Valerie Comer here. I got to thinking about Bonnie and her writing. I've heard a lot about American publishers preferring books set in the USA, and I was curious about Bonnie's experiences in this regard. So I caught up with her and snagged a short interview.
VC: Both your fiction and your non-fiction have been published by American presses. Was this always your intention?
BG: I didn't go into writing with any intentions - I wanted to see if I could write, if my ideas could turn into books and if those books could make it to the marketplace somehow.
When I started I knew nothing. It was me in my basement clacking away. I completed my non-fiction, Your Best You, and turned to my first choice publisher - Beacon Hill Press. They are part of the Nazarene Publishing House - my denominational publisher. They said yes! So it had nothing to do with whether or not they were US based or not.
My fiction, Talking to the Dead, was different. I didn't know where to start or how the world of fiction publishing worked. I sent it in to a site called The Writer's Edge. Over time, several publishers asked for the full manuscript. I had no idea how to handle so much interest. What are the rules? How do you communicate with a publisher? I didn't know. I asked a Canadian colleague what she would do in my position, and she said I needed an agent (she was right!).
She sent a letter of introduction to an American agent who signed me the next day.
It wasn't intention that landed me with two US publishers and an American agent. It was, I believe, God's blessing and favor. You could have knocked me over with a feather when all this was happening!
VC: Where is your novel set?
BG: The novel is set in a small town called Greenfield. And in a city called.....The City.
I found when I tried to plunk the story down in any particular city, the city became too much of a character - it detracted from the story, which could take place anywhere. I chose to highlight the universality of the story by keeping the setting neutral.
VC: I have a hard time doing that. I guess I 'like' my settings to interact with my characters and influence them. Even when I try to remain neutral, I often find myself choosing between an American or Canadian custom.
This thought process didn't come up for you at any point? Maybe I should take lessons from you!
BG: No - there were some very small language differences my US editor and I noticed - and enjoyed talking about.
I'm guided by the story - and it's the story that dictates to me where it will be set.
Each novel I write will be different and I work out settings and other important points on a case by case basis. I'm not worried about the so called rules. I'm concerned with telling the story in an authentic manner.
Will I write a novel set in Canada? I may very well. Will I write one set in an American local? I may very well do that too. My focus is on telling the best story I can.
VC: What is your favorite travel destination? Does it ever beg to have a story situated there?
BG: I'm no world traveler - I've stuck close to home for the most part. I love exploring Canada. Three places come to mind:
The Canadian Rockies - especially Kananaskis country (south of Banff). There are spots tucked away in there that have soothed me and reminded me of to live the larger, well examined life.
A second place I love is Vancouver Island. Again, the tucked away places - My uncle helped design and build the park trails on the island, so he showed me and my family some wonderful out of the way spots. The ocean is healing to me, and it calms my sometime too-busy mind.
The third place is a wish - a hope to soon visit the Canadian maritime provinces - I spent time on islands off the coast of Maine many years ago, and I long to return to those cliffs and rocks and waters on the east coast. And yes, this hopeful trip figures into future projects. :)
Interested in a copy of Talking to the Dead? Bonnie will choose one winner (anywhere on the planet!) from the comments posted on this entry before Sunday, January 29. Please leave your email address so Bonnie can contact you for your snail mail address.
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