Welcome to This Book is Lit, Grace! Tell us a little about yourself and your work!
I grew up on Long Island, NY. Lived for decades in the Washington, DC area, and now live on Florida’s west coast. Except for that last fact, my son tells me I am a very poor role model for retirement.
Genre’s are funny things, I am finding. My first four books were non-fiction and in the area of education, specifically high school improvement. They were data-driven works that helped propel schools and school systems in 32 states to improve their teaching and learning. My fourth book is my most recent and my debut novel. The Eves is, typically, cast as women’s fiction, but I think it transcends that and covers families and friendships and a redefining of what it means to write a “coming of age” novel.
What inspired you to write your most recent novel?
Writers are always told to write the book they want to read. When I was winding up an education career, and 200 days a year of travel. I looked about and thought, who am I? Who have I been, and who do I want to become? With characters that range from 15 to 94 I could address those issues, as well as aging, race, families, and relationships. The Eves is the story of the psychologically complex Jessica who has given up on her appearance and her career, but not her vodka or her sense of loss and guilt. It is, importantly, a story that has at its core the importance of conversations. The tagline of the book is “When our stories are told, everything changes.” I wanted to read a book that spoke to all of those dimensions. So, I wrote it.
What is your writing routine?
Although I do not plot out every step of a story, or even my non-fiction works, I have a firm idea of where the book starts and where it ends. The middle is always a mystery. The joy of research, and the delight in having characters take shape and begin to chat in my head, is important. On a perfect writing day, I wake up ready to meet my characters. I start by rereading the chapter, or pages, from the previous day and make minor edits. I write and research in a rhythm that finds its own way. At the end of the day, I print the pages and give them to my husband. He reads through them and makes notes. Then he reads them aloud to me and I can hear not only the true mistakes, but also the positive and negatives about tone and voice. I also rely on a set of beta readers who respond to the story. Sometimes they serve as developmental editors as well, suggesting plot modifications. When it works, it’s magic.
What are your top 3 favorite books?
That always feels like a most unfair question. Two that are always on my list is the YA novel by Anna Sewell Black Beauty. It is the first book I fell in love with and I still have my childhood copy. Next up would be Daphne du Maurier’s classic Rebecca. My mother and I co-read books for a short while when I started high school. We both loved this amazing book with one of the most classic opening lines in literature and the shocking reveal about Rebecca’s death. After that, in all honesty, I don’t have a third. I loved Devil in the White City by Erik Larson for its dual plot of historical fiction and murder mystery. I loved The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson for the sheer joy of learning there were blue people.
I LOVED Devil in the White City too!
What writers inspire you?
Most writers inspire me for their commitment to their trade, for the love of words, for the whole new way that we, as authors, have to embrace the world of publishing today. This is true whether you are published by a legacy press, a small press or are an independent author. Different authors approach this part of the work differently, and I am learning from all of them.
What are you currently reading?
That question is always a delight to answer. I was given the most amazing gift recently by Dr. Gayle Carson. Gayle owned a radio station and interviewed me for one of her shows. Afterward, she offered me my own show to craft as I wanted. I created “The Storytellers.” The show focuses on authors and others that choose to leave their mark on the world through the art of story. “The Storytellers” airs in 145 countries and then becomes a podcast. I am always currently reading the books of the authors I am interviewing any particular month. This month it is Claire Fullerton’s Mourning Dove, Lainey Cameron’s award-winning, debut novel The Exit Strategy, and A Child Lost, by Michelle Cox.
Do you use any life experiences to inspire your writing?
Yes, absolutely. We have to write from what we know, I believe, even if that knowledge is based on feelings and intuitions. In The Eves, Jessica goes to Tanzania, lives in a row house in Washington, DC, and travels to the shores of the Chesapeake Bay in MD. I’ve been to Tanzania, have a soft spot in my heart for time spent on or near The Chesapeake, and the house Jessica lives in was very much my daughter’s home. My author bio says I “live with a small herd of imaginary llama.” In The Eves there are real llamas, simply because I want to own my own, and can’t.
How did you get into writing? Have you always wanted to be a writer?
The first two jobs I absolutely believed I wanted were anchor desk newscaster and actress. It is not so much the job of writer that I envisioned but a job where the love ofwords was important. That said, I have always written in every job I have ever had, volunteer and otherwise. I love all aspects of writing be the technical or creative. In many ways it is, I believe, my best language skill. I’m much more eloquent when an idea takes shapes, traverse down my arms, taps itself out on to my keyboard and splashes in the lines, dots, and squiggles that are words than when I speak.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
I tend not to give much advice. When asked, I think it’s important for a writer to really understand why they are writing. This is not a simple question to answer, even though it may appear straightforward. Questions of what success looks like, how prepared are you to engage in the publication and publicity process, and your ultimate goals are intricate to the overall answer. I also always try to remember the words of Maya Angelou “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” Tell your story.
What’s your experience marketing your book? What did you like or dislike? Do you have any tips for other authors?
This answer could fill volumes, and I am actually beginning to write one. Sixteen months ago I had no Facebook presence, didn’t know that TBR stood for “to be read” or that an ARC was an “advance reader copy.” That’s the short list of what I didn’t know. I thought social media was largely trivial and fake. These months later, I’ve made true friends, and importantly, for authors, allies who will promote my work and engage in helpful conversations. My single best bit of marketing was my book trailer. I’m happy to help other authors find their way to developing one as well. Luckily, my brother Bob Sammon is masterful at this work!
What’s next for you? Do you have any other books in the works right now?
I’ve got a few things that I’m working on. “The Storytellers” radio show will likely expand and grow. I’m enjoying that work immensely. I have three novels in my head, but not far enough along for the words to spill on to the screen yet. In truth, that is disappointing. Lastly, and this is exciting. I have always been an entrepreneur and have started four companies. I am in beta talk discussions to create a publishing house that will help writers from manuscript through publication, to press launch and interviews, to the first year of celebration. It will be, we hope, a concierge service that will offer authors that “leg up” that I would have greatly benefitted from a few years ago. Fingers crossed, we should launch in early 2022.
What’s a fact about you that might surprise your readers?
That’s a fun question. Perhaps, that I love all things medical and had the opportunity to assist in three autopsies. It is amazing how we are put together, and how easily we come apart. Our bodies, too, tell a story.
Grace Sammon is an entrepreneur, educator, speaker, and author. She has started and managed two for-profit and two not-for-profit companies, and she has traveled to 35 states and 8 foreign countries. Recognized in “Who’s Who in Education” and “Who’s Who in Literature,” Grace is utilizing skills built up over decades as she re-invents herself with her award-winning fourth book and debut novel - The Eves - and with a return to one of her early loves, radio. The Eves is an award-winning, intergenerational story about lives lived well and lives in transition. It is a novel that challenges each of us to ask who we want to be in the world, regardless of our age. Grace brings that quest for a good story, and a drive to keep contributing, to her new radio show, “The Storytellers.” Each episode captures the stories of authors and others who leave their mark on the world through the art of story. Grace is a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers’ Association (WFWA), is an administrationon “Bookish Road Trip” and a contributing moderator of “The Write Review.” Grace grew up on Long Island, NY and spent most of her life in the Washington, DC area. She currently lives on Florida’s west coast with her husband and a small herd of imaginary llamas. You can reach Grace via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Facebook and Instagram.