Hello again, friends, bloggers, and muses,
This week on Behind the Author we’re going to be digging into the mind of a professional writer and educator in an attempt to draw out some of her wisdom and experience. In this way, hopefully, we can all grow and learn from each as fellow bloggers and writers.
Today’s Guest: Liz Gauffreau
Elizabeth Gauffreau knows a thing or two about the industry and has been gracious enough to agree to impart us with some words of wisdom today. So let’s welcome her.
Mat: Hey Liz, and welcome to this interview. You’ve published an enticing novel “Telling Sonny”, multiple short stories, pieces of poetry, and magazine articles. I believe most of us would agree that you’re quite a successful and accomplished writer. Many of us in the blogging world only dream of one day seeing a novel published with our name out there. Yet, I digress, my first question to you is, how did you wind up blogging?
Liz: First of all, thank you for inviting me to have a conversation with you and your readers. Hello, everyone!
I had never thought of creating a blog until I finished writing Telling Sonny and started researching the publishing landscape. The conventional wisdom was that every author needs a social media presence and a website. I started off developing a blog directed at other writers. It was pretty lame, so I read up on more conventional wisdom and changed it from a blog to an author’s website with a blog included.
Mat: Your book “Telling Sonny” sounds like a very mysterious and interesting story from what I’ve read about it. Especially because of the way you drew the inspiration for the book, would you mind explaining the premise of your book and how it came to be?
Liz: The impetus for Telling Sonny was a note scribbled on a piece of lined notebook paper: “Elliott I. committed suicide and had a sister Dorothy.” This note was from my mother as I was writing my father’s biography for his extended family. Elliott I. was my dad’s father, who had died before I was born. To see a person’s entire life summed up in such an odd juxtaposition of facts took hold of my imagination and just wouldn’t let go.
The other two facts I knew about my grandfather were that 1) he had been a Small-Time vaudevillian for a time with the stage name Slim White and 2) he was a cad, who treated the women in his life very badly. The book became the story of a small-town girl from Vermont who loved the vaudeville show and fell for the charms of Slim White. The inevitable happened, he married her as a lark, and took her along with him on the road–until he didn’t. I had a great deal of fun researching vaudeville acts, including Hadji Ali, The Great Regurgitator. (I’d advise against Googling him.)
Mat: Every author must have their struggles while putting together their story. What was your greatest struggle writing your novel and how did you overcome it?
Liz: The greatest struggle by far was the big, baggy middle, which reached a point where the whole novel threatened to collapse under its own weight. What saved it was storyboarding, using the W method:
I used PowerPoint to list every scene in every chapter (one chapter per slide). I could then rearrange the chapters based on where the scenes fell on the W (deepening of the problem, for example, or recovering from the problem). This allowed me to, first of all, immediately identify scenes that didn’t contribute to the overall narrative of the story. and delete them. I was also able to identify scenes in the same chapter which actually were on different parts of the W. That simple W definitely saved me!
Mat: Your novel “Telling Sonny” is sold on Amazon, how did you go about publishing your novel, and do you have any tips for aspiring writers out there who are looking to get their own first novel published?
Liz: I had had two short stories published in the literary magazine, Adelaide Review. The editor asked me if I had a book manuscript. I said, “As a matter of fact, I do!” I sent in the manuscript for Telling Sonny, and it was accepted for publication by Adelaide Books.
People who write literary fiction often begin by publishing short stories in literary magazines to gain some publishing credits prior to submitting a novel to publishers. My main tip for aspiring writers looking to publish is the same as the advice given to me by my first writing professor, Tony Ardizzone: work long and hard at your craft first!
At the time, I found the advice liberating because it gave me the freedom to just write without being distracted by the marketplace. For aspiring writers who are ready to publish, I would recommend subscribing to two blogs:
They provide invaluable information about the current publishing world.
Mat: You also have a career as an educator and have recently become an Assistant Dean for an online college. How does running an online college compare to working with students in more personable environments?
Liz: The back-end work that needs to go into designing high-quality and engaging online courses is much greater than with classroom courses. I would say that’s probably the biggest difference between online programs and brick-and-mortar programs. The other thing I’ve noticed is that students are used to doing self-service online, so academic advising is very different than it was face-to-face and challenges us by providing online resources to compensate.
Mat: Congratulations Liz on all of your success, and thank you for lending us all some of your time to answer these questions. It’s greatly appreciated! As is tradition, I try to end these interviews on a bit of a softer note. I was wondering, what is your favorite kind of book to read and why?
Liz: Thank you, Mat! I’ve enjoyed my time with you. My favorite kind of book to read is the one that makes me stop and say, How did the writer do that? Legends of the Fall by Jim Harrison is good a recent example.
There you have it, folks! Some absolutely fantastic weathered tried and true advice from someone who’s been doing this for a while now. I’ve personally loved the links which were dropped and that the advice about the W, will surely be making its way into my arsenal as I continue to slowly plod away at creating my first novel. I hope that any of you ambitious writers out there prepping that first manuscript have also taken away something valuable from this, and once again I want to thank Liz for his time and wisdom!
Thanks for joining on this week’s, Behind the Author!
If you haven’t checked out Liz’s blog already, you can find it here.
Questions? Comments? Leave them down below!