Since graduating from the Mountainview MFA program in 2012, Kelly Stone Gamble has gone on to publish two novels as well as award-winning short fiction. Recently, she agreed to an interview where we discussed writing, publishing and her success as an author.
So, Kelly, your latest novel, Call Me Daddy, is the second in a series featuring your protagonist, Cass Adams. Can you give us a little info on what the story is about? Also, how did the idea come to you?
In Call Me Daddy, Cass finds out she’s pregnant and isn’t quite sure how to deal with it, while Clay—the stable one in the relationship—finds himself struggling with “daddy” issues. I actually got the idea sitting in church one day while watching a new father proudly introducing his baby girl. And you could just see how terrified he was.
You write that the town of Deacon, Kansas, the setting for the Cass Adams series, is loosely based on your real-life hometown of Baxter Springs, Kansas. Is the character of Cass also loosely based on you?
Ha! Not at all. I think there are bits of me in all of my characters, but I’m not about to tell anyone which bits that might be.
I am curious about your path to publication. What was the process like? And what lessons have you learned?
That’s a big question! I actually do an hour-long presentation on the publishing process I went through titled “Writing is the Easy Part.” Condensing that, I would say everyone has a different path. I had an agent, then I didn’t have an agent. I had a larger press interested in my book, but they wanted me to rewrite it from one POV (that wouldn’t have been my book). I finally found Red Adept Publishing, and I couldn’t be happier with them. There are many paths to publishing. Everyone needs to find what’s right for them and go for it!
Fill us in on your writing process. Do you have a set time that you like to write? Duration?
Not really. I write when I feel I have something to say. I’ll think of a good line, or a good scene for one of my projects, and I write it. Sometimes, it’s nothing more than that one inspiration, other times, I’ll start and continue writing for hours. I don’t work well when I say, “between 8 and 9, I’m going to write.” Because when 8 rolls around, I usually have nothing to say.
How long did it take you to write that first book?
17 days. I knew the story I wanted to write. It took me over a year to edit it, though. I actually got the idea for They Call Me Crazy sitting in the bar at the Mountain View Grand, watching an infomercial on koi ponds. I said to the bartender, Troy, “they look like graves,” and his response was, “it’s your story,” and from that moment, it was. Incidentally, Troy and I became good friends and he was a valuable resource, or you might say a muse, for me while writing the first two books. He’s in the acknowledgements of all three books in the Cass Adams series.
Do you find working off an outline helpful?
No. I need to know where I’m starting and where I’m going, and then I write whatever comes to mind. I can edit it later, but getting the story down, and several great scenes is enough to keep me moving. It’s kind of like taking a long walk, half the fun is not knowing what you are going to see on the way.
Do you ever get writers block? If so, what did you do to combat it?
I’m always writing something. It may not be on one project, in fact, I hit walls all the time. But when I do, I just put that aside and move on to something else. I have four novels in progress right now, and who knows which one I’ll finish first. Sometimes I’ll write a short story, or a poem, or an essay just to give my mind a rest from a larger project, and when I’m ready, I go back to one of the novels. So how do I combat it? I keep writing.
What was the best piece of writing advice you ever received?
Author Scott Phillips has given me several bits of advice, many I won’t repeat, but probably the one that sticks with me is “Write what you want. If the writing is good, it will find readers.” I think there are too many writers trying to focus on a particular genre, or trying to write “literary fiction,” when the reality is good writing finds readers. The tagline for the SNHU MFA program used to be “Go write your book”—not what someone else wants you to write or what you think will sell, but your book. It’s great advice.
The first book in the series, They Call Me Crazy, climbed up the USA Today bestseller list. That has got to be exciting. Have you given any thought to your books becoming movies or a TV series, as Hollywood seems to be constantly on the lookout for best-selling properties? If so, do you have a dream cast in mind? Any thoughts on who you would like to play Cass?
I am talking with someone currently about movie rights but can’t say much more about it than that at this time. I can think of several who would be a great Cass—Winona Ryder would probably be my favorite. But definitely Larry the Cable Guy for Daze Harper!
Do you have more books planned for Cass Adams?
The third and final book in the trilogy, Call Me Cass, comes out in 2019. It’s currently in the editing line at my publishing house, Red Adept Publishing. I have a Cass Adams short story, “A Crazy Christmas,” coming out in the anthology Tangled Lights and Silent Nights this Christmas. Additionally, I am publishing another short story, “Daze before the Storm,” which will be out prior to the release of Call Me Cass.
What do you miss most about your time at Mountainview?
What I miss are hugs from Merle and Rick and just listening to Craig talk. I miss Katie doing the Rock Lobster on dance night. I miss being part of a group of adults donning pirate hats and fake tattoos and rowboating to Smuttynose Island. I made friends in those two years that I’ll keep for a lifetime, and since then, have become friends with many students that graduated before and after me. I never could write much during residencies, I was there for experiences that would inspire me to write later. Being around others that had the same goal, to write a book, was a wonderful experience. A few years ago, one of the alums organized a retreat and it was wonderful to be a part of that community again. I’d love to see that happen at least every few years—maybe in the desert next time?
W. Leander is a current degree candidate at The Mountainview Low Residency MFA in Fiction and Nonfiction.