Friday, October 28, 2011
Q&A With Michele Gorman
Michele Gorman's book, Single In The City, was launched in the U.S. on October 27th, 2011 and is now available as an ebook on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Michele chose to self-publish in the U.S; Penguin Books published the U.K. version. The book follows Hannah, a 26-year old American who moves to London with no job or social network. Amazon reviewers all praise the book for its sense of humor and its totally believable main character who embarks on the adventure of a lifetime.
Michele and I talked about self-publishing, the advantages of using a literary agent, and her suggestions for mandatory reading. She would love for you to follow her on twitter, like her on facebook, or visit her website for more information.
Stevie: How long have you been writing, and what is Single In The City about?
Michele: I’ve been writing for about 10 years, though I didn’t harbour the desire to write from an early age. My decision was a practical one. Sitting in my office one day I thought, “Why won’t someone pay me for what’s inside my head, without me having to come to an office?” I hit upon writing as an option. But with no practical knowledge or writerly training, it was a rather long road to publication.
Single In The City is about taking a chance and finding your feet in unfamiliar surroundings. 26 year old American Hannah moves to London on a whim, arriving with no job, no friends and no idea how she’s supposed to build the new life she’s dreaming of. Armed with little more than her enthusiasm, she charges headlong into London, baffling the locals in her pursuit of a new life, new love and sense of herself.
Stevie: Does your decision to self-publish in America reflect on how writers are treated here vs. in the UK?
Michele:No, not at all. I’ve had an excellent experience with Penguin (UK) and assume my experience with an American publisher would be just as supportive and professional. But I do think that in the case of Single in the City, some of the American publishers have sold chick lit fans short. My agent and I approached a few last year but they said American women would not identify with a book set in London because relatively few had been there. I disagree. After all you don’t need to live in the American South to appreciate The Help, or have a child who’s done something terrible to identify with the mom in We Need To Talk About Kevin. Trying to make your way in a new environment is an experience we’ve all had, whether it’s a new city, or country, school or circle of friends. I’ve got faith in American chick lit fans and am excited to publish it for them.
Stevie: Would you advise all aspiring writers to get an agent? Are there any distinct advantages or disadvantages to using an agent?
Michele: No. I would advise all aspiring writers to get the right agent. There’s a big difference. The right agent is one who you know you’ll want to work with for the rest of your writing career. She’s there as much to support and guide your writing as she is to sell your books. In fact, the collaborative relationship is probably even more important. I’ve pitched every story idea to my agent and we decide together which ones I’ll write. She is my sounding board, when I’m outlining the book, while I’m writing, and once I’ve finished the draft. We also decide together the direction that my writing career should take. We were giving a talk at a writer’s group once and likened it to a marriage.
Aside from the substantial career support that the right agent provides, there are other advantages. She’ll be able to get your manuscript read by the editors in the publishing houses that are the best fit for your book. She’ll know which editors at which houses are acquiring.
There are probably very few agents who don’t care about their writers, but there are a lot who don’t have the time necessary to devote to new writers, because they already have a very full list of writers. So I’d advise a new writer to look for a newer agent. Though it’s tempting to think a big shot agent will give you a better chance at selling a book, in fact, newer agents tend to have contacts with newer publishing editors. And it is the newer editors, who haven’t got full lists yet, who tend to acquire the newer writers.
Stevie You mention in your Guardian article that you wrote your first chick lit novel after reading one and deciding you could do better. Do you think chick lit itself is a similar collective response- a bunch of women deciding "we can do better" than whatever women writers they've been told to read?
Michele: I don’t think chick lit was a reaction to existing literature, but rather the extension of the relationships we have with our friends. The early chick lit writers captured an important part of our lives in prose, giving us characters we cared about because we “knew” them. They are our sisters, friends, cousins, mothers, daughters and frenemies. They amuse us and frustrate us and show us their flaws and their triumphs. The genre has grown around this kind of character.
Stevie: Was there one experience or moment when you knew you would be a writer, or was it more of a growth process?
Michele: It was a process punctuated by ‘aha’ moments. I remember when I wrote "The End" on the last page of my first book (I wrote 3 books, all literary fiction, before Single In The City). That’s when I knew I could do it, so that’s when I knew I could be a writer. It wasn’t till I finished my second book that I knew I would be a writer. That’s when I knew that I’d chosen writing as a career.
Stevie: If you could wave a magic wand and make every man in the world read any three books, which books would you choose?
Michele: The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama, because becoming happier is a wonderful process.
Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus by John Gray because we can all use a little help understanding the opposite sex (and if I had a second pass of my magic wand I’d make all women go see Defending the Caveman).
And Single in the City, because if every man on the planet bought it then I could quit my day job and write full-time.