Today it’s our pleasure at Jamie Tremain’s blog to introduce fellow writer Gloria Ferris.
We take these skulls seriously.
Thanks Gloria for agreeing to be our first victim of 2014. You have been given lots of press time and featured in a few blogs these past few weeks leading up to the launch of you latest novel “Corpse Flower” published by Dundurn Press.
Liz reports from yesterdays launch of Corpse Flower in the Shakespeare Arms, Guelph.
Despite ongoing nasty Ontario winter weather, the launch of Corpse Flower went ahead and was well attended. Pam was wise to not to chance the drive from Oakville to Guelph, but I was fortunate to be only 10 minutes away so could safely get there. Nice to see Melodie Campbell and her husband, along with Alison Bruce. Gloria was appropriately tricked out with her trademark skull and bones jewellery and an appropriate hat to complement. Lots of munchies, and of course – CAKE!
In the months and weeks leading up to the release date of Corpse Flower, my publisher, Dundurn Press, was busy posting ARC files to review sites, arranging press coverage and reviews, filling bookstores with print copies, delivering electronic files to online vendors — and dozens of other tasks. While all that was happening, I did my best to raise my profile on social media - Facebook and Twitter – and arranged a blog tour for the weeks leading up to, and following, the release date. At author readings and other events, I read excerpts from Corpse Flower before it was even available for sale! In short, I did anything and everything I could think of to promote my book. I’m not a professional marketer, so my strategy is: try everything and hope some of it is effective! Needless to say, the sequel to Corpse Flower had to be put aside for the time being, but I’m hopeful I’ll be able to get back at it soon. Like, any day now …
Well, Pam, I started out writing snarky essays in high school that, strangely, my teachers didn’t call me on. I progressed to sarcasm when I worked in Records Management and was forced to write long reports on the documents entombed in abandoned buildings. I found that, if you put a satirical spin on Hanta virus-carrying mice nesting in the paper, people paid attention. I snicker every time I think of those reports, which I designated as “Permanent” records, still filed in another crumbling warehouse somewhere.
I loved my stint as a technical writer at a nuclear power plant, but there was no opportunity for creativity or voice! The experience did strip away extraneous words from my fiction writing, and I am grateful for that. Now, I have to consciously write in an occasional adjective or adverb, or small paragraph of description.
I tried to suppress my natural voice when I wrote my first book (I think I called it Family Secrets or something equally boring) because I wanted it to be serious writing. When I finished it, I knew there was something really wrong. The words were stilted, and my protagonist just wouldn’t stay in the mold I set for her. That manuscript reads like a battle between “bossy writer” and “recalcitrant character”. The character won, and I started another book based on the same characters, beginning where the first manuscript ended. “Cheat the Hangman” is the result. Serious situations written with humour and (I hope) compassion. Lyris is a rather classy young woman, so she worked with me and didn’t often stray outside her boundaries. We understand each other
With “Corpse Flower”, I just set my natural voice free. I wrote it for fun, allowing no phantom reader to look over my shoulder. I let Bliss Moonbeam Cornwall lead me into choppy waters with only one provision. Stay real. Bliss has a lot of hurdles to clear, but she never gives up. Ever. She smart-talks her way through it all and comes out a winner. She’s a little more stubborn than Lyris, but we’ve formed an alliance which I hope will continue for many more adventures to come. She’s the woman I wish I had been at her age.
I guess I just could have said, “Yes, Pam, I have always written with humour and, to some extent, always will!”
You have many irons in the fire. How do you keep a balance between family obligations and writing?
With great difficulty, plain and simple! Before I was published, I was raising children and holding down a full time job. Time for writing was a luxury, minutes stolen on weekends and vacation days. Now, those children are adults with families of their own, and my full time job is writing. Everything should have fallen into place.
I have two published books, another almost ready for submission, a sequel to “Corpse Flower” to finish, and an abandoned sequel to “Cheat the Hangman” which I would dearly love to complete. Then, there’s the marketing – social media, bookstore and library appearances, conferences - the obligations never seem to end. I can truthfully say I have never been so busy before.
Where does this leave family? Priority One, that’s where. If a family member calls to talk, I listen. If a grandchild needs a few hours of my time, I’m there. I host holiday dinners, go shopping with my daughters; show up for dinner when I’m invited. I have to say, I love texting. I can carry on conversations with two or three people at the same time on my iPhone.
I think most authors are faced with this same quandary. Some block out periods of time when they are inaccessible except for emergencies, i.e. when a deadline looms. I tried that, but it doesn’t seem to work for me.
I juggle madly, but my priority will always be my family.
Corpse Flower is a different series from your last book. Do you find it hard to switch roles and characters when you start a new book?
It wasn’t hard to switch from “Cheat the Hangman” to “Corpse Flower”. I see Lyris and Bliss in my mind as I write about them, and they are very different people. Even though both books take place in Bruce County on Lake Huron, their home towns are different, as are their circumstances.
At one point I was working on sequels to both books simultaneously. I would switch back and forth at whim. I think this caused some brain damage. So, I’ve set the CTH sequel aside for now to finish the second Bliss Moonbeam adventure. I know authors who can work on several manuscripts at the same time. Clearly, I can’t!
Is there a question you’re itching to have asked in an interview? Now’s your chance to answer it for our readers.
Well, most authors say they are continually asked where they get their ideas. Nobody has ever asked me this! I’ve had my answer ready for years, so here it is.
I have no idea. My head is full of so many things that the trick is to pull two or three out and try to make a story out of them. Sometimes I have to discard a couple, and reach back in again. It’s quite a scary place, actually, my head I mean.
Once in a while I’ll read an interesting item on the internet or in a magazine or newspaper. I print it or cut it out and file it in my reference folder. The exotic, erotic, jungle plant in “Corpse Flower” began as a tiny snippet from that folder. Ditto the “surprise” Lyris found in the tower room in “Cheat the Hangman”.
We've discussed writing a number of times. I know what Liz and I hate doing more than anything, and I suspect you and other writers feel the same. Synopsis writing. Why do we find it so difficult?
Ah, the dreaded synopsis, bane of writers everywhere. Writing a synopsis is an art form, a craft that must be learned and honed, through trial and error. The result must read like a short story – an exciting, can’t-put-it-down story, with a beginning, middle and end. However, LOTS of information must be left out. Most sub-plots and secondary characters can’t appear in the synopsis. If you try to work everything in, you’ll usually end up with a mess. I know; I’ve created many synopsis messes.
It gets worse. A writer will generally need to write two or three synopses for every book, especially if she is submitting a manuscript to more than one publisher. Because every publisher wants a synopsis with a specific word count – anything from 100 words to a chapter-by-chapter.
I’d rather write a short story from scratch than a synopsis. And, I’m not fond of writing short stories.
What do you love about the writer’s life the most?
I love the moments when I’m in the zone. When my fingers are flying, and the words are flowing. That’s the best.
I also love the social aspect of writing – becoming part of the community of writers, meeting them on FB and Twitter for the first time, maybe. Then, in person at readings and at conferences. I think writers – and readers – are the most interesting folk in the world!
In today’s publishing world, promotion and marketing are essential. Maintaining a website and blog and attending book signings and readings must cut into your writing time. Do you like this part of the process and the building of a ‘platform’ – or is it a requirement that goes with the territory?
I guess if you’re famous enough, you can bypass social media and personal appearances. I can’t hang around for that to happen, so I have a blog and a website. I maintain the blog myself, and my sister-in-law, Donna Warner, keeps my website updated. Left to myself, I would have to drop the website. I just couldn’t keep up with both.
I hated Twitter and Facebook when I first started with them a couple of years ago. Twitter still makes me a little apprehensive because it just seems to fly by at a dizzying pace. But, I’m getting used to it and rather enjoy kibitzing with people from all over the world. I kind of like Facebook now, as well. I’ve “met” many other writers, and readers. I may never meet some of them in person, but I’ve learned a lot from them. It’s like a community hall. Of course, I have to behave myself since many family members are also lurking on the site.
Personally, I find public appearances such as readings and book signings difficult. I’m not an outgoing person and don’t like people watching me or, horrors, listening to me. However, in this business, it’s “Suck it up, Buttercup”. It goes with the territory.
Your work in process is collaborative. Can you tell us how you deal with the letting go to your writing partner’s wishes? What do you enjoy about this way of writing?
My sister-in-law, Donna Warner, has been my front-line editor from the beginning. Donna wrote a short story I really liked, and we kicked around the idea of expanding it into a novella. We came up with extra characters, and changed the plot to include a few more bumps in the road. Donna wrote the first draft, and then handed it over to me. I edited it, added some additional scenes, and gave it back. I can’t remember how many times we went back and forth before we were both satisfied with the bones of the story.
If I saw something I didn’t like, I just deleted it before re-writing it and handing it back. I suspect Donna did the same, although we never spoke of it! We did have to compromise many times but, luckily, we never came to blows. This week, we sat down with a paper copy and did the final edits together. Next step - asking the third member of our writing group to read it.
Oh, one last thing. Donna is writing the synopsis for this one!
Book clubs and conferences are great vehicles to meet your readers. Do you find this a beneficial way to spend your time?
Absolutely! Last spring, a book club in Oakville read “Cheat the Hangman” and invited me to one of their meetings to discuss it. I was terrified since the book club has at least 12 members, many of them retired teachers. I ended up having the nicest time with these people and came away feeling a lot more confident about my writing. This was time well spent for me.
Conferences are great places to meet up with other writers, and attend workshops on every subject imaginable – and writers can imagine some very weird and wonderful topics for discussion. I’ve attended every Blood Words Conference since I joined the Crime Writers of Canada in 2008. So far, I haven’t attended a crime/mystery conference outside of Canada. That can get pretty expensive but, some day, I’d love to attend one in the UK.
If you could interview, or pick the brains of, any writer, living, dead (or even perhaps in between), who would you like to spend time with?
Gloria:I heard Kelley Armstrong (Bitten, Omens, and at least two dozen other titles) speak a short time ago. She generously shared some of her writing tips, but I’d love a one-on-one talk with her. She’s a prolific writer and mentioned she usually writes about 3,000 new words in three hours. She’s disciplined, certainly, but how does she get “in the zone” and stay there for three hours at a time, every day? I could SO benefit from knowing how to do that!
I'm sorry to have missed the launch of Corpse flower yesterday, but I'll make sure to make the launch of the sequel. Looking forward to sitting down to read all about Bliss Moonbean Cornwall. Thanks for a peek into the writing life of Gloria Ferris.
You can contact Gloria @
Follow me on Twitter @GloriaFerrisp
Tune in Feb 24th for an in-depth interview with Linwood Barclay.
Pam and Liz
Pam and Liz