Meet Grace Sammon, the debut author of The Eves – the perfect book club book!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your published book (s).
I have two different types of bios that describe me. One focuses on my accomplishments as an educational consultant, author, speaker and entrepreneur. I’m proud of this bio – it captures my work in 32 states, and on tribal lands, in some of the countries toughest and most under-served high schools. It also focuses on my creating several small companies, both for and not-for-profit. This was important work that endures today. However, in my OTHER bio, I describe myself as having grown up on Long Island, New York; spending decades in the Washington, DC area raising my two amazing (now grown) kids; and, now living with my fabulous husband and a small herd of imaginary llamas on the Suncoast of Florida. It’s probably that bio that your listeners will resonate with, as well as with my debut novel, The Eves.
My first three books were all focused on improving high schools, in the areas of teaching and learning. The Eves is about the psychologically complex Jessica Barnet (about 60) who has let go of her interests, her ambition, and her sense of self, but not her vodka. She has been torn from the foundation of her existence, her children. When Jessica meets a group of determined, diverse, and sometimes ditzy old women and records their oral histories, everything changes. Travel with these women of color and colorful women, to The Grange, just a stone’s throw from the Nation’s Capital; and to Washington, DC, Norway, and Africa. Experience how coming to The Grange means leaving your mark on the land and on this earth, even for the dog named Pavarotti and the eternal presence of a mule named Oliver. Read The Eves and experience that when our stories are told everything changes. In The Eves you will think about leaving your mark on the world and leaving a legacy; families and friendships (fractured and otherwise); the importance of conversations; and determining how you want to live your life, especially your final years. You may cry as the plot twists and turns, but you will also laugh out loud at the entire cast of richly drawn characters and the strong sense of place.
Tell us about the genre you like to write, and how is it similar / different from other women fiction genres?
Writing The Eves was actually pretty unexpected. What I discovered in trying to wrestle with my own re-invention at the age of 60ish was how many women of that age are asking the question of who am I as I “age out” of the role of mother and child. What was clear is that women of this age needed and wanted a voice, and that voice took shape in the characters in The Eves. There’s a scene in The Eves where Margaret Mary (a 90 something ex-nun) sits Jessica down and scolds her, telling her that if she looks at the old women of The Grange as if their lives are over and at the end, she will never really understand them. She continues, telling Jessica she is quite wrong-headed, that “Once upon a time they were all girls, and they think they still are.”
In the novel I am working on now, The Egg, I find this same voice is still loud in my head. I want to give the entire scope of a woman’s life breath and depth. This varies, I think in many other woman’s fiction genres because it straightforwardly deals with the ways we change and our varied senses of self.
What are some of the biggest challenges hen lit authors face today?
It should be surprising, but it isn’t. It’s being heard and having value. You would think that given our demographic we would be a “hot” item, but I think that there is still a perception that we are “done.” I think the other real challenge, at least for me, are the immense demands put on authors, particularly Indy authors. We have to master social media and varied technologies – especially those that are not familiar to many of the “hen lit” older readers. So, the question is how to be heard, how to be valued, and how to get the message across. It can be daunting.
Given the ongoing popularity of chick lit, where do you see hen lit ten years from now?
I’ll be honest. It wasn’t until The Eves came out that I heard of “hen lit,” and the term has been around, apparently, for a decade. I was aware of movies and TV shows like Marigold Hotel, Grace and Frankie, and that genre which built on older characters, but it wasn’t until recently, getting the feedback on The Eves, that I began to search out more about stories between mothers and children or aging. Given our demographic, and this is only if you count the baby boomers, we are scheduled to be alive until 2045-2070. Baby boomers have a good 25 years. And, when you look at the chick lit audience being 40 and above, I only see those numbers growing (sorry, that’s the data-driven educator in me talking). Basically, I see this as a growing and important genre as we age and as our roles change and develop.
When did it dawn on you that you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. It all started out as overly dramatic letters to my parents about some transgression committed by one of my siblings, morphed into poignant, pre-teen poems, and then turned to the technical, research-based writing needed for my work as an educational consultant. In that arena I published multiple articles and manuals, as well as three books. It’s a great joy now to explore the world of novels, with the release of The Eves in June 2020 and The Egg, hopefully in late 2021.
Do you have a day job other than being a writer?
Yes and no. The “job” of publishing and promoting is more time consuming and demanding and takes away from the ongoing writing. I’m trying to train myself that just when I worked full-time as an educational consultant, I had to build in the discipline to also write. I’m not doing a good job of finding that balance right now.
What are some things that inspire you to write?
Poignancy, humor, a story that I just think has to be told. This sense of inspiration can come from a song, a conversation, an overheard sentence. The book I’m working on now comes from just a snippet of a friend’s family immigration story where she came to the US because there was a food shortage and only one egg a week to share. It’s also influenced by a different friend who has just been found by her daughter 54 years after she gave up the baby for adoption. They are not the same story, but somehow, they will meet in the middle.
What is your typical writing routine like?
Right now, see question 6, I don’t have a good one. When I do, I think – a lot, research – a lot, write – a little and, if I’m lucky – and this is true – I dream about the characters and the plot. Then I write like mad!
What kind of message do your book (s) convey to readers?
I hope, the reality of how different and how alike we are as women. The Eves has Black women and men, White women and men, Latinx women, a lesbian couple. They are wonderfully diverse, and determined to leave their mark. I want my books to honestly reflect hard struggles as well, importantly, that we are never “done.” Women of our age have a lot to offer. We will redefine ourselves as we age, we can find the joy and happiness we deserve, even if it’s not an obvious path to that outcome.
Does your book (s) incorporate certain aspects of your own life (and / or that of others)?
Yes. I think we have to write about what we know to make the characters seem real and multi-faceted. In The Eves I was inspired not only by my mother’s death but also, as I mentioned above, how I was “aging out” of my role as mother as my kids had grown. My educational consulting career was winding down. I was left with the question of who I was and who I wanted to be. I answered that question by creating the world of The Eves.
I also steal heavily from my own life and those of others. I take character traits or problems or over heard sentences and fit them in to my writing. Mostly, this should be seamless, however. I do it for me. For example, in The Eves, I needed a phone number for Jessica to call. I made it 555-747-1458. With the exception of the area code, that was my childhood phone number. It’s going to appear in The Egg as well. It just makes me giggle. It’s also a way of honoring certain things and people, but again, it should be seamless and unknown to the reader. The fact that Roy is told to “hold his trumpet high” is a nod to my deceased Father-in-Law and my husband. The picture of Jessica’s mom as a child is one I have of my mom, and so on.
Who are some of your favorite authors and why?
I don’t have a specific author I follow. I have some favorite books right now. My ideal read has richly drawn characters that live in my head and heart beyond the pages of the book. The added bonus is a psychological complex, but not crazy, protagonist. I also like to be intrigued by a sense of place and what I learn as a result of the reading. In terms of genres I like upmarket women’s fiction and historical fiction. A good non-fiction that reads like a novel is wonderful. Some of my favorite books right now are:
- All The Light You Cannot See, 2014, Anthony Doerr (brilliantly written)
- The Devil In the White City, 2003, Erik Larson (two stories in one and sooo much to learn)
- The Book Woman or Troublesome Creek, 2019, Kim Michele Richardson (books and who knew there were blue people!)
- The Dutch House, 2019, Ann Patchett (love the positioning of issues between mothers and children)
- The Woman in The Window, 2018, AJ. Finn (love the psychologically complex lead and the plot twists!)
Any advice you’d like to give for aspiring writers at this stage in life?
I believe there is a distinction between being a writer and being an author. Anyone can be a good writer with training. But a true author has to tell her story. I love that writing is either in, or not in, your blood! Once authors have an idea, that idea has to take flight. We think in book titles, we eavesdrop and make notes on conversations, we gather factoids that will find their way into a story, we make the voices we hear in our heads work for us. Writing is the food that feeds our souls!
If that describes you, then start writing. If you already have something written create a “beta” group of readers that are willing to dig in and tear into your work. Be ready for the good and the bad criticism. It all helps.
If you are serious about publishing, study-up before you head into the field. There are multiple paths to getting your work published and you need to understand these. The world of non-fiction is very different than that of fiction and children’s lit is again different and tougher. In the world of non-fiction, you will first seek to find a publisher. Then you will submit a proposal, an outline and sample chapters. You will eventually be “juried” or “vetted” for authenticity, importance, and edits. In the world of novels you have a very different journey. To “traditionally” publish you first need an agent. Sadly, you have less than a 1% chance of getting yourself and agent, then 10% chance of getting to one of the “big” publishing houses. This leaves open the door of publishing houses that take un-agented work and the world of Indy publishing. This means you have to determine why you want to write, who you want to write for, do you have money to invest in the process?
The world of Indy publishing requires an immense amount of work, some money, and a lot of patience. I’d also recommend a good publicist. Lastly, here, I’d take classes, on-line or other-wise, to learn the “back of the house” of publishing. I have a great “publishing house” in Writing Nights and Chad Robertson. My three amazing publicists have very different approaches and each are successful for me. Jan Rischer and Joelle Polisky at Shift Key and Lis Begin at Begin Productions have made my jouney much easier.
We could talk a great deal about the writing publishing process, and I’d love to. The short answer, however, is that if you need to write, do it. Find your voice. Write for yourself, write a blog, volunteer at a community newspaper, or your kid’s school newspaper, church bulletin, and the like. As I said, writers have to write.
About the author: Grace Sammon’s passion is storytelling. Writing is her voice. Communicating is her skill. The Eves is her fourth book and her debut novel. Grace grew up on Long Island, New York. She spent many years in the Washington, DC area where she raised her two children, and established and owned an educational consulting firm operating in 32 states. Few individuals have her experiences of successfully working in the United States’ urban, suburban, rural, and tribal land high schools. She is also an entrepreneur, starting two non-profits and her own consulting company, GMS Partners, Inc. Grace has been recognized in Who’s Who in American Education and by the Secretary of Defense as a member of the Joint Civilian Orientation Counsel.
Watch the trailer at https://bit.ly/AtBooksellersNow The Eves: ISBN# 9798648947207 Available on Amazon for ebook and paperback and in hardback, Nook, and paperback at Barnes and Noble.
If you would prefer an Ebook for review, please send Grace an email. She will have one delivered to your email.
Contact: Grace @gracesammon.net Ÿ GraceSammon.net Ÿ facebook.com/GraceSammonWrites/ Ÿ instagram.com/gracesammonwrites/ Ÿ twitter.com/GSammonWrites Ÿ linkedin.com/in/grace-sammon-84389153/
To schedule an interview, call Joelle Polisky, Publicist, at 615-516-0358 or email at jpolisky@GoShiftKey.com.