A good writing group, one that offers thoughtful help and criticism, is hard to come by. I’ve been honored to be a member of The Novel Experience for several years and Gale Deitch is one of the reasons the group has been so valuable to me. As we’ve both worked through our novels with the group, Gale’s comments and suggestions are usually right on the money.
This year, Gale and I seemed to be at similar points in our writing. We were wrapping up final drafts of our novels and wondering if self publishing was the right thing to do. It was a topic that came up every time we met. I would ask her about her plans. She would ask me about my plans. Back and forth we went, trying to make the right decision for our work. I was frightened to make the move, but the more we talked, the more I realized that indie publishing was the right thing to do.
But making the decision was only the beginning. Over the following months, we had a lot to learn but we shared information, overwhelmed each other with ideas and things we needed to consider, but in the end we both finally, FINALLY, published our work.
Gale’s book, A Fine Fix, earned immediate attention from an audience of people who love a cozy culinary mystery. They are readers who aren’t afraid to take a chance on a new author and those that have taken a chance on Gale, are finding it was well worth the purchase. She has developed a great following and that success has given her motivation to forge ahead on the second book in her series, work I’ve had the pleasure to read.
Q: Congratulations on how well your first novel is selling! A Fine Fix is your first, but what other things have you written? What made you think you were ready to tackle the work of writing a novel?
Gale: Thank you, Mary. I write all types of fiction, including short stories, flash fiction, and poetry. My poetry and short fiction have been published in anthologies and literary journals.
But actually, my novel writing came first with a different book, very different from A Fine Fix and not yet published. I knew what I wanted to write and that the story had to be in novel form. I did finish that first book and at some point will go back to it to get it published.
Q: When you developed the idea for this book, did you have any idea that there was such a niche market for cozy culinary mysteries?
Gale: I really didn’t. When I first thought of my character, Trudie Fine, I wasn’t sure what her story would be. Then, because I love food and cooking, I decided she would be a caterer and that the book would be a mystery and it kept developing from there. I hadn’t actually read any cozy culinary mysteries. I just knew who my character was and went from there. It was an unexpected surprise to find that there is quite a large market for this type of book.
Q: Now that you know there is this unique niche, will you do anything different to maximize your audience?
Gale: I will continue my Trudie Fine Mystery Series. Many people who have read the first book keep asking when the next one, Fine Dining, is coming out. There seem to be many fans of book series. When the second book is out, I will offer the first at a discounted price for a period of time to hopefully get some new readership.
Q: You have a fulltime job. How do you find the time to get your writing done? Do you have a regular routine or do you just get it done whenever there’s an opportunity?
Gale: Working fulltime, it’s very difficult to find the time to write or to keep on a regular schedule, especially if you need a good night’s sleep, as I do, to function. I try to maximize weekends for writing and a couple of times during the past year have even taken a week’s vacation and spent the entire time writing. I look forward to a time when I will be able to retire and write fulltime.
Q: There’s so much work and planning involved in self publishing and we all get nervous before we hit that publish button. Can you describe the feeling you had when you realized your book had some legs and was gaining an audience? How does the success feel?
Gale: I was amazed and thrilled that so many people were buying my book. It had boosted my rating on Amazon into the top 10 cozy culinary mysteries alongside well-known, traditionally published culinary mystery authors such a Diane Mott Davidson, Joanne Fluke and even Janet Evanovich, who now has books in that niche category. My daily book sales are still steady but lower than before, so I am extremely motivated to get the next book out.
Q: The learning curve for a first self published book is high. What would you say was the most difficult part about the process?
Gale: In my research and in listening to others speak about their experiences with self-publishing, I felt overwhelmed by all the steps necessary to make it happen. I was so fortunate to have the help and support of others—beta readers who gave me good constructive feedback and caught some typos, another who did a photo shoot in my kitchen and produced a great author photo, and most helpful of all, a writer friend who formatted the book for me both for print and eBook. Without their help, it would have been much more difficult and costly.
Q: If there’s one piece of advice you’d like to give someone who is trying to self publish, what would it be?
Gale: Speak to others who have been through the self-publishing process. Ask what worked for them and what they would have done differently. I found that by following on others’ coat tails and asking questions step by step, I was able to do it myself.
Q: You collaborated with James Turner on the recipes in the book and they are a great added bonus to the story. How did you come up with that idea and did you ask him for specific dishes to fit the story?
Gale: As I wrote my book, I decided to publish recipes for some of the dishes in the book. James Turner, DC executive chef at Blue 44 Restaurant , was the husband of a writer in my novel critique group. When I announced that I wanted to include recipes in the back of the book, Cindy asked her husband if he would provide the recipes, which he readily agreed to. When the book was finished, I sent James a long list of dishes that were prepared in my book and asked him to provide recipes for no more than six of them, his choice. Out of the five recipes he gave me, I chose four and then included two of my own.
Q: I know that you like to attend Wildacres writing retreat each year. What is it about that experience that keeps you going back? What else keeps you motivated and writing? Do you plan to continue that tradition?
Gale: I’ve been attending the week-long Wildacres Writer’s Workshop each summer for about 10 years and plan to continue as long as I can. About 100 writers, men and women of all ages, come to this beautiful mountain retreat near Asheville, North Carolina every year. Classes in a variety of genres are taught by gifted, published authors. Each year, I learn so much from these instructors and from other students, and I am constantly encouraged to stretch my writing skills. My character Trudie Fine, in fact, was born at Wildacres, as was the first chapter of the book.
At times over the years, as many of us do, I have doubted my writing ability. But in recent years, as I’ve submitted my short fiction and poetry to literary magazines and had my work accepted, it has boosted my confidence in my writing and motivated me to write and submit more.
Q: Trudie Fine is a bit wacky but she runs a new catering company and seems to know how to throw a good party. How much do you share Trudie’s love of food? If you could take her place as a caterer, would you want to?
Gale: Like Trudie, I love to eat, love to cook and love to watch cooking shows on TV, where I’ve learned a lot of techniques and skills. However, Trudie is a much better cook than me. She is a lot faster with her knife-chopping skills and can handle a back-yard Mexican fiesta for 75 people or an intimate dinner party for 20 politicians, news anchors and best-selling authors. That’s too much pressure for me.
Q: If there is something from your publishing experience that you could do a different way, what would it be? Or do you have no regrets?
Gale: My experience for the most part has been great with exceptional results. Amazon has been an important partner in my success by continually marketing my book to those who read books in my genre. I have been disappointed, however, with Smashwords, which I used to get my book onto other formats—barnesandnoble.com, Apple, Kobi, Sony, and others. Yes, my book is now available on all those sites in all those formats. However, Smashwords does nothing to promote their authors. I’m not sure if going with a different company would have been a better choice.
Q: You skipped going the traditional publishing route all together. You didn’t query agents or try to have your book traditionally published. Now that you know how successful your book is, do you regret going on indie?
Gale: I don’t regret it at all. When I was making that decision, I looked at other books in the cozy culinary genre. All the cover art looked the same—very cartoonish. Their publishers made all the choices—cover art, interior format, title, pricing and even how the book was written. I decided I wanted total control of my book and to keep all my royalties. I chose the cover art, I chose the title, I wrote the book I wanted—and it still sold without the help of a publisher.
Q: What keeps you motivated to write? And are you a “seat of your pants” writer or an “outliner”?
Gale: Nothing is as exciting or motivating to me as sitting down in my home office, just four walls and a computer, to bring a character or a scene to life.
I definitely write by the seat of my pants. I wrote this book organically, constantly asking myself, “What would happen next?” or “How would Trudie react to this?” I knew in my head roughly where the book was headed and some of the things that would happen, but I wanted the stories and characters to feel natural and not forced. I didn’t want to write a bunch of scenes and then have to figure out what order to put them in.
Q: How long did it take you to write A Fine Fix? Do you think the second book will take you less time or more time?
Gale: A Fine Fix took a few years to write, but only because I took my time, wrote a couple of chapters and submitted them to my critique groups, then let time go by before I wrote more. It didn’t need to take that long. My second book, Fine Dining, I hope to finish in less than a year.
Q: If Trudie was going to create an MRE (meals ready to eat) … a freeze dried, or packaged meal like what Harper eats while in Honduras—meant to last in a package for up to three years—what would it be? MREs typically have about 2300 calories and lately they have become more and more gourmet.
Gale: Mary, great question. I think Trudie would love creating MREs for our troops. She would probably prepare a shrimp risotto with shaved parmesan, asparagus with toasted hazelnuts and for dessert, a molten lava chocolate cake.
Q: Yum! Soldiers deploy to every corner of the globe but while away, they always have thoughts of home. If you were going to cook a homesick soldier a meal to remind them of home, what would it be?
Gale: Definitely, Trudie’s comfort meal would include chicken and dumplings, corn bread and hot apple pie with vanilla ice cream.
Q: Something I would love to try! Is there anything you’d like to add? Any promises of companion shorts or other things to look forward to?
Gale: I hadn’t planned any companion shorts, but I would like to expand my blog www.gdeitchblog.com with exchanges of recipes and suggestions for Trudie-isms, food references that Trudie makes throughout the book. I’d love to attract others who enjoy food and cooking to my blog.
Thank you so much for including me on your site.
Me: Gale it was my pleasure. Thanks for taking the time to talk and congratulations on your great success!