Interview with June Gillam

use2-house-of-cuts-IDa-futura-651x1024I met June at Gold Country Writers, a Northern California writing group which meets in Auburn, CA. When I made the offer to “swap books” with other indie published authors, June and I swapped.

Wow. This calm woman writes some thrilling stuff. But she is very busy in other ways as well.

Tell us about yourself.

I loves my home in Auburn, California, and the view of Rock Creek Lake in the gold country foothills. My poetry and stories have appeared in Wild Edges from Manzanita Press, Metal Scratches, and America’s Intercultural Magazine. On my website, I offer an online writers support group, modeled after my Ph.D. Cooperative Inquiry, described in Creating Juicy Tales. My novel House of Cuts, a psychological thriller featuring redheaded reporter Hillary Broome, and other books are available at amazon.com. I teach writing and literature courses online for San Joaquin Delta College.

What inspired you to start writing?

I’ve been writing since grammar school days in Sacramento, when my little red diary was the place to vent about issues with my sister and carry on about adolescent crushes. This diary was drenched in a flooded basement in January 1986, the month the space shuttle Challenger broke apart. My mother had died that New Year’s Day and the flood felt like the heavens were crying along with me. I used a hair dryer to blow dry each page of that little red diary. Later, poetry and journals allowed for expressing feelings that I otherwise kept suppressed. As I happily wound my way through several college degrees, the kinds of writing I loved expanded to include news writing, magazine and academic editing, and plenty of college papers.

What influenced the way you tell a story?

Writing a story has oddly been the hardest kind of writing for me, a writing teacher, who was raised with “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” So story’s requirement for conflict/tension has been a longtime challenge. A detailed account of my struggle to write story is told in Creating Juicy Tales. The story writing process (for me and for others) has and still does intrigue me to the max.

How do you approach the art of writing?

Sometimes, even while I’m driving down the freeway, poems will suddenly bloom, demanding I stop and transfer them to paper. Otherwise, I generally write first thing upon awakening, before practical matters come insisting themselves and stealing away my creative dream state mind. Before I go to sleep, I often have thoughts in mind of what I will write the next day. Also, I love Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month—goal: create 50,000 words) in November, when I plunk myself at the keyboard and pound out 1,700 words a day—much of it is just shitty first draft as Anne Lamott calls it, but it’s a novel start—that was how House of Dads (coming out summer 2014) and House of Eire (for 2015) were conceived.

Later, after first drafts are done, I often edit in the afternoon. I have three separate places to write: at my iMac desktop for school teaching/writing, in a guest bedroom for novels, and at the dining room table for ultra rough drafts of fiction and non-fiction, too. I spread all over the house with my writing.

My tip for writers is to find what works for you—trial and error. The most important step is to use Butt Glue. Stick yourself in your chair (or stand as Hemingway did) and write. Give yourself a word length or a time length and stick to it. Give yourself a schedule that will fit your life. While you create, don’t critique. Save the editing for later.

What do you read for pleasure?

I usually have many books going at once, including those I assign my students at Delta. My favorite among those is Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. I have on my nightstand now (or in my iPad) genre fiction in my thriller/suspense area: The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen; literary fiction On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan; academic writing Action Inquiry Leadership by Bill Torbert; books by fellow NorCal writers Murder in the Tenderloin by M.L. Hamilton, SNAP: Love for Blood by Michele Drier, and Queen of the Northern Mines by Richard Hurley and T.J. Meekins; and The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. I often pick what strikes my mood and read an hour or two at night, before bedtime.

You have the reputation of not shying away from the gruesome. Tell us about Hillary Broome. I know a second in the series is in the works. What can your fans expect?

So, Hillary. Well, she is simply a minor character that many folks liked who turned into the main character, an amateur sleuth, when the original protagonist of House of Cuts, Amy, turned out to be the lead in her own, still to be finished, separate novel. The gruesome guy in House of Cuts, Melvin the Mad Butcher, grew from a short story I wrote during the time when many people were being offered “golden handshakes,” in the 90s when firms were downsizing. The emotional pain these forced early retirements put upon people who thought they were their jobs was so apparent to me. I wondered what would happen if it was a butcher who was forced out of the vocation he loved—he might be so hurt and angry he would carve up people to demonstrate that his honed skills couldn’t be easily replaced by machine band saw operations. He might leave the parts out near the state capitol in hopes to stimulate a new law could. The imagination can be a bright and yet hideous thing! Even though my novels seem grisly, they so far are about taking on issues in the wider culture. I’m just slow getting them written. So far.June Gillam

Any up coming events?

Lots of workshops and writers group meetings—need to keep better track of them by dates. May 17 will be the Book Festival at Placer Library, and I hope to see loads of readers and writers turn out for that.

Thanks June!

Be sure to visit June’s website: www.junegillam.com

 

Comments

  1. http://Susan%20Korn says

    Dear Robin,
    I enjoyed reading the interview on June. Nice job.
    Thank you for supporting and promoting other Authors.

    Sincerely,
    Susan Korn

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