SA: Who’s your favorite author?
GM: My reading preferences seem to change every few years. When I was in my twenties I couldn’t get enough of Agatha Christie. For years Connie May Fowler and Barbara Kingsolver wowed me. Annie Proulx, Daniel Woodrell, Elizabeth Strout, and Marilynne Robinson fed my soul for several years. It seems these days though, I’m interested in reading debut novels. Along those lines I’m falling for voices like David Joy and Nick White.
SA: Do you have a favorite book or genre you read?
GM: I prefer grit and realism. Having grown up in a fairly impoverished town I like stories about rising from nothing and those usually involve a fair amount of grit and striving at basic levels of existence. Where All Light Tends to Go and Winter’s Bone are two of my most cherished reading experiences.
SA: You’ve had some works published in newspapers. How was the change from newspaper writing to novel writing?
GM: Writing human interest stories for the newspaper was key in developing writing skills. Getting published allowed me to know a few things. First, that I had something to say that interested other people. Second, what it feels like to have thousands of readers. It can be a scary thing but I got used to it pretty fast.
SA: Where did you draw your inspiration from for your new novel?
GM: Inspiration for The Girl From Blind River came from the difficult choice writers sometime face. I’d given up on a novel I’d been working on for several years. I was empty and feeling very down about it. I had the feeling that I’d run through all my good options and was at a dead end with my writing. This is how my main character Jamie Elders starts out in the book. Then a mentor suggested that I read The Queen’s Gambit. That book opened up so many possibilities for what a character can be put through and still rise. At the same time I was just beginning to learn about poker and Jamie started taking shape. Jamie is an impoverished girl with no options other than mad poker skills. It’s like that with some books. A character with so many possibilities appears in your psyche and you run with it.
SA: Did you always see yourself becoming a fiction writer?
GM: Someone recently asked when I knew I was a writer. My immediate answer was that I never knew that. I saw the power of words as a child, not that I read very much, but stories touched me and everyone around me. It’s why we went to church every Sunday, to hear stories. So I always knew I wanted to become a writer but it was and continues to be something I work very hard toward claiming for myself.
SA: Do you plan on writing another novel any time soon?
GM: Of course. I’m a hundred pages into a story about a young woman who is a professional poker player. The story explores the difficulties of being young and female and excellent at a craft but working within a male dominated field. There are obvious parallels to be drawn in our culture right now but being female in a patriarchal world has interested me since I was a child. I’d like to see girls grow up in a fairer minded world.
SA: Any advice for young aspiring writers?
GM: First of all, there are legitimate new writers of every age who need encouragement. My first advice is age old: READ. Read a lot. When you find a book that blows your mind dissect it. Find critiques that explain the book on a structural level and contemplate it. Find characters that you relate to on a soul level and seriously investigate why that character moves you. If you’re lucky enough to come across a teacher that gets you or what you’re trying to achieve, pay close attention. I could not have created this book without the many generous teachers and writers I’ve come to know. And persevere through the thousands of large and small disappointments that you’ll encounter along the way. And finally, always celebrate the milestones.