Friday, February 26, 2010

interview with Gail Sattler

Good morning, Alice Valdal here. First I would like to announce the winner of the Welsh Revival Hymns cd is Narelle Atkins. Thanks Narelle for stopping by and leaving a comment.

Now, let me introduce my guest, fellow Canadian and multi-published author, Gail Sattler. Welcome Gail.

Gail: Thanks for having me on your blog. This is going to be fun, but of course the more the merrier. For everyone reading this, I invite questions and comments, please feel free to join in and don’t be shy.

A.V.: You're a musician as well as a writer. Do you find inspiration of your writing in your music?

Gail: No, actually I don't. My music and my writing are very separate. I do write songs, but they are just songs, not stories. I sometimes use music elements in my writing, but no more than I would use any other subject matter. In fact, I can't listen to music when I'm writing because instead of sitting back and enjoying the music, it becomes too distracting when I find myself analyzing and predicting the chord progressions.

A.V.: You are multi-published, with a new book coming in May. Tell us a bit about the beginning of your writing journey.

Gail: I've been writing since January 1996. I know this because I started writing when the company I worked for closed and I decided to stay home with my kids for a while. Not long after that I submitted a book to Heartsong Presents, where it sat for 1 week less a year, and then sold on the day of my 40th birthday in 1997. So I can say life begins at 40. Since then I have sold over 30 books and novellas.

A.V.: That is a wonderful story. So, was the road straight and broad once you found a publisher?
Gail: The road doesn't end at publication, really, because it's always changing, and every author should strive to always improve with every book. So as I continue along the road I try to keep learning, and to keep up on the advances and trends.

A.V.: I've often heard editors say don't jump on the band wagon of the latest thing because by the time your book is ready, your 'latest thing' will be old news. How do you use popular notions and keep them fresh during the long process required to get a book on the shelves?

Gail: Books change like television shows. Look at the shows that were popular in the 60's, Andy Griffith, for example. Watching that now, as time has marched on, we groan and wonder how people could have enjoyed that. As an author, I have to always keep up with the changes and improvements, and know what readers like to read. I refuse to get stuck in Mayberry. That said, you have to be very careful with that 'latest thing' and not jump into the middle or end of the same trend, but use an offshoot of it so you are similar but different. I think a way to do this is not to follow trends, but go parallel. Close, but with some signifcant differences. It's like when you shop for clothes on a budget. Don't buy the height of the current trend, because in a few months when it's no longer the current trend, you're stuck with it, and it's become old very fast, or even if it is popular for along time, the market quickly becomes saturated. Be a little different. Keep it trendy enough to be interesting and current, but not so trendy that it blends with the rest.

A.V.: I take your point, but must confess I still enjoy Mayberry. :)
How did you come to choose Heartsong for your first submission? Did you try anywhere else while you were waiting that long year less a week?

Gail: I had been writing for the secular market, and had made one submission, which came back with a very nice personalized rejection letter, with suggestions for improvement. I didn't know how valuable this was until much later in my writing career. But I'd been writing for about 6 months and I came across the guidelines for Heartsong Presents in a writers market guide at my local public library. The guidelines included one sentence that changed my writing life forever. Heartsong Presents wanted good fiction that was "not a sermon in novel form". In other words, they didn't want preachy, but just good Christian fiction. I figured I could do that, I wrote my first Inspirational romance, mailed it off, and the rest is history.

A.V.: Canada and the US are very close neighbours with a shared language and a common geography. However, there are differences. For example, we use the metric system, they use miles and pounds. We have a parliamentary government where the Prime Minister is the leader of the party with the most seats. Americans use an electoral college to elect their president, independently from the Congress. Do you have to guard against Canadianisms when writing for an American publisher?

Gail: As far as being Canadian in an American market, this does mean I have to be very aware of the readership that is buying my books. I've learned to write American.
A.V.: How? By reading? travelling? American friends?
Gail: All of the above. Mostly by paying attention to the differences that we usually pass off, because face it, Canadians are very exposed to American goods and attitudes. What does it mean, then to "write American"?There are many differences that I've had to adapt to. It's not just the spelling of colour or flavor (for Americans reading this, that's color and flavor), but the fact that Americans wear their shoes in the house (gasp!). I got an email from a reader after she read one of my early books, Piano Lessons, asking if my characters were Japanese, because Jed, my male protagonist, took his shoes off and left them on the mat when he went into Jillian's, the female protagonist's, home. I believe it is important to first earn your place in the marketplace and write for the readers who enjoy your writing. The publishers know their target market audience, and for the style and voice of books I write, that means Americans reading stories set on American soil.

A.V.: Do you think your books have international appeal as well? Do you try for a broader audience?
Gail: I always hope for a broader audience. Because I'm Canadian in an American marketplace I try to be generic when I don't have to be specific, and I hope that appeals to everyone, no matter where they are. It's like the film industry in Vancouver BC, where I live. I watch many shows on television that are set in major American cities. But in the background, I recognize many local buildings and settings and know that they just changed a few signs, the show or movie was really made here. I try to do the same with many of my settings.

A.V.: You've been published by a variety of publishers including Steeple Hill and Heartsong? How did you end up with Abingdon for your upcoming book?

Gail: I just got a story in my head, and submitted it to them because it felt like the right publisher for my story. I'm really thrilled with how the whole process has gone with Abingdon Press for The Narrow Path. The staff is a dream to work with, and the quality of the work they have done on the book is outstanding.

A.V.: That book is coming out in May and you'll be doing another interview here specifically about The Narrow Path. For now let's concentrate a bit on your background. You live in The Greater Vancouver Area. You've got the mountains on three sides, the broad Fraser River flowing by and the Pacific Ocean on your doorstep. (For anyone who watched the latest Olympics on television, you already have an impression of Gail's backyard. ) Does where you live affect your writing?

Vancouver - photo courtesy of NASA

Gail: Not really. Most of the time I write in my basement, so I'm not looking at the scenery. It's actually distracting. :) A really good photo is on the cover of my VANCOUVER book. In fact, I'd like to give away a copy of Vancouver

(See contest rules at bottome of this post.)

A.V.: Do you have an agent? How did you find her? Do you recommend an agent?
Gail : Yes, my agent is Tamela Hancock Murray of Hartline Literary agencies. Actually, she found me. Way back in the days before Tamela was an agent, she was a fellow Heartsong Author, and we even worked on a Barbour novella anthology together. We talked and emailed a lot, so it was a natural match. I would definitely recommend her.

A.V.: Have you ever attended the Write! Canada conference?

Gail: Yes. In fact, the one year I went, it was the first writer's conference I'd ever been to away from home. It was a great experience, and one I'll never forget. I'd recommend it to anyone.

A.V.: Do you still have children at home?

Gail: I still have two at home, although between school, work, girls, and cars, I hardly seem to see them. Yet the fridge still empties out pretty fast after shopping day.

A.V.: Tell me about the lizard.

Gail: He is a Bearded Dragon, and he actually makes a nice pet if you like pets that are inactive. He doesn't make any noise and he doesn't smell and he is actually very cuddly because he loves to press down into a person's body heat when he's lying on top of you. He does have active moments, although they aren't often. Often we put him on the living room carpet and forget about him and come back 2 hours later, and he hasn't moved. Other times we have to look for him, and he can get pretty flat, so he gets into amazing places although I do admit he is predictable and easy enough to find. In the summer he likes to go onto the grass, and he enjoys going through the sprinkler, but you can't call it running, he doesn't go very fast.

A.V.: Thanks, Gail. I've enjoyed our chat.

To enter the giveaway for Gail's book, Vancouver, please leave a comment with your e-addy spelled out . The giveaway is restricted to North American addresses only. Void where prohibited by law.

To learn more about Gail, visit
To learn more about me, visit


  1. Ah, Vancouver. I had to look the book up to see what it's about--an anthology of four romance novellas set in and around Vancouver, BC. Count me in!

    valerie at valeriecomer dot com

  2. Alice, great interview! Gail, thanks for sharing your writing journey with us :-)

    Alice, thanks so much for letting me know I've won the cd! I'll contact you with my details and I'm really looking forward to listening to the cd :-)

  3. Thank you, Gail. How neat that your writing career blossomed when you decided to be a stay-at-home mom. I can't write and listen to music either. The mood of the music will control the mood of what I write instead of the story.

    Leannehardy at gmail dot com

  4. Thank you, Gail. I enjoyed reading about your writing journey. And I especially enjoyed your insights as a foreigner writing for the American market.

  5. Thanks, Alice and Gail. Gail, what a lovely thing to get your first contract as a 40th birthday present! (One of two things I asked God for for my 40th, neither of which He felt the time was right for...)

    I was at Write! Canada the year you were. I hadn't known your name until you made a comment in one of the fiction classes/workshops, and that Christmas I received your Vancouver book. (and enjoyed it!)

    Just learned about shoes in American houses last week. It makes me wonder what else I don't know. That's why I'm trying to find a publisher who'll accept Canadian settings where I'm on more familiar ground.

    Oh, and -- love that lizard!

  6. Great interview. Please enter me. Book sounds great. tarenn98[at]yahoo[dot]com

  7. What fun to learn more about you this way! We had talked about getting together for coffee, even though we're so far apart (I'm in North Van), and we'd pretty much decided it was just TOO far. But, no, it isn't. I would love to drive all the way to your neck of the woods just for the joy of having coffee with you. Topics we might talk about: Americanisms, writing for that audience, your lizard. I'll be getting in touch to find out if you have time for it.

    Also loved finding this site! It looks like lots of International ACFW's are on it, with great details on each of them. I'm a follower, for sure.

  8. Oops. I forgot. Can I enter the contest??

  9. would enjoy reading this book...thanks for the opportunity...


  10. I enjoyed learning more about this author, Gail Sattler. I am looking forward to the release of The Narrow Path. I've seen the trailer for The Narrow Path and I'm hooked. If you haven't seen it check it out on her Blog. May I please be entered in the drawing for the novel Vancouver? Thank you for asking such great questions.

  11. Thanks for the interview. I love the story about the lizard. I'd be scared I might step on him!