Friday, November 07, 2008

Author Interview: Gale Sears

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Gale Sears, an LDS writer who is receiving acclaim for her stunning works of historical fiction. Upon the Mountains was a finalist for two Whitney Awards for 2007: Best Novel of the Year and Best Historical Novel of the Year.

Gale grew up in Lake Tahoe, California, and spent her high-school years in Hawaii. After graduating from McKinley High School, she went on to receive a BA in playwriting from Brigham Young University, and an MA in theatre arts from the University of Minnesota. She lives in Utah with her husband and family.

Welcome Gale! How long have you been writing? What made you start?
My first serious foray into writing was in college when I was a theater major. I wrote plays. Several were produced and I found it an amazing experience to hear my words coming from the actors' mouths. As for novel writing, I was a late bloomer. My first book (as yet unpublished) was written in 1997. In 1998 I picked up the faded beginnings of a book I’d sketched out years before. After many years of angst, work, and doubt, those efforts culminated in the historical novel Autumn Sky.

When did that book come out?
Autumn Sky was published in 2004.

What type of writer are you? Do you plan ahead/plot or do you simply fly by the seat of your pants?
I’m a drive-myself-crazy-with-the-details kind of writer. For some reason I choose to write historical fiction, and though I LOVE the history, I spend hundreds of hours researching, and then mapping out the sequence and the story. There are times when the story “takes off” in an unexpected direction, and that’s fun.

How do you choose your characters' names?
Many of the names are friends and family, or mixes of their names. Some just pop into my head. I’m working on a book set in Russia and I had a Russian tour guide write out names for me. Their naming system is complex and it was fun learning what names to put together.

What is your daily schedule like?
Laundry, dishes, running errands…Oh, you mean writing schedule. I try and write at least three hours a day. When I’m getting near to finishing a book I’ll write up to seven hours. Since I write pencil on paper, seven hours is about all my hand can take.

You write by hand? Wow! How do you handle life interruptions?
Life on life’s terms. Of course, the phone is put on silent and the dog knows not to bug me about going out until I stand up for a stretch.

Do you write with music playing? If so, is the music likely to be songs with lyrics or only instrumentals?
It has to be quiet when I write.

What food or snack keeps the words flowing?
Gatorade, dill pickle chips, dark chocolate, raw almonds.

What one thing do you like most about writing? Least?
I like when a scene comes out right—when I look down and see the visual and emotional impact I had in my head staring back at me from the page.

I dislike when a scene comes out wrong—when I look down at all the crumpled pieces of paper staring back at me from the floor.

Tell us about your new Christmas book.
The newest book out for me is entitled Christmas for a Dollar. It’s set in 1931 during the depression and is based on an actual Christmas celebrated by my father and his siblings when they were children.

It’s 1931 in Bakersfield, California. America is in the midst of the Depression, and the Kamp family is struggling to get by, especially after Mrs. Kamp’s untimely death. Now, with her mother gone and her father overwhelmed by doctor bills resulting from her brother’s polio, little Ruthie expects another Christmas without presents or festivities. But when her father brings home one dollar in change and lets the children use it to buy special gifts for each other, the Kamp family comes to find that money isn’t what makes Christmas full of joy, love, and miracles. This touching true story will remind you and your family of the simple joys in life and the importance of selflessness, gratitude, and charity.

What is your next project?
I am on chapter 40 of my historical novel set in Russian during the Bolshevik revolution. I’m so anxious for it to be DONE. I love the story and the characters, but I have been working on it for a year and a month, and 5 days, and 6 hours…

What is your advice for other writers?
Hang in there. Writing (and getting published) is hard work, but it is also very rewarding. Be satisfied with the writing itself and don’t worry about the rejections or, on the flip side, the accolades or money. Those who have had books published will be smiling [in wistful agreement] at the thought of book signings where you’re completely ignored or held in disdain. And I calculated once that I made about 27 cents an hour.

Also, I think it’s important to stay true to your ideals as you write. There is a great lure in this world to write what is popular…nothing wrong with selling books, but if it takes you away from standards or writing something that will lift, just take a little time in your decision.

What other work of yours has been published?
Autumn Sky, 2004
Until the Dawn, 2006
Upon the Mountains, 2007 – All published by Covenant Communications, Inc.

Gale, thank you for being my guest.
Thanks for the interview, Marsha.


  1. I ,love all these author interviews from women who also have to deal with home and family yet still crank out a book (or two or three). This give us hope. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Great interview, Marsha. I love Gale. She's such a neat lady, just like you:o)
    I look forward to her Christmas book.

  3. Great interview. Gale is a fantiastic lady. Not only has she written some fascinating books, but she has been the reader for my last three books on CD.

  4. I love Gale Sears' books. Super interview. I like reading about these normal women who are awesome authors.

  5. It's a lot of fun to do these interviews and get great comments from you all. Thanks for visiting!

  6. Marsha,
    Nice interview ... it's always fun to hear what life is like for other authors.


I welcome your comments.

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