It’s Meet the Author Monday! Each week we meet a new author and get to know a little about them, their writing process, publishing experience, and tips for other writers. Today we’re talking to Grace Sammon, author of The Eves.
About Grace Sammon:
Grace Sammon is a well-known educator, school reformer, consultant, “coach,” speaker, entrepreneur, and author of educational books and articles. With her fourth book and debut novel, The Eves, she adds spellbinding storyteller to her credentials.
Grace spent over 20 years working in one of the United States’ toughest institutions, the American high school. During that time, she inspired change and fostered improvements in schools, districts, and government organizations through her upbeat advice and sound, practical recommendations. Each step of the way, she remembered that each of the organizations and individuals were distinct, and distinctly valuable. Each had a story to be listened to and goals to achieve. She brings that same understanding to the richly drawn characters and places you meet in The Eves.
Few individuals have her experiences of successfully working in the United States’ urban, suburban, rural, and tribal land high schools. Fewer still have working experience at the federal, state, district, school, and classroom levels. Grace and her team worked in over 30 states applying research-based approaches, strategic planning, hands-on coaching, and a considerable sense of humor, as they supported schools transitioning to a culture not of “reform” but of continuous improvement.
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.
With her debut novel, The Eves, she invites you to travel to The Grange, just a stone’s throw from the Nation’s Capital; and to Washington, DC, Norway, and Africa. Come. 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.
About The Eves:
The Eves is a multi-generational novel portraying lives lived well and lives in transition. Filled with poignancy and humor, The Eves captures the conversations we wish we had had with our parents, if we had taken the opportunity, and the lessons we would want to impart to our children, if they were ready to listen. Told through the voice of the psychologically complex Jessica Barnet, this is her story. As the primary witness in a messy trial she has been torn from the foundation of her existence–her connection to her children. With a partially finished doctoral degree, and incomplete renovations on her Washington, DC row house, she has let go of her ambitions and her appearance, but not her vodka or her sense of loss and guilt. When Jessica meets five diverse, determined, and sometimes ditzy old women living in a sustainable community everything and everybody changes. Through plot twists and turns that cover three continents, we learn the truth of Jessica’s life and lies just as we fall in love with the vividly drawn characters and the vibrantly described settings.
Author Interview with Grace Sammon:
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- What is the first book that made you cry?
The first chapter book I loved, is also the first book that made me cry. Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty was mesmerizing to me. I sat all day Christmas Day, curled up on the couch, heat vent warming me, with this gift from my brother Bob on my lap. I literally, could not put it down.
The many life changes and transformations Beauty goes through had a great impact on me as a young reader and, I think, as a writer. Beauty adjusted to many challenges, name changes, owner changes, role changes, all with grace and dignity. You will see that, I think, reflected in my characters in The Eves.
I also am captivated, as an older debut novelist, by Anna Sewell’s position as an author. Black Beauty was her only novel. She wrote it as an invalid in 1877. She died just five months after publication, at the age of 58, but knowing Beauty was already a success. Today, it is considered one of the top 10 children’s books of all time. Although I have written four books, three in the area of education, The Eves is my debut novel. I’m 67.
- Does writing energize or exhaust you?
When I am writing, really writing, the process energizes me. It is my “juice,” my happy place. For me, there is something magical that happens when thoughts, even vaguely formed, take shape with emotion, clarity, and a strong sense of character and place on the screen in front of me.
That said, the process usually entails lots of mid-night thinking, dreaming (literally), characters talking in my head, research, writing, and then giving my pages to my husband to read aloud to me at night to see and hear if I got it right. It’s demanding but I love it.
- Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
Writing is the most naked thing I do, and I don’t have a thick skin, even after four books. As in all things, I think striking a balance is important. An author needs enough ego to be confident that the work – the whole body of work – can be done, and done well. By this, I mean there is so much more than putting words on paper, and the edits, and rewrites. There is also the massive, perhaps unimaginable, effort to establish and gain a footing in the world of social media and marketing.
For me, however, it is about being humble and grateful. I’m not sure that always serves me well, but it is such an honor to be invited into the minds and hearts of readers, to move emotions, to shift a thought, to have an impact, to encourage making your own personal mark on the world. It’s humbling, and exhilarating to be on podcasts and to be included in blogs, like your own. I’m grateful to extend my reach as an author to your followers and grateful to you for the opportunity.
At the end of the day, big ego or not, your work simply has to stand on its own.
- Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
This is such a rich question. First, I believe, as Maya Angelou states that the biggest challenge for an author is a story inside left untold. So, the story has to be authentic to the author. We, as authors, also need to understand that not every story, not even our most amazing, fabulously starred story is for every reader. That gets back a bit to your previous question about ego.
Mostly, I am true to the story in my head and heart. I also use a strong group of “beta” readers who read my work and give me feedback. That feedback has been critical. In The EVES, there was push back from my beta readers about a certain character needing to show up at the end of the story. I also pushed back and said no. They were right. The more I came to the end of the book the more Jesper needed to appear, and I am so glad he did!
- How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
This one is simple. It meant I could do it. I could write, get a publisher, work through edits and cover designs, take on the role of author and tell my story. It was the fuel for the next three books.
- What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
I would love to say writing workshops, but that’s simply not true. I’ve done very little of that. What has paid off for me both in terms of generating interest for interviews across platforms, with being a guest at book clubs, and sales is my book trailer. I didn’t even know they existed. My brother, the same one from my Black Beauty comments earlier, is such a skilled person. He created my trailer, and has done this for other authors. I’m happy to share his information with any of your followers. And, the link to the trailer is simple, www.bit.ly/TheEvesAvailableNow
- What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
This one is very personal, and more about the power in not having a voice. Therefore, it’s really an answer about how important language and listening really is. I had a sexual abuse experience as a child. I wasn’t believed, and learned to keep silent. I felt my words had no power. This experience catapulted me on a professional and volunteering trajectory to help others find their voice. This played out in my educational work in under-served communities, my mentoring of young entrepreneurs, and in my volunteering with abused children and hospice patients. Words matter.
- What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
Easy, what I believe we owe each other. Respect and thanks. In The Eves there is the incredibly lost Jessica Barnet, she is modeled, a bit, on my worst self. When Jessica meets a group of determined, diverse and sometimes ditzy old women determined to leave their mark on the world, and then documents their stories, everything changes. Each of the characters in the book probably has pieces of many people I know, but they are composites. I am hugely grateful for the life lessons I’ve been taught.
- What does literary success look like to you?
I love that we are ending on this question, because it’s a variation of the first question my publisher asked me. It’s now the first question, I ask other aspiring authors. Namely, my publisher asked me “why do you want to write this book?” It seems a simple question with a simple answer. It wasn’t; and he kept pumping me. The short answer for me goes back to the Maya Angelou reference to a story that has to be told, seeing it in print, holding it in my hand. The longer answer of success is when I know I have touched readers lives in deep ways. You know this through reviews, book talks and author events. I have already exceeded the scope of what my publisher challenged me to define. Yes, broader impact, more sales, and that illusive film or cable series are always a lure, but knowing I met my initial goal is all the success I need.
Thank you for such a thoughtful set of questions and the opportunity to share my story with your followers.