~ Author of the Month – Gail McFarland ~
The 20 Questions Interview By LaShaunda C. Hoffman)
I had the pleasure of interviewing via e-mail, Ms. Gail McFarland. She the
author of SUMMER WIND, THE BEST FOR LAST and this month release, WHEN LOVE CALLS. I told Gail after reading her interview it was as if I were sitting
right across from her, sharing a cup a coffee. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did, and if you haven’t read WHEN LOVE CALLS, what are you waiting for? A special thank you to Ms. McFarland to taking time out of her schedule to do this interview.
1. What inspired you to write WHEN LOVE CALLS?
I live in an older part of the city (Atlanta) and when I first moved here every time it rained for almost a year, my telephone lines got crossed with someone else’s. It made me think, “what if.” and one thing sort of led to another.
As for Destiny and her Sickle Cell Anemia, I am a fitness trainer and an almost obscenely healthy person. In my line of work, I’ve had occasion to become very friendly with several “obviously” healthy people who have the disease – both the trait and several different forms of the disease. Initially, the affects of the disease (especially when you never saw it coming) are stunning: a perfectly healthy person can dissolve in paroxysms of pain right before your eyes. I began to wonder what it would take emotionally and physically to raise a child with the disease, or to grow to adulthood facing the challenges of SCD and more. I also wondered what it would be like to
have a “normal” life as a single parent while raising a child with this disease. And, the more I wondered, the more I wrote.
2. Why did you choose the city it’s set in?
I spent several years in St. Louis, affectionately known as, “the city of homes”, and have a very deep affection for it. And lovely Atlanta, GA is my current home. What better places could there be to set a family oriented romance than these two cities where I’ve learned to be an adult, and where I’ve also learned the differences between like, love, and lust.
3. What message would you like to send to your readers?
That first last and always we are human, and as humans, we don’t always get it right – the fun and interest are in the trying.
4. What should a reader expect from a GM romance?
I like to think you’ll always expect to get a good story with a well thought out plot. I also want to believe that your mind as well as your heart will be challenged by the characters and situations presented. Research and words have always pleased me – I’m a reader at heart. I try to be thorough so that I give my readers the kind of story I would also enjoy. Additionally, I tend toward character and dialog driven stories, so maybe you’ll get more than a touch of humor and a few memorable lines as well.
5. How would you encourage readers who have never read a GM book to try
Usually, I beg a lot. Actually, I would give them a brief synopsis of the story, in the belief that the premise of the story is strong enough to convince the reader to give it a try. Ideally, I have written a story that will stand on its own merits.
6. Do you have a full-time career outside your writing?
Yes, I do. Though my degree is in psychology with a minor in Special Education, I’ve opted to change fields. I am a nationally certified fitness trainer and aerobics instructor (and living proof that they’re NOT all skinny). My areas of specialization include strength training and special populations. I currently teach aerobics, personal train, and manage a federal fitness facility in Atlanta, where I work with some of the nicest folks around.
7. How do you feel about those who don’t take romance writing serious?
First, I smile. Then, I have to ask if they’ve ever REALLY read a romance. My personal experience is that those who cut romance short shrift have never bothered to read it. I guess this is where I have to ‘fess up. Back in my younger, less informed years, I assumed romance was a frivolous past time for bon bon eating dilettantes. I had given my heart to techno-thrillers,
suspense, and contemporary horror. But, this is where my public school education came into play. I had a much adored Civics teacher who once said that, “if you ignore a segment of the population, you can never be a full participant in your civilization”. The older I got, the wiser he got, and now that I have a few hundred romances under my belt, I have to admit he was right. My opinion now is that readers who ignore genre fiction are cheating
themselves. You may have to find a writer whose style appeals to you, but the skill of crafting the story is no less diminished by genre.
8. Did you read romance before you began writing it?
Yes. I had a cousin who would read only if threatened with death, when she discovered Romance, she was suddenly a voracious reader. You know I had to find out why! The first one I read was WICKED LOVING LIES, and I hated it. It was too frilly and full of frou-frou for me. There were also a couple of near rape scenes that ticked me off big time. But, my nutty cousin was still reading romance, so I tried another. I don’t recall the title, but it was by Danielle Steele. A little better, then I discovered Krantz, “and it was off to the races”! To put it mildly, I was thrilled to discover African-American romance, and I devoured Eboni Snow, Angela Benson, Shirley Hailstock, and all the classic ladies of color.
9. What do you like about African-American Romance Novels?
I like that the bright and articulate characters are a lot like my friends and me. I enjoy being able to identify with their habits, backgrounds, educations, and challenges. I especially like the fact that these romances are well plotted on both the national and international scene.
10. What was the last good romance you’ve read?
OUT OF THE BLUE by Janice Sims. She did a wonderful job of blending genres and weaving a haunting tale of romantic possibilities.
11. Do you see yourself ever writing a historical romance?
I’ve given it some thought, but I can more easily foresee myself working on a time-travel romance – one that blends the similarities and disparities of two eras. My dad was in the Air Force, and I’ve always had a fascination with the Tuskegee Airmen and World War II. and, now that I’m thinking of it, there is a story I’d like to tell.
12. What about mainstream fiction?
Ultimately, I would like to try some of what is traditionally thought of as “mainstream” fiction, but so far, my heart is truly locked into the world of romance.
13. Is being a romance writer what you thought it would be like?
Yes, in that it is a thrill to see my words in print – much as I though it would be. In many ways, though, writing is so much more exciting and fulfilling than I’d ever dreamed. Remember when you were growing up, and your parents and grandparents and teachers kept telling you, “someday you’re going to use this”, as they drilled and rehearsed your lessons? Well, with publication, I’ve begun to feel that THIS is the day they were talking about. Being published feels like the fulfillment of all my educational endeavors. I feel tremendously humbled by the people I’ve met and the letters and emails I’ve received. I can’t begin to express the pleasure and excitement I feel just seeing someone reading something I wrote.
14. What was your becoming a published writer journey like?
An Act of God!
15. If you could pick one of your books for a movie which one would you
choose, and who would you cast in it?
Wow, you DO ask the hard ones, don’t you? (Big Sigh.) If you ask me that today, I would have to say my choice would be WHEN LOVE CALLS. Casting? Hmmm. I gave it some thought, then talked it over with some of the members in my fitness center – most of them have already read the book. We agreed that Lynn Whitfield or Jennifer Lewis would be good as Davida (though there was a splinter vote for Dawnn Lewis – Jalisa from “A Different World”). Hands down, we agreed that Cuba Gooding, Jr. was right as Marc. When it comes to Quita, I can see Viveca A. Fox, along with Mykelti Williams as Glenn (though Eriq LaSalle was a close second). Patti LaBelle, Pam Grier, and Whoopi Goldberg (all aged a few years through the magic of cosmetics) would be wonderful as Davida’s mother, mother-in-law, and aunt. There is a little girl (whose name I don’t know) who has appeared on “The Smart Guy”, and I think she’d be wonderful as Destiny. I’m on a roll now, can you tell? I’m thinking Malcolm Jamal Warner would be fun as Milt, and Nike Clark (a local Atlanta artist) would make a wonderful Deb – though she’s a touch small for the part. How about LL Cool J as MC Feng Shui (’cause he’s so cute)?
16. What are your favorite sites on the web to visit?
You mean after “Aspiring African American Romance Writers” and “Romance
In Color”? I enjoy the “Color of Love”, MSBET, Blackwriters.Com,