Summer Solstice, discusses her book, her journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.
DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about Summer Solstice?
GAYLE HAYES: I have just cut the price in half to $.99 so readers can afford to buy Summer Solstice, which lays the foundation for the sequel, Jayme and the Sheriff: Until Death Parts Us. I will be publishing the sequel within the next week. I plan to introduce it at $.99 also. That way new readers can get both books for the price of the original. Summer Solstice will give readers background on the events that brought Jayme and the Sheriff together as well as the criminal escapades alluded to in the sequel. The product description on Amazon is as follows:
When an old woman falls while answering her doorbell at one o’clock a.m. on the summer solstice of 2010, her niece enters the same orbit as a dangerous and diverse group of people whom she otherwise never would have known.
Jayme Baker appears to be in her thirties and is attractive, newly divorced, and hopes to write stories for children someday. She leaves her “dream job” to become caregiver to her aunt, Cora, in Port Owen, Montana, nestled on the shores of Flathead Lake, a tourist attraction. Jayme meets Sheriff R. Bates Riggs on the plane to Montana. He is a disgruntled former FBI agent who is still sexy at fifty-five, plays jazz piano, and photographs wildlife instead of mounting them on the wall of his log home. He is the son of a Native American mother and “a high roller from back east by way of Texas.”
Jayme rides to Port Owen with the sheriff, who loans her his car and leaves to investigate an accident. Jayme soon finds herself a victim of the type of people she has seen only from a distance as a criminal paralegal. Seemingly minor crimes have tragic consequences. As the sheriff’s companion, Jayme is privy to the investigation of a series of murders. The “quirk” that compels her to follow a mystery leads to the arrest of an assassin. The sheriff’s lament that law enforcement is day-to-day becomes a yearning for the status quo after he discovers a rogue element in his department. Jayme’s attraction to the sheriff builds slowly, becomes white hot, and cools after Cora reveals her secret past.
Summer Solstice is for readers who enjoy solving a mystery and miss the old-fashioned love story with an admirable hero and heroine in believable predicaments.
DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?
GAYLE HAYES: I intended to write an Anne of Green Gables type of story. Then Sheriff Riggs sat down on the plane next to Jayme, and he hijacked the novel. The characters literally revealed themselves to me as I wrote the story. They developed naturally as they reacted to or caused events. Once certain aspects of a character are revealed, he or she must act or react based on those earlier revelations. Cora and Bessie are the only characters similar in age in the beginning. Cora is the lovable aunt, so Bessie had to be a little less lovable to contrast. She was fun to write, because she is basically a nice person but very opinionated. She is interesting because there is a lot of truth in what she says, but she is so over the top, that some people mind find her opinionated. Then Anne Marie entered the novel later. She and Bessie are also similar in age, but Anne Marie becomes the lovable aunt when Cora can no longer fill that role. The villains are mostly close in age. I suppose I filed away people I saw over the years, and the descriptions came to life in my novel. One young man is about to lose his pants because he wears them low enough to reveal his underwear, and another has his nose pierced so he can wear his deceased mother’s wedding ring.
DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?
GAYLE HAYES: Summer Solstice appeals to readers of all ages for the same reasons. It has non-stop action, so it is not boring and won’t put you to sleep. It is a quick read. I edited it over and over to eliminate all unnecessary words. I kept description to a minimum so as not to interfere with the action. So, people with short attention spans or those who are very busy find it easy to finish the book.
When I am tired and need to relax, I don’t want to struggle through pages of prose to figure out what the story is about. I love movies. So I wrote my novel hoping to appeal to people like me who don’t want lengthy descriptions that detract from dialogue and action. I have been told that Summer Solstice would be very easy to adapt to a screenplay. I guess my ideal reader would be Tommy Lee Jones. My character, Jayme, is a TLJ fan and thinks Sheriff Riggs is a dead ringer for him. I see the story like a movie as I am writing it, so I would love to see it on film with TLJ as my sheriff.
DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?
GAYLE HAYES: I have always dreamed of writing a novel. The process fascinated me. I just couldn’t get around to it. I think my age has a lot to do with my finally getting the novel finished. I realized that time might be running out for me. I have lived long enough that I have been the age of most of my characters and am caring for a mother in her nineties. So I know how people feel at certain ages. Also, the internet made it possible for me to enjoy my quiet life in small town Montana and still have access to any minute detail I needed to flesh out my story and characters. The word processor made a difference over the electric typewriter. I made many false starts at writing over the years. It is finally mechanically and emotionally easier to write. I know now that there is no recipe for writing a novel.
DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?
GAYLE HAYES: I started writing Summer Solstice after giving myself an ultimatum to write a novel or quit whining about not doing so. My husband left for several days of fishing. I had no excuse not to write. I expected to write nothing. I was amazed when my characters actually came to life on the computer screen and dictated what I would write. I didn’t know what would happen until I sat down to write. As Jayme fell in love with Bates, I did, too. The novel flowed so naturally, I wrote day and night to get it out of my head. I woke up with characters telling me what to say next. In the past, I let homemaking, remodeling, and working at a job come before writing. Now, I write first and pay bills and vacuum when I need a break.
DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?
GAYLE HAYES: I always longed to write like the authors I studied at the university. Hemingway. Steinbeck. Faulkner. Hardy. All the classics. My life was so busy after I left school, I never felt I had the luxury of reading novels. Then I reached the age where I couldn’t stay awake to finish a book. I read a few of Sue Grafton’s novels. The problem with studying literature as I did is that I couldn’t read for fun. I was analyzing the novel while I read it. If I want to relax and escape for a while, I turn to movies. Now I am finding there are so few movies I enjoy, I escape into my own fiction. I can’t fall asleep while I’m writing.
DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?
GAYLE HAYES: Gorky Park stands out in my mind. I was younger when I read it, but I absolutely couldn’t put it down.
DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?
GAYLE HAYES: First, I sent out an email to everyone I knew with a description and cover. Then I sent a similar email to groups that I thought would be interested such as MADD, the Montana Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, and MALA (Montana Association of Legal Assistants). I sent an email to the local television station and was interviewed on the Montana Today program. I sent emails to the local newspapers and to my hometown newspaper as well as the two universities from which I graduated. I created a blog. I posted on the Kindle Forum and did a book tour on Author AdvenTours. Then I created a Facebook and Twitter page. I am still learning how to be e-literate.
DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?
GAYLE HAYES: I queried 45 literary agents and heard from half of them. They encouraged me to keep trying but said they weren’t the right agent. I know conventional publishing is hurting like every other business. Publishers have to go with novels that fit a very specific profile. My novel doesn’t take place in New York, L.A., or some exotic location. It is of regional interest, so New York looks askance. Montana has the same problems as the big cities, but it is less obvious. Also, I am not writing literary fiction. I write the action as if it is happening right before your eyes. So my style is different. It is not about a vampire romance but an old-fashioned love story. The crime is believable. This is not a knitting circle solving a murder. Publishing on Kindle allowed me to do “my thing” and put my novel before the readers, so I could get reactions from people who are not profit driven. Now that I have read about the current state of print publishing and how it is not what it once was, I am grateful I lived long enough to be part of the ebook revolution. Many of my friends do not have a Kindle, but I believe it is the wave of the future.
DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?
GAYLE HAYES: Do it. Do not waste your valuable time querying literary agents. Kindle authors are the Lewis and Clark and Neil Armstrong of this age.
DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.
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