better of me, writing can be very difficult. Writing, like any creative endeavor, is always a risk. People might not like what you create, and may reject it. That hurts. The ego, unchecked, can find countless ways to avoid that threat--from not writing at all, to endlessly reworking something, to deciding for yourself that it's no good and never letting anyone else see it. And they all work--you avoid the risk of rejection by others. But they also mean you avoid the possibility of success as well.
I have to work at stifling that inner critic. I succeed more often than I fail, and the days on which I write little or nothing get fewer and farther between all the time. Practice, in this as in so many other things, makes perfect.
Q: Are you a “night owl” or an “early bird” (or neither)? What time of day is the best time to write for you?
Oh, I'm a night owl. Always have been. Left to my own devices, I'd be completely nocturnal. So I make a habit of getting up every morning to drive my spouse to work before driving home again to start my day (I work at home). Despite being a nightowl, I get most of my writing done between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. My evenings are spent with my spouse.
Q: We all know writers spend a great deal of time researching. Can you tell us one of the most interesting things you’ve discovered while doing research for your writing?
I think it would have to be how good we all are at reading other human beings, and at making snap judgments on minimal evidence that nonetheless turn out to be correct. Books like Manwatching (Desmond Morris) and Blink (Malcolm Gladwell) demonstrate that. How many times have we all known that another driver was about to make an unsignaled lane change or turn? We were able to intuit his intent based on the briefest, perhaps unconscious, reading of his body language, though most of his body is obscured by two huge metal and glass cages moving at high speed.
We all have a better feel for the motives and intents of those around us than many of us give ourselves credit for. Gavin de Becker's The Gift of Fear demonstrates that many people in the real world get into trouble they could have avoided if they'd paid more attention to their instincts--and less attention to social conventions. It isn't only fictional characters who let peer pressure or fear of embarrassment lead them into dangerous or deadly circumstances. I don't like it in fiction, but it's worse in reality.
Q: What one work of fiction do you think has made the biggest impact on your life? How?
It's extremely difficult to choose just one. But if forced to do it, I'd say the Wild Cards mosaic novel series edited by George R. R. Martin. That collaborative project melded the weird and wonderful world of comic books with first-rate science fiction and fantasy writing. It's the sort of thing I love to read--and to write. It showed me that there are lots of other people who enjoy that sort of thing, and no doubt contributed to my decision to write about characters like Leah Wright and Victor Kruger.
Q: Last question before we wrap this interview up. Please finish this sentence in a way that best describes you, for us. “People would be surprised to know that..."
...I write about relationships. In my personal life, I'm a very reserved, very private person. I don't express strong feelings to many people. So the fact that I write about love, sex, and romance would definitely surprise a lot of people.
CJ: Thank you, again for visiting with us, Gail. I would invite all our guests to check out Flying High, Bound by Convention, Queen Bee, Three On A Rooftop, One Knight Stand, Fast Friends, and The Wild One by Gail Roarke, on sale now at http://www.cobblestone-press.com/catalog/author/gailroarke.htm. Below is an excerpt from Gail's story, Fast Friends. Please read on!
Stan Ryan stepped out onto his front lawn dressed for a run. It was early on a clear, bright, autumn morning in Denver. The sky was bright but the neighborhood was still in shadow, the sun barely peeking above the houses to the east. Across the street, a U-Haul truck was parked at the curb. Stan remembered seeing the SOLD sign go up a few weeks ago. It looked as if his new neighbors had arrived.
Stan did a few limbering up exercises while he observed the new arrivals. He wondered how many were his new neighbors—there were two women and one man unloading boxes from the truck. Good odds that at least one of the new arrivals was a woman—and both of them looked good.
Deciding that there was no time like the present, Stan strolled across the street to introduce himself.
The large young man and one of the young women were carrying a sofa down the ramp from the truck. The man was over six feet and well muscled. His companion was of average height with shoulder-length dark hair, and didn’t look nearly strong enough to carry her end of the sofa.
“Can I help you with that?” Stan stepped in next to the young woman. She gave him a wary glance, then smiled.
“Sure,” she said. “You live around here, I take it.”
Stan grabbed hold of the sofa, sharing the load with the woman. “Right across the street. Stan Ryan. I’d offer to shake, but…”
“I understand,” the young woman said. “Leah Wright.”
“So, we’re going to be neighbors?” The possibility didn’t displease Stan.
Leah smiled. The man holding the other end of the sofa laughed. “No, not us.” She glanced toward the open front door of the house. “She’s your new neighbor.”
Stan let his gaze follow hers. A tall young woman with red hair exited the house. She was dressed in a black warm-up suit and ball cap. A red ponytail was threaded through the opening of the cap in back, bobbing with every step. Even at this distance, her green eyes were arresting.
Leah said something. After a moment, Stan tore his gaze away from the redheaded vision. “I’m sorry—what?”
Leah grinned and shook her head. “Story of my life. Everybody drools over the redhead, ignores the brunette.”
“Not everybody,” the big guy said. He looked at Stan. “I’m Victor, by the way. Since nobody else has seen fit to introduce me.” He looked pointedly at Leah.
Stan nodded to Victor. “Nice to meet you, Victor.”
The redheaded vision approached. She glanced at Stan, then turned her attention to Leah.
“Who’s the hunk?”
Leah laughed and turned to Stan. “That was easy, wasn’t it?”
Stan looked from Leah to the redhead and back again, uncertain of where he stood. He liked hearing the redhead call him a hunk, though. “Stan,” he told her. “Stan Ryan.”
“Rachel Hartman,” the redhead said. Her smile was as bright as her eyes. “So you’re my new neighbor?”
Rachel’s gaze dipped to give him a once-over. “You run?”
Rachel’s smile brightened further. “Even better.”
“You run?” Stan was certain she did. She had the body of a long distance runner. He sensed amusement from Victor and Leah at his question, though his attention was focused on Rachel.
“I do,” Rachel agreed.
“We should get together for a run sometime.”
“I’d like that.”
“Me too,” Stan said. He held Rachel’s gaze until Victor cleared his throat. Stan looked at him.
“This sofa ain’t gonna move itself,” Victor announced. He raised his end a little, reminding Stan
that he’d stopped moving.
“Oh—sorry.” Stan began shuffling forward again, in step with Victor and Leah. “Duty calls,” he said to Rachel.
“I love work,” Rachel said with a laugh. “I could sit and watch it all day.”
“Don’t we know it,” Leah and Victor said in unison. Stan watched them laugh, saw the look that passed between them. They were lovers, Stan concluded. He was certain of it. And that was fine with him. Leah was an attractive woman, but he was powerfully drawn to Rachel. It was good to know that Victor was out of the running. He’d be stiff competition.
Stan helped them carry the sofa into the house and set it down in the empty living room. He followed Victor and Leah back out to the truck. When he asked what he could do next, Leah brushed him off. “We’ve got this. And you were obviously just going out for a run. Don’t let us keep you.”
Stan turned to Rachel. “Are you sure? Because I—”
“We’re sure,” Rachel said. “I appreciate your willingness to help, but we’ve got this. Besides, how can Leah and I talk about you if you’re right here?”
Stan grinned, unreasonably pleased. “You’re going to talk about me after I’m gone?”
Rachel smiled back. “You betcha.”
“I guess I’d better go, then.” He turned to Leah, offered his hand. “It was nice to meet you. I hope you’ll say nice things about me to Rachel.”
Her grip was strong. “Most likely. You helped right away. That’s a point in your favor.”
Stan shook Victor’s hand too. He slapped Stan on the shoulder. “Good luck, pal. Good luck on the running.” His gaze slid over to Rachel. “You’ll need all the endurance you can muster.”
“Victor!” Rachel sounded scandalized, but her smile didn’t dim.
“I’m just saying, is all.”
“I’ll see you later, then,” Stan said to Rachel.
“Count on it.”
Stan nodded. He turned and started jogging down the street. He resisted the urge to turn and look back.
Rachel watched Stan run down the street. He was a handsome young man. A little shorter than she was, solidly built but not quite stocky, not with long, lean limbs like his. Black hair that would probably curl adorably if he didn’t keep it cut short, dark eyes, and a dusting of freckles over pale skin.
She steeled herself for comments from Leah and Victor. She wasn’t disappointed.
“Jesus, Rachel, planning your next conquest already?”
Rachel turned toward Leah. “And what if I am?”
“Trollop,” Leah said with a grin. “Right, Vic?”
Victor cut the air in front of him with a firm slash of his hand. “Keep me out of this.”
Victor grinned at Leah. “You know it.”
“He’s cute,” Rachel said. “And helpful. A nice guy.”
“Not so helpful,” Leah said. “We’d do better if it were just Victor and me moving the heavy
“I suppose,” Rachel said. “He couldn’t know that, though.” Leah, Iron Maiden to the public at large, was by far the strongest of the three of them, though Victor, the Black Knight, was much stronger than a normal man. They cooperated to move heavy items only for appearance’s sake, and because bulky items were hard to maneuver no matter how strong one was. Their strength was why Rachel had asked for their help. Having a superheroine for a best friend had its benefits.
She turned to give Leah a mock glare. “And by the way, who are you to be calling me a trollop?”
“If the shoe fits…”
“If the shoe fits…”
“That’s rich, coming from you. Or did I only imagine you telling me about your threesome in Chicago?”
“Iron Maiden, my ass! You haven’t been a maiden for years, Leah.”
“Not since I was sixteen,” Leah agreed with good cheer. “As you well know. I told you all about it when it happened. But enough about me. So, you gonna bed this guy?”
Rachel stared down the street where Stan had vanished into the distance. “I think I will. Eventually. Maybe. I may have to take his measure first.”
“Not like that, Victor,” Leah said before Rachel could respond. “I’ll explain later.”