Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Gale Massey Interview - Rising and Other Stories

Photo Credit: Laurie Ross

Gale Massey is the author of RISING AND OTHER STORIES (April 13, 2021; Bronzeville Books), and THE GIRL FROM BLIND RIVER, which received a 2018 Florida Book Award and was a finalist for the Clara Johnson Award. Her work has been featured in Lambda Literary, CutBank, CrimeReads, Sabal, the Tampa Bay Times, Saw Palm and Tampa Bay Noir. Gale was a Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writers Conference and a fellow at Writers in Paradise, and has served as a panel judge for the Lambda Literary Awards. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize in both fiction and nonfiction. 

Where were you born and where do you call home?
I am a seventh generation Floridian. I’ve lived elsewhere but I moved back here in 2006 and now call St. Petersburg my home.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
I’ve met so many amazing writers and readers. Connecting with people who what I’m trying to do with my stories and who have chosen to champion my work is definitely the highlight of my writing career. Writing takes isolation and the ability to sit with yourself and your words for lengthy periods of time, so when it ultimately leads to connection with other like-minded people it’s a big pay-off.

Tell us your latest news.
My collection of short stories is coming out on April 13th and I’m massively excited about it. Thirteen stories from mostly women and girls’ perspectives on the thirteenth – it’s a great alignment of the stars. I also have several articles and stories being published in April. It’s going to be quite a month – and quite different from my ordinary days of solitary writing.

Can you tell us when you started RISING AND OTHER STORIES, how that came about?
Short stories are a good way for writers to get feedback on their work from critique groups, so I began this collection when I started attending creative writing conferences years ago. After I managed to get several published it made sense to start looking at them as a collection and to try and ascertain the themes running through them as a whole.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I hope readers think about how tricky it is for girls navigate in this world as they transform into women.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I would love for any of my characters to meet Ree Dolly from Winter’s Bone. Ree lived on the edge of her small town and was nearly an outcast in her family. It was through her own grit and fortitude that she survived intact to stand on the precipice of maturity. She’s a remarkable portraiture of strength in the face of impossible odds. I would love for her to befriend Bristol in my short story Not So Fast and show her how to stand up to power.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
Self-doubt. It’s what almost every writer I know struggles with while trying to find and ultimately believe in their own voice and in their ability to rise in the world of publishing.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Live on the road for a month or more.

Best date you’ve ever had?
I was once whisked off to North Carolina to see Emmylou Harris in concert.

If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go?
Nah. I don’t want to go back. Where I am at the moment is pretty sweet.

What are 4 things you never leave home without?
Keys, credit card, phone, glasses.

What is the weirdest thing you have seen in someone else’s home?
I accidentally wandered into a master bedroom and saw a saddle suspended from the ceiling. My biggest preoccupation was wondering, hoping really, if the bolts it was hanging from were attached to an overhead beam. I decided that anyone going to that much trouble must know have known what they were doing.

First Heartbreak?
When we moved and changed churches and I had to leave my boyfriend. I was ten. I met that guy again when I was eighteen and it was weird. We had nothing in common.

What is your most memorable travel experience?
Backpacking through Africa and sleeping in a tent for a month. We started out in Johannesburg, South Africa, and made our way in the back of a truck to Nairobi. It was tough traveling that way but full of safaris and outdoor challenges. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never having loved before?
My personal motto is to always choose love.

Here’s a little bit about what isn’t included in the story but might shed some insight into who these people are as fictional characters.

  • Bristol in Not So Fast was dropped off at a neighbor’s house when her mother left to find her husband who abandoned his family for a missionary assignment in Fuji.
  • Ivy Waters will grow up and backpack around Spain until she finally settles down in Barcelona.
  • Racine will run for office in her local government and sponsor a bill in her state’s congress to ban long gun sales at Walmart.
  • Punkin in Swimaway turned into a mermaid and was the main attraction at a fresh water aquarium in Florida.
  • In Differences, Angel doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her and welcomes any opportunity to prove it.
  • Dori trains herself to run a five-minute mile before she joins the army. Long Time Coming.
  • Toby will become a foreign war correspondent before settling down and adopting two kids with his husband. Freedom’s Just Another Word.
  • Callie always thought she would grow up and become a police officer. Marked.
  • Elise of Rising, always wanted to be a CEO. A year after she returned from Peru, she opened a big cat rescue and financed it with money her mother-in-law left her.
  • The girl in The Train Runner practiced jumping out of the way of trains every day after school for until she graduated high school and moved to Hollywood where she became a highly paid stunt double.
Writing Behind the Scenes
It took years for me to come to terms with my individual writing process. Writers always talk about procrastination, about finding a hundred things to do instead of sitting down with a pen or a keyboard. I used to experience guilt over not having the discipline to get up every morning and put in four or five hours. I even bought into the myth that if you aren’t writing every day you aren’t a writer. Now, I know that what I used to call procrastination is actually the time it takes for a story to incubate in my subconscious. And it needs that time to ferment before it generates enough power for me to bring it to the page. Throwing out guilt freed up a lot of time. Kayaking and gardening renew my energy and while I’m weeding or enjoying a river, I know that stories are percolating deep beneath the surface.

Every writer has to deal with understanding and accepting their own personal process involved in creative writing. There are so many teachers, role models, books. There’s an abundancy of myths on how to write and how to get published. Over time these myths get solidified into rigid rules on how to practice the craft. The only thing I can say for sure is that each writer has to find their own way of working and their own path to publishing. Everyone’s journey is as different as their process, but it’s up to each of us to find a way to enjoy the work. What has helped me the most is developing curiosity about people and the incredibly different ways we survive and thrive. A woman in her sixties working at local diner can become the source of epic storylines.

I will admit to one quirk. Each time I finish a writing project I have to rearrange my office. Somehow, it helps to shake things up and clear my head for the next story to appear.

From the award-winning author of The Girl from Blind River comes a collection of transformative new stories

In story after story in this diverse new collection, Gale Massey illustrates the moments that shape and alter destiny. Bringing each to life through interconnected themes of moving water and transience, Massey shares with us an unvarnished narrative of a world that objectifies women and the strength and resourcefulness required to attempt to overcome those limitations.

From the panicked mother in Racine who escapes to the ocean and a young girl’s discovery of her parents’ differing takes on racial equality in Glass to the inevitable end in Marked and the gamble in Not So Fast, these stories show how simple twists of fate can change a person forever. Ivy Waters and Long Time Coming both explore the loss of a father in very different ways, and how the identities of the daughters are rooted in those losses. And Elise’s life in Rising is told in contrasts as she develops the use of her volition to pull her toward the life she deserves.

Massey’s protagonists are everyday folk depicted in stories that explore the scars of redemption (Lucky Girl), despair (Differences), daring (The Train Runner) and longing (Swimaway and Freedom’s Just Another Word), a visceral sense of fate (Low Tide), and, most of all, each character’s desires and their will to live.

These stories will transform you and deepen your view of the world, as Massey helps us discern societal constructs and their acute burdens, and the many ways that people--particularly women and girls--attempt to rise above them.

You can purchase Rising and Other Stories at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you GALE MASSEY for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Rising and Other Stories by Gale Massey.