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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Author Interview: Gail Pallotta

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Gail Pallotta whose first romance Love Turns the Tide was recently released by Awe-Struck Publishing. The main character of the book, Cammie, had been deeply hurt in a relationship and was determined not to get hurt again. Love changed her mind and, that, combined with the beach setting lead to the choice of her title.

Gail told me that the hardest part about writing the book was being so enthusiastic about something she knew was going to happen to Cammie, but yet having to build up the scene.

"For instance, I knew Cammie would allow Vic, her suitor, to come over and prepare dinner for her," she explained, "but I couldn’t let that happen until she got to know him well enough to be comfortable with him."

I asked her to tell us a little bit more about Love Turns the Tide.

In Love Turns the Tide twenty-six-year-old Cammie O’Shea faces a traumatic split-up with her fiancĂ© and has to leave her family and friends to take a new job in Destin, Florida. A feature writer, she dreads meeting her new boss, the editor of The Sun Dial newspaper, but her real source of angst turns out to be Vic Deleona, the influential real estate tycoon she must write about to generate interest in the paper. While she refuses to open herself to another painful relationship he attempts to court her. Even though she sees him as pompous she goes out of her way to maintain a good business association. Trying to get over her heartache, she reads her Bible and says prayers. One day she reads Romans 8: 28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…” Afterward she ponders how living in Destin possibly could be good for her. To make matters worse, break-ins occur at her friend’s condo and her unit. However, Vic comes to their rescue. He even launches his own investigation into the crimes, and Cammie sees a different side of him. But finally she gets an offer to return home to her old job. One minute she believes God is telling her to leave Destin, the next she isn’t so sure.
Gail has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, but realized while she was studying literature and analyzing writing in creative writing classes while she was in college that writing was a tool that can be used for good or for bad.

"Even though that was a long time before I heard the word 'spin' in the media, I saw the 'spin' and wanted to use it in a good way," she told me, adding, "But, my husband may best explain the reason I started writing. He says I have fictitious people and pretend events running around in my head, and I have to let them out."

When Gail first gets an idea for a book, she starts by making notes about what will happen.

"Of course, the cryptic outline is later re-written," she admitted, "because the action often leads to twists and turns. I also record the physical descriptions of my characters and write a little about them before I begin the book. However, as the characters grow their personalities expand."

Gail's writing was influence by Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy and Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage.

"Both writers were so good they made me see the world through the eyes of their characters," she explained. "After reading the books I realized we all start at different places in life, and for some the feelings of inferiority or inadequacy that this creates causes great pain. I thought it was so sad that Philip in Of Human Bondage couldn’t cling to his faith, because I knew when one believes he or she is a worthwhile person with a purpose that God is working out, it lifts up him or her. I wanted the characters in those books to find beliefs that would lead to fulfilled lives."

"When did you first think of yourself as a writer?" I wondered.

"Writing and thinking of myself as a writer are two different things. I was dating Rick, whom I eventually married, the first time I claimed to be a writer. Until I felt obligated to let him know that I had no talent for darning shirts or planting flowers, I thought of myself as a person who wrote. But I realized he couldn’t look at me and know that once I had tried to learn to sew and had stitched the dress I was hemming to the pants I was wearing or that plants shrivel up when I put them in the ground. One night when he came to pick me up for dinner, I took a book, Anthology of American Poetry, off the bookshelf and said, 'I have a poem in here. I’m a writer.'"

On a personal note, I asked Gail if she liked the way she looked in pictures.

"Even though I’m glad that I have photos of my husband, my daughter and me, at the time they were taken I hated seeing myself in all of them. Now it’s even worse. Not only am I young at heart, but we don’t have bright make-up lights in our bathroom, and even if we did, I stay too busy to linger in front of the mirror. I don’t think about my age until someone records it in a photograph. But one of these days I suppose I could look at one of them and think, 'Gee, it was great when I had all my teeth.'"

Gail has a brand new strange, weird habit she shared with me.

"This past year for Christmas a friend gave me a purse-size sanitizing light that shines on germs and kills them. Even though it’s not for use on the skin, she explained that it’s great for headrests and armrests on airplanes. She said, 'Then, in the hotel room flip the wand out of its case and wave it over the vanity, the bed headboard, or whatever you want clean. In everyday life use it on your toothbrush after you’ve been ill, or sterilize silverware in restaurants.'

"One night I was seated in a diner where the silverware already had been placed on the table, but the napkin had come unwrapped. Having no idea how long the fork, spoon and knife had been exposed to whoever might have come by and coughed on it, I whipped out my sanitizing wand. One of the managers walked up and asked, 'Ma’am, what is that?'

"I explained, and he asked, 'You just wave it, and it sterilizes?'

"'Yes,' I said.

"This is a handy, fun gadget, and I can see using it is going to become a strange habit."

Gail's favorite saying comes from a cross-stitched calendar that had been given to her mom one Christmas. They all liked the quote so much that even after they tore the pages off for each month, they kept the calendar. It read, "Happiness is seldom where you look for it. Sometimes where you find it. But always, where you make it.”

Her favorite animal? A dog.

"When I was young and single, I had a stray dog, Happy, that had followed my sister home and latched onto me while I was there for a vacation," she told me. "After I left my mother called and said the dog was grieving and wouldn’t eat, so I returned and brought her to live with me in my apartment. A mutt, she charmed my neighbors, who knocked on my door from time to time and said, 'We had steak. I brought the bones to Happy.' The apartment manager let herself in my unit everyday at lunchtime, so she could walk Happy and brush her. The twenty-pound pet grew from being afraid when I picked up a newspaper to wagging her tail and grinning at everyone she met. A mighty defender, she once brought me a dead snake, and when she was seventeen years old, she killed a possum that tried to slink across our deck. I love animals in general, but there’s a special place in my heart for Happy."

Unless thunderstorms are too intense, Gail likes them. In fact, when she was single and lived alone she always slept well during storms because she thought No one will come out in this weather to break into my unit and attack me. Even today, if the thunder isn't too loud, the sound of the rain will lull her to sleep.

"Can you multi-task?" I wondered.

"I think all women, especially those who are mothers, have to multi-task. When my daughter was young I often stirred gravy on the stove, talked on the phone and opened a juice drink all at the same time. My dentist’s hygienist once told me she attended a conference about differences in men and women. One of them was that women can multi-task, but men can’t. She said, 'If your husband is sitting in front of the television with the newspaper in front of him, he’s either watching television or reading the paper. He can’t do both.'"

Finally, I asked Gail what advice she would give to a new writer just starting out.

"Usually writers are people who can’t not write. If that’s the case, then learn as much about the craft as possible by reading about writing, going to conferences and taking workshops. Keep sending out manuscripts, and don’t get discouraged. Realize that writing is subjective and editors’ needs change with society’s demands. I’ve often said I sometimes wish God had made me an accountant, because two plus two equals four, and no one has an opinion about that. One day a fellow pointed out to me that two plus two might not equal four if the mathematician uses a base eight number system. I said, 'Never mind. I’m a writer.'"
You can keep up with Gail on her blog,

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