Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance, and the authors visiting my blog answered them! I’m always excited when I have a friend as my guest, and this week I am happy to have historical romance novelist Gerri Bauer as my guest! Like Gerri, I started of writing secular romances (that never got published) before a resurgence of my faith pushed me to write Christian novels. I love it when I find other authors who have similar stories. I hope you enjoy her interview as much as I did. Gerri is giving away a copy of her latest release! Read on to see how you can enter to win!
Tell us a little bit about yourself: I’m an introverted bookworm glad to be retired after working for decades, first in print journalism and then in university public relations. Job details are on my LinkedIn page, but for blog readers I’d like to add something deeply personal. I started writing historical romances to help me deal with the pain of infertility and miscarriage. I could give my characters happy endings even though my real life was overshadowed by sadness. Faith, family – including my husband of 36 years – and friends were and are my strongest supports. They carried me through years of heartache. Writing helped me forget my sorrow for periods of time. God gave me a heavy cross to carry, but he also sent the Holy Spirit to guide me toward writing inspirational fiction. It took me a while to hear. My first two manuscripts were aimed at the secular market. They were rejected by all the romantic-fiction publishing houses that existed in the 1990s.
Tell us about your current release: Long before #MeToo, an unmarried woman who became pregnant by force was in a tough situation. She could marry quickly or hide during the pregnancy and give up the baby for adoption. Either way, her reputation was ruined even though she wasn’t at fault. The heroine in Growing A Family in Persimmon Hollow becomes pregnant from what we call date rape, even though the term didn’t exist in the 1890s time period of the novel. Her family banishes her to the fictional Florida frontier town of Persimmon Hollow so she can hide from society until giving birth. She’s expected to leave the baby behind at the town’s orphanage. But after absorbing the love, grace and faith of the people in Persimmon Hollow, she charts a different course. She realizes she is strong enough to keep her baby. She also falls in love with a visiting archaeologist and takes steps to adopt a preteen orphan. The novel can be read as a stand-alone, even though it is Book 3 in the Persimmon Hollow Legacy series.
If you knew ahead of time your book would benefit only one person on their spiritual journey, would you still write it? Absolutely. I think those of us who write spiritually oriented novels do so in hopes they can shine some light for a reader in a way that reader needs. I also write because the stories are inside me, calling to be heard. I’d write even if no one else read my words. If my books can help even one person, I’m grateful.
Do you feel pressured to compromise your standards in order to reach a larger audience or be more successful? No, and I accept I may always have a small reading audience because of it. I’m not trying to earn a living from my fiction writing. Because of that, I don’t feel pressure to compromise. My first two novels were published by a small Catholic press, Franciscan Media. Our values aligned and nobody pressured me to compromise. I now self-publish because my publisher closed their romantic fiction line. I hold myself to tough standards.
What do you think is lacking in Christian Fiction? I’d like to see Christian fiction allow more characters to have specific denominations, as in Amish romances. I love reading nondenominational Christian historical romances as well as Amish romances. The novels are wonderful getaways for me. But my Roman Catholic faith is an integral part of my life and of my main characters’ lives. Persimmon Hollow has residents of other Christian denominations, too, and everyone works together for the greater glory of God. I started writing Catholic historical romances because I wanted to read that type of book. I also hope that through my books I can help dispel some misunderstandings about my faith. I’d love to read inspirational romances that feature heroines of specific denominations. I’d learn about their faith and better understand how their faith journeys fit into their lives.
How do you push past the fear of your writing being average and be bold enough to sell it to a publisher(or agent or audience if you self-publish)? I accept that my style and level of writing derive from the talents God gave me. When I release a book, I know it’s the best I can make it. Some readers will like it, others won’t. BUT it took me years to reach that level of self-acceptance. When I was younger, I dreamed of making a living as a novelist and couldn’t understand the world’s indifference to my writing. Truth is, I hadn’t practiced the craft long enough to be good enough for publication. I was also trying to write the wrong type of story for me. As for selling my work, I’ve never had an agent and long ago stopped trying to get one. I secured contracts for my first two published novels via a direct email pitch to the publisher. Boldness isn’t one of my personality traits. I had to take a big breath before sending the email.
What’s the first major news headline that you can remember and what do you remember? The first major news event I remember was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. I was seven years old and in second-grade in Catholic school in Brooklyn, New York. I remember hearing the principal’s voice come over the intercom (old-style, one-way communication system). She directed the entire school of 2,000 students to stop schoolwork and to start praying for the president. Our teachers guided us through prayer nonstop until news came of the president’s death. School was then dismissed for the rest of the day. I’ll never forget that day. The only other news event that remains as vivid to me is 9-11.
Do you have your plotline and character development already laid out before you begin writing a book, or do they develop as you write? I’m what you might call a plantster – part plotter, part seat-of-the-pants writer. I start with the main characters. They tend to just show up in my mind and are facing a challenge in their lives. I then sketch out the romantic arc and determine what internal and external conflicts will keep the hero and heroine away from their happily-ever-after for most of the book. Then I focus on how the internal and external conflicts intertwine and how the main characters’ faith journeys weave through the story. I organize conflict development and resolution across the beginning, middle and end of the book. (I loosely follow the Three-Act structure.) From there, I come up with a secondary subplot. Usually, it grows out of the planning I did on the main storyline. All that work gives me enough of an outline to start writing. New scenes evolve as I write the main scenes I’ve already planned. The characters themselves often direct the flow. This overall method works for me because it gives me both a story structure and plenty of room to improvise within that structure.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers? Practice, practice, practice and write what YOU want and need to write. That may be different than what’s popular in the marketplace. I struggled at first because I tried to write secular historical romance. At the time, I was distant from my faith and didn’t hear God. Or wouldn’t listen, is more like it. I set aside my publishing dream and went on with life. I also returned very strongly to my faith. Then listened as God nudged (shouted at?) me to write Catholic historical romances. I knew the market would be small. But I could almost feel the Holy Spirit guiding the words as I sat in front of my computer. I sold that novel and its sequel on my first try. I wrote both those novels while still working full-time and juggling home and family responsibilities. Another piece of advice is to read widely and to write every day even if it’s only a few sentences in a journal or a long email. Don’t give up if writing is truly your calling. I was 58 when my first novel was published. Finally, be kind to your writing self. And listen to what the Lord tells you.
Find Gerri online:
- Website: https://gerribauer.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gerri.bauer
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/gerribauer
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/gerribauer
Gerri is giving away an ebook of