Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Cyber Launch Party Day 23: Women Who Rock Wednesday feature on Gwendolyn Glover

Welcome to Day 23 of the Ballads of Suburbia Cyber Launch Party! For all of the details on the party including guests, the daily contests and the grand prize drawing be sure to read the information at the beginning of Day 1's blog. However since this is the last week, there is one slight change to the rules... WINNER FOR ALL PRIZES THIS WEEK AND THE GRAND PRIZE WILL BE DRAWN ON MONDAY AUGUST 17!

A quick note for those of you in the Chicago area who are over 21: Tomorrow night I am reading as part of the Prose, Poetry and Pints reading series at the Wild Pug on 4810 N. Broadway. You can check out all the details here. Hope to see you there!

Today's Winner:
Each day I am announcing the winner of the contest that was posted one week earlier. Today's winner gets a copy of Perfect Chemistry and swag from Simone Elkeles! And that winner is... Faye from Blogger! I will email you for your address shortly! Remember to enter last week's contests! Each contests lasts one week!

Now, today we are going to do things a little bit differently...
For those of you just visiting my blog for the first time because of the cyber launch party, I welcome you and hope you will return as a regular visitors so I wanted to show you one of my weekly features which also involves a contest (at least twice a month when I do interviews): Women Who Rock Wednesday! WWRW is basically the day I shine the spotlight on a woman who rocks my world and I think will rock yours too. Mostly I feature authors and musicians, but I try to get artists, designers, and women in business too.

Today's Women Who Rock Wednesday interview is with Gwendolyn Glover, author of Cast The First Stone!
Let's meet her, shall we?

Q: Tell us all about Cast the First Stone. What's it about and what inspired you to write it?

Gwen: Cast the First Stone” is not about vampires, shopping, or finding “Mr. Right.” J It’s a work of fiction about two girls, Denny Stone and Haley Fisher. Denny is being raised by her career-driven mom. Her dad dropped out of her life when she was a toddler. The beginning of each chapter starts with a letter from Denny to her dad. Denny doesn’t feel like she fits in anywhere. She’s angry and searching for herself and for answers. Haley is searching for answers too and she finds them in God. Her parents are together, but her dad has to work all the time to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. Her mom is battling depression and so Haley is left to raise herself and her sibling(s) on her own most of the time. She takes this very seriously, but she’s also envious of Denny’s freedom.

I’m a passionate feminist so I wanted to write a story that reflected a strong camaraderie between girls. In this coming of age story the two girls are tough and they’ve got each other’s back even when they don’t always agree. Denny and Haley are struggling with spiritual, sexual, and social issues that are way above their heads. They make it through only because they have each other. The other women in this story are each struggle to find their voice in their own unique way. My favorite female character is Denny’s lesbian art teacher, Sunny. She’s the voice of reason in the novel.

Q: It sounds like Haley and Denny have a very unique friendship. I'm really fascinated by the friendships girls form particularly in high school that both sustain and challenge us. Obviously you are too. Can you tell us a little bit about what you hope readers will learn about friendship in Cast the First Stone? And can you share one of your teenage friendship stories (good or bad) that taught you something important?

Gwen: I wouldn’t have made it through high school without my best friend. She was a really tough girl. The first feminist I knew. She was the dark, angry one and I was the sweet, happy one. On the outside. We listened to No Doubt and Metallica, created our own sci fi comic book world, stayed up until 1am watching Mystery Science Theater 3000, and could eat a half gallon of strawberry ice cream between us. We didn’t fit into any kind of group at high school. She was a little goth while I was nerdy and shy. We both wore huge skater jeans and flannel.

After years of a really rough marriage, myy mom moved out of the house, right after graduation, in the middle of my eighteenth birthday. My best friend was livid. In fact, we had to hold her back from going off on my mom and her boyfriend. She was so pissed, expressing exactly how I felt on the inside, that I was able to remain calm. We were like yin and yang. After I left for college, I had to learn how to live with the dark and light sides of myself. I could no longer be one-sided.

I hope that my readers will realize that, although it is cliché, the world is flat and colorless without strong, intimate friendships. Each friendship brings out a new side of you and teaches you a little more about yourself. It’s scary to be vulnerable and let someone really get to know you, but it’s worth it.

Q: How did you get your start writing? Was there anyone or anything in particular that drove you to write? And who are some of the writers (women in particular since it is Women Who Rock Wednesday) that have inspired you over the years?

Gwen: Writing stories is in my blood. It’s who I am. I was making up and telling my brothers stories before I learned how to write. I wrote and illustrated my own stories all through my childhood. I was nine years old when I decided that I wanted to be a writer. (I wanted to be a missionary too, but that’s another story.) My parents were very supportive of my writing, but didn’t really know how to guide me or give me advice. It wasn’t until I went to college that I learned about good literature (I hadn’t heard of Toni Morrison until then) and how to actively read and dissect literature. Then it took me several years to get over my literary snobbery so that I could relearn how to write stories for the pure joy of it. I had to learn how to write authentically instead of trying to write like someone else.

I’m influenced by ethnic female writers such as Alice Walker, Maxine Hong Kingston and Amy Tan and by female writers that struggled with insanity like Sylvia Plath. When I read “The Bell Jar,” I actually felt insane for a few hours. Other amazing women writers that I admire and seek to emulate are Dorothy Allison, Carson McCullers, Jeanette Winterson, Madeleine L’Engle, and Flannery O’Connor.

Some people write about characters with alcohol and drug addiction problems because that’s what they’re recovering from. I’m a recovering fundamentalist Christian so I guess that why I write about characters who lose their religion and, as a result, feel isolated and disconnected from the community that raised them. The journey from there is an exciting but painful one and I think there are stories about that journey that need to be told.

Q: You're the first self-published author that I've featured. Can you tell us a little bit about why you chose to go that path? What are the positives of self-publishing and what are the challenges?

Gwen: Wow. This is a hard question. Before finishing CTFS, I didn’t know anything about self-publishing. I sent inquiry letters to, I think, ten small press publishers and either received generic rejection letters or was simply ignored. I had actually expected the rejections. Most authors are rejected at first. But when so many doors were slammed shut, I started looking for an open window. My husband, a professional artist, had studied print production in college and suggested that we do a pre-publication copy for our friends and family. I asked two of my friends, editors and writers themselves, to edit the novel. After revising a few times, my husband created the cover and layout. I am now so happy with the success of self-publishing (although I don’t like the term because I really didn’t do it by myself), that I’ve decided to continue to promote and market CTFS as a self-published novel.

The positives of self-publishing are that I have complete control of the cover and layout and I have no one to blame for the lack of publicity except myself. I have complete control of the content as well and I think that can be positive and negative. I dream about having a professional editor who will enhance my writing. The challenges lie in actually getting the book into bookstores and not having the experienced support of a publishing company and an agent. I do plan on getting an agent for my next novel. It’s difficult for me to juggle the actual writing process and the marketing process. I like writing much better.

Q: What are you working on now?

Gwen: I’m currently working on a novel entitled Invisible Elephants. It’s about a young, naïve girl, Abby, who feels like she’s invisible. She’s very religious and wants to please her controlling, ultra-religious father. Abby and her mother have a lot in common because they are trying to fit into the mold of the perfect Christian, even though that isn’t who they really are. In contrast, Abby sees her older brother as having it all: popularity, good looks, charm, and talent. That is, until a gorgeous mocha-skinned youth pastor interrupts the normalcy of their church community. Both of the siblings fall in love with the enchanting stranger and chaos ensues. You can read one of the chapters on my blog if you’d like. I hope to have the book finished by next summer.

Q: I have two questions that I always ask my Women Who Rock, the first is a two-parter. What was the first album you bought and the first concert you attended? Be honest, we don't judge, we like to see the roots of our women who rock!

Gwen: I honestly don’t remember the first album I bought. We were really poor and couldn’t afford to buy stuff. My brother’s best friend made copies of tapes and CDs for us. He introduced me to Pedro the Lion (David Bazan), who I still admire today. The first concert I went to was Carmen, one of the first Christian rock stars. (I’m really embarrassed about that.) The first “real” concert I went to was by The Decemberists in San Francisco. That was amazing. They are even better live than they are recorded.

Q: Tell us about your biggest rock star moment, perhaps it's a moment of real success in your career, a time when you met someone super cool and had that Wayne's World "I'm not worthy" moment, or just a time where you felt like you got the rock star treatment. I get a huge variety of answers for the questions, so it's pretty much whatever "rock star moment" means to you!

Gwen: I had a major “I’m not worthy” moment when I e-mailed Maxine Hong Kingston a silly fan letter and she actually responded. She is amazing. I was able to meet Danny Glover at one of my husband’s art shows and that was pretty cool. But I think the biggest rock star moment I’ve had is when I got a compliment from a fourteen year old girl who had read my book. People I don’t know are reading my book and connecting with the story. That just blows my mind.

Today's Contest:
Well, I hope you enjoyed meeting Gwen and for those of you that are new to it, getting your first taste of WWRW. As always, there is a prize to go along with it! Gwen is generously putting up a copy of Cast the First Stone up for grabs.

As usual there are ways to rack up a bunch of entries:
+1 for commenting
+1 for blogging/tweeting/etc about this blog+1 for spreading the word about Shooting Stars Mag's HUGE Ballads of Suburbia contest
Just note your additional entries in your comment. Winner will be chosen at random on Monday August 17. (Note that normally Women Who Rock Weds contest end the following Weds, but since I'll be out of town and this is part of the cyber launch, Mon the 17th is the deadline this time.)

Tomorrow's Guest:

Ummm, tomorrow's guest is a bit up in the air.... Ya know, it's the end of the party, everyone's drunk or about to pass out and who knows what's going on. Just kidding! But seriously, the person I have planned for tomorrow is currently on tour and has limited internet access so she's having some trouble getting her guest blog to me. Hopefully I'll be able to run it, but if not... Well come back tomorrow and enjoy the chaos!

11 comments:

Diana Dang said...

The novel sounds quite interesting! And so is the cover!

I have already blogged about the bash on my sidebar!:)

WordVore Prod said...

The book sounds really interesting!
already tweeted about party (ProdElektra)
prodhi@live.com

What a Girl Reads said...

Sounds like an interesting book! Would love to read it :)


-Sara
sosarora_11(AT)hotmail(DOT)com

Llehn said...

I've seen Cast The First Stone from Mrs Magoo's blog. It's caught my attention!

Ashley said...

I really like the cover of Cast the First Stone.

+1 I posted this on my sidebar at http://booksobsession.blogspot.com

booksobsession(at)gmail(dot)com

Ashley said...

+1 I posted the Shooting Stars Mag Contest on my right sidebar at http://booksobsession.blogspot.com

throuthehaze said...

sounds great!
throuthehaze at gmail dot com

marina said...

i think it's pretty nifty that your book is self published.

~bean.

little miss gnomide said...

Thanks for having me on your blog, Stephanie!

~Gwen

Alexa said...

I'm glad that you didn't give up because of the rejections, because your book sounds really good.

+1 I posted a link on my sidebar about this blog
+1 link to Shooting Stars Mag's HUGE Ballads of Suburbia contest on my sidebar:
http://hookedonyabooks.blogspot.com/

lovinfitch(at)aol(dot)com

Paradox said...

Cast the First Stone looks interesting, and Invisible Elephants sounds incredible! Both have great titles!

paradoxrevealed (at) aim (dot) com