With us on the blog today is Gail Ward Olmsted, an author of two published novels, who is busy at work on a third. Her new book, Guessing at Normal, is a “rock and roll romance,” as detailed below. Gail is a professor in the School of Business & Information Technology at Springfield Technical Community College in Springfield, MA. She received the Deliso Endowed Chair Award as well as statewide recognition for excellence in education. Gail says that she is “a hopeless romantic…married to the love of my life, mom to two young adults and three cats.” She enjoys reading, boating, music, and travel.
Anesa Miller: Thanks for being with us, Gail. As you know, I’ve been exploring questions of genre recently. So I’d like to ask your opinion as a writer: Does genre offer readers information they need in order to choose a book like others they’ve enjoyed?
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Gail Ward Olmsted: As a reader, I am not a big fan of ‘genre typing’. I personally enjoy a variety of books. I look for interesting characters, a well-developed plot, realistic dialogue and good writing style. Tell me your title, show me a cover and share a blurb: I can decide if I want to read a book without the label. Labels limit choices. Can it be a romance if a main character dies or there’s no happily ever after? Is it automatically considered ‘young adult’ if the main character is 23 or younger? If you include the male’s point of view, can it still be ‘women’s fiction’?
AM: Those are great questions. I would love to hear a publisher’s response! Don’t they usually insist on slotting books into a fairly tight category for marketing purposes?
GWO: Yes, and I do understand why, at least in theory. Some publishers specialize in certain types of books and knowing where your book ‘fits’ helps them to deliver the best possible product and to identify the ideal target market. Many readers have very strong preferences on the type of books they like to read. As a business professional, I understand that a successful product needs to offer a distinct selling proposition. I just appreciate a somewhat more liberal interpretation of some of the ‘rules’.
AM: And how would you describe your own work? Or maybe I should ask, how is it defined for marketing?
GWO: I write somewhere between contemporary romance and women’s contemporary fiction with a splash of chick-lit to keep from taking myself too seriously. Self-discovery seems to be a key theme in my first two novels, as well as the one I am working on now.
AM: I haven’t read your new book yet, but a rock and roll romance sounds like a lot of fun. Have you created a playlist of songs that “work” with the story? Did any particular songs inspire you as you worked on the book?
GWO: Music always inspires me! Certain songs take me back to very distinct times in my life, some good and others—not so much. Each chapter in Guessing is a title of a pop song from the last twenty-five years starting when the story begins in 1989. They represent the tone and content of the chapter and help to tell the story. I spent a lot of time choosing titles such as:
- Got My Mind Set on You ~ George Harrison
- I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing ~ Aerosmith
- Only Wanna Be with You ~ Hootie & the Blowfish
- Torn ~ Natalie Imbruglia
- Hard to Handle ~ The Black Crowes
- Everybody Hurts ~ R.E.M.
- Right Here, Right Now ~ Jesus Jones
- You Get What You Give ~ New Radicals
- Linger ~ The Cranberries
- Crash Into Me ~ Dave Matthews Band
- Come As You Are ~ Nirvana
AM: Thanks again for joining us, Gail. Her new book is Guessing at Normal. Here’s what it’s about—
Jill Griffin has mastered the art of being invisible, so when she falls in love with sexy rocker James Sheridan, at first she is content to live in his larger than life shadow. Building a ‘normal’ life together under the glare of the media is challenging and further complicated by constant touring, James’ partying and the mixed signals she gets from James’ twin brother Alex.
When her poems and journal ramblings become the songs on James’ best-selling album, Jill has to step out of her comfort zone and figure out how to live her life in a spotlight all her own. With no road map to follow, she struggles to navigate her way in her search for happiness. As her professional success threatens her relationship with James, Jill questions whether she can make a living writing love songs without the love of her life.
Connect with Gail Ward Olmsted on social media—
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