It is my pleasure to feature Gail Strickland, another debut author on today’s blog. Gail Strickland is the author of NIGHT OF PAN, a young adult historical fantasy. I hope all aspiring writers can look at her path to publication and identify what she did right!
Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I’m a classicist, poet and musician with a crazy passion for Greek mythology. In college, I translated much of Homer’s works from ancient Greek. I’ve also had a great time teaching piano to young people and playing Cabaret in San Francisco clubs. I was in an eclectic country-rock band called The Prairie Dogs whose claim to fame was being the only band to play Candlestick Park between The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Let’s just say that I’m never bored! J
What is your book’s genre?
Young Adult historical fantasy.
How would you describe your book in one sentence?
Perhaps a question is best: “Was the Oracle of Delphi a drug-crazed teenager manipulated by politically-savvy priests or a prescient seer who saved the cradle of democracy?”
Where do you do you do your best writing?
I raised two children of my own and three stepchildren. I’ve run my own piano studio for upwards of forty-five students…I literally can write anywhere. And I do! I do, however, have my own room in my mountain home that looks out to a stand of aspen, endless blues skies and curious chipmunks. That place is my favorite. But my best writing? That can happen anywhere: coffee shops, the car, and waiting rooms. Carpe diem!
What led you to write this book?
There are two things really that led me to write this book. One was my passion to bring the richness of Homer’s language to young people in a form that is perhaps more storytelling than THE ILIAD. Secondly, I was a little fed up with The History Channel and some other modern historians who claim that the young Oracle of Delphi had no clue about what she was saying. They say that she was high on ethylene fumes and controlled by the priests who had their thumbs on the political climate of fifth century Greece. I decided to reclaim history. Using the four Persian prophecies we know from the ancient Greek philosopher Herodotus from the same time in history as the movie 300, I wove NIGHT OF PAN around history and showed how the prophecies all came true. For example, the Oracle said, “Trust the winds. They will be mighty allies of Greece.” Just after that oracle, a huge storm arose that destroyed one third of the invading Persian navy. How could the priests have known a storm would blow the Persians literally out of the water?
How long did it take you to write this book?
J Not a question I’ll usually answer. Keep in mind that I was raising five children and teaching full time … may I simply say a REALLY long time? It’s funny; the book never let me go. It rather insisted that I write it. It’s a good thing that I am very stubborn!
How did you find your agent?
I don’t currently have an agent. For a while I did. I found her through the Algonkian Conference spear-headed by Michael Neff.
What were your biggest learning experiences or surprises during the publishing process?
This is not really a surprise, because everyone had warned me about it … but the personal marketing necessary with this changing publishing world is very intense. Though Curiosity Quills is an amazing, fairly new press pushing itself to higher and higher levels and provides me with a five person marketing team who have been amazing, I also spend a lot of time on social media (especially because this is my first book and I am mostly unknown) trying to simply get the word out that my book exists. I’ve also hired my own publicist to help me with the process. She’s been invaluable.
What did you do right that helped you break in to publishing?
Wrote. Re-wrote. Revised and never gave up. I also developed a strong platform a couple of years before I was ready to even think about publishing.
What would you do differently if you could do it again?
Ha! Publish when I was twenty-five!
What is your best piece of advice for writers trying to break in?
Everyone always told me to choose my agent with great care. I should have really listened. Though there had been warning signs, out of fear that another offer wouldn’t come along, I signed despite my better judgment. Note to self: doing things out of fear is never a good idea!
What is something about you people may be surprised to know?
Some interviewers have assumed that I gave up my music when I became an author. Just to set the record straight: Still teaching and playing music. Still loving it!
What’s your favorite book that’s not your own?
I definitely can’t narrow this down to one … but maybe two?
BELOVED by Toni Morrison and THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak … uh oh, don’t get me started … anything by Nikos Kazantzakis. I really could go on forever.
Do you have a go to piece of music that helps motivate your writing? If so, what is it?
People seem to want to know this. I always have to laugh. It’s anything by Enya because she sets a wonderful mystical mood that doesn’t interfere with my thoughts. Also, oddly enough, Buddhist monks chanting. Yep! It’s true. When I want to write a livelier scene, I listen to music from Zorba the Greek by Mikis Theodorakis.
Now that this book is published, what’s next for you?
NIGHT OF PAN is the first book of the ORACLE OF DELPHI TRILOGY. So now to finish book two. I’m half done!
Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
I’m just now in the middle of my book tour. The most wonderful surprise has been to realize that talking about my book—a project that has been so dear to me for so many years—to a room filled with people who are there because they’re truly curious to understand the pulse and heartbeat of this creature, this book that you poured your heart into … it’s a great feeling! I feel very lucky.
For those who want more information about Gail Strickland and her work, check out:
Like her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Gail-Strickland/236766709783010?ref=hl