28 October 2012

Gayle Francis Moffet Drinks Dark Roast and Talks about the Publishing Industry, Comic Writing, Work Ethic and Honesty

Carrie Bailey interviews author Gayle Francis Moffet as she joins the writing team at Peevish Penman. This is the second to last in the October interview series. Gayle adds her honesty, her work ethic and her commitment to quality wordsmithing to our new voices on PPM.Gayle writes literary fiction, poetry and comics.

And there is good news! Gayle likes coffee.

PPM: Has your writing been compared to anyone people may already know? That is to say, do you have a read-a-like author out there?

GFM: A few years back, in the last creative writing course I ever took, I was told I wrote like a combination of Elmore Leonard and Aaron Sorkin. I'm not sure my style evolvement has kept that true, but it was pretty boss to hear. Right now, I'd say I'm writing more like Ed McBain, whose sparseness I greatly admire, and then I read "We Were the Mulvaneys" for the first time and got the cadence of that stuck in my head, so we'll see where that goes.
PPM: A writing cadence is good, but more importantly, do you like coffee?

GFM: Lemme tell you a story: A couple of Fridays ago, I was spending time with a friend of mine, and he needed to run an errand, so I offered to go with him. I stood up to dump my full mug of coffee into my travel cup and realized that while I thought the mug was smaller than the travel cup, they were the same size. And that's when I realized I drink the equivalent of a full French press of coffee a day. So, yes, I am a fan. Particularly dark roasts, but I'll try any blend really, and I live in Portland, OR, so I have a lot of options.

Gayle Francis Moffet with a cup of the dark roast

PPM: Why are Oregonians the greatest of all writers of all time? I've heard this is true. 

GFM: Am I fully an Oregonian at this point?

PPM: It's debatable, but you do drink a lot of coffee. 

GFM: I've been in Portland two years and love it, but I always think of myself as a Southerner still. Let's say I am an Oregonian. I go out in the rain without flinching anymore, so I think I'm well on my way. I would say they're the greatest writers (and that's totally true, of course) because there's a sense of self that comes from being an a state where it rains half the year, and you either have to go outside and accept it or get pretty cranky, and that sense of self carries over into the work. I really do find people in Oregon to be very self-aware and also incredibly nice (two traits that remind me of Arkansas quite a bit, actually), and I think those traits carry into the work of Oregon writers (and Southern writers) and make their work something that's a joy to read.

PPM: They often say that writers are inspired by personal tragedies. Have there been any life-changing events that helped shape your work?

GFM: I'd be lying like a bastard if I said my personal tragedies didn't come into my work some. The first piece I ever got accepted for publication was "Battlefield Operations," a non-fiction piece about finding out an uncle had died and how that event led to really showcasing some major communications issues in my family and me being at fault for at least some of it.

"Numbered with the Living," which was published in Milk Sugar Literature is a short story that's a big old allegory about my feelings on death and the right of people to choose the circumstances of their death because there's been a lot of death in my family, and there were times when it was a drawn-out process. But I don't want to be known as a writer of tragedies or continual sadness. I think "Numbered with the Living" is very hopeful because it's about getting to make your own decisions about what you want, and I've got other work out that's very positive as well, particularly the poem, "Tiny Nebraska Woman..." in Decades Review, which is about how my grandmother is a boss lady.

The tragedies are there, certainly, and I do pull from them, but I also try to use them very carefully. You can pull for an emotional moment or you can pull whole hog, and I try to keep myself more to the first than the second because I want to write stories that have some hope to them.

PPM: If you were forced to burn a book, what book would it be and how would you burn it?

GFM: I have seriously sat here for five minutes trying to pick a book, and I literally cannot think of a single one that I'd be willing to torch.  So, I can't way which book, but I'll tell you how I'd burn it: Lots of kerosene, big match, huge fireball. Because I love me a good explosion.

PPM: Do you think it is possible for indie writers to become successful career authors without catering to the whims of the masses?

GFM: I absolutely do. I think it's difficult to do in the current publishing market because there's an expectation that if you're not with a major publishing house, there must be something wrong with your work or it must be sub-par, but there are avenues open for people now that weren't as wide five years ago--either small presses that can now compete with bigger houses because eBooks means everyone has the same inventory or self-publishing--that are slowly gaining ground. I recommend three things to anyone wanting to put their work on there and who might not want to play with the big houses:

Make sure you actually don't want to play. Do your research. Do it well. There are some things a big house can do (a book tour) that a small house or a self-publisher generally can't. There are things a small press can do (find your specific audience) that a bigger press may not be as concerned with. There is so much a press of any type can do for you (editing, marketing, cover design, and so on), that you'd have to take on as your personal workload if you self-publish.

Look into the comics industry. Even if you're not writing comics (I am), the comics industry is the one place in publishing where you can see indie writers making a living at what they do. People who have no publishing contracts at all are making a living making comics. I went to Stumptown Comics Fest last April here in Portland, and about 90% of the people there were full indie, and at least half of the people I talked to were making their living from their work. It takes a lot of hours and a lot of time and a lot of work, but they were doing it.

Remember you need time to write. I can't stress that enough, especially if you're considering or are currently self-publishing. Full creative control also means full responsibility for every piece of what you're making. It's writing and editing and marketing and sales and promotion and keeping your twitter feed interesting and your facebook page updated and your blog up-to-date and setting up interviews and organizing events and following up with fan mail and so many other little things that you don't always think about because you think of yourself as a writer and not a marketer or a social media person or a salesperson.
PPM: That's excellent advice, no wait, it's boss advice, am I using that term correctly? I've been in New Zealand for two years and I am starting to talk like them. Anyway, I have you ask you the toughest question and since you drink the dark roast, I know you can handle it. Why should people read Gayle Francis Moffet?

GFM: I'm honest. I'm a perfectionist. If I put work out for people to see, it's work that has gone through some rigorous effort to get to the point I'm willing to put my name on it in public. I believe in my talent and my ability to tell a story, and I will stand by what I write.

PPM: Gayle, I can tell you know the industry and you've necessary coffee drinking skills, but I'm still curious to know "who is Gayle Francis Moffet?"

GFM: I'm a writer and a reader and an editor. I'm honest and hard-working, and I swear quite a bit if I don't think about it. I'm disgustingly happy in my marriage, and I have great friends, and while neither of those is a real description of me as a person, they are very much a description of my personal state of mind. I'm happy because I've built a life for myself that I chose to pursue and refused to change because I knew it would make me happiest, and even on my bad days, I'll find a slice of optimism to tie around my wrist for luck. I believe in myself and my work and my ability to be great because I choose to be great, and I'm willing to take the hard road to get there.

Other great coffee loving authors on Peevish Penman include Winonah Drake, Jody Aberdeen and an honorable mention goes to Rob Hines who has just started building up his coffee tolerance.


  1. Great interview! It's nice to learn about you Gayle. I am your yang: I'm doing too much marketing and not enough writing! Also, I can name a book is burn but I don't have it anymore because I left it on a plane intentionally: The Middle Place. Hated it. Every syllable. Corrigan was a cry baby. Anyway... This was fun! -Molly

    1. I tend to do more marketing than writing myself, but it's probably best to find a balance.