Meet the Writer: Jeanne Lyet Gassman

I want to thank Jeanne for responding to my questions. Blood of a Stone will be published in January of 2015. You can find her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

What happens when you’re not happy with your writing?

Tantrums? Seriously, it’s more like: Take a deep breath. Rip it apart. Revise. And eat some chocolate. My family would probably say there is a fair amount of complaining and whinging as well. 

Did you do any research for your novel?

Since Blood of a Stone (Tuscany Press, January 2015) is a historical novel, I had to do a ton of research, but I love research, so it was fun. I collected a large library of good books on my subject, visited museums, combed the Internet for useful resources, and spoke to experts about the life and culture of first century Palestine (the time and place my story occurs). After my Tuscany Press accepted the book for publication, I worked with a wonderful historical expert during revisions. He helped me with everything from name choices to selecting the Death Stalker scorpion for the opening scene of the book. I couldn’t have finished this book without my historical expert. I do believe, though, that every good writer needs to research her topic to some degree. It’s those significant details that make the fiction come to life.

Did you learn anything from writing your book?

Absolutely! First, I learned so much from my fabulous editor, who kept pushing me to go deeper with the characters. He taught me how to add texture and layering to create a rich, full world for the reader. Obviously, I learned a lot about my subject matter via my research, and I have definitely learned about the publishing process. Writing, revising, and crafting a solid book is so much more work than most people realize. I admire those authors who can produce a book every year. The learning never ends, of course. As I move closer to the book launch, I’m learning about promoting a book. And I’m working on a new novel, so I’m learning to find balance among the many demands placed on a working writer—writing, marketing, research, revising, and spending time with family and friends.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

From the time I was very little, I had an interest in stories. My mother used to tell me tales about her life, and each one began the same way: “In the olden days…” Whenever I was sick or bored or cranky, I knew I could curl up next to her and ask her to tell me a story about the olden days. As an only child, I also lived deeply in the world of my imagination, making up adventures for my huge collection of stuffed animals. And I was obsessed with reading, devouring everything I could get my hands on. I was about eight when my mother introduced me to a friend who was an artist and children’s book author. I didn’t like the woman’s books because I thought they were too childish for me (such a snobbish little girl!), but I was delighted when she gave me piles of back copies of The Writer and Writer’s Digest. From that moment, I knew what I wanted to do with my life, but it took me many years to make it all happen.

How have you developed creatively since then? 

It has been a long creative journey, with numerous bumps and detours along the way. My first training was my own reading. I read indiscriminately as an adolescent, willing to take on any book that seemed moderately interesting. In high school, I emulated some of my favorite poets, shamelessly copying their styles in my own poorly crafted poetry. I decided to major in English in college simply because I knew I could get a degree for reading tons of wonderful literature. How amazing was that? It didn’t matter if the degree didn’t qualify me for a job. I would still be exposed to writers and works I had never known existed. It wasn’t until after I graduated from college that I began to think about developing my writing craft. For most of my adult life, I was self-taught: joining workshops, attending writer’s conferences, taking classes, reading craft books, and participating in critique groups for feedback. Gradually, I started to publish a few short pieces. But my craft really took a leap when I decided to return to college for my MFA in Writing. Before my MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, I approached writing from a sort of gut instinct. Now I approach my work with a deeper knowledge and understanding of the craft. I know so much more about the “how” of the process, and that’s exciting. I love learning new techniques and pushing the boundaries of my craft and writing skills.

What kinds of writing do you wish you did more of?

Fiction is my first love, but I really, really wish I could write better poetry.

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