She’s an actress, assistant director, journalist, an award winning novelist-and she’s also a dear friend. Gay Yellen has a shrewd eye for detail, in fact I wanted to hire her as my editor, she didn’t have time (I mean look at her credentials she’s a busy lady) but encouraged me to really go through my manuscript.
Later I still had to hire an editor, but at least my tenses were correct, and without Gay encouraging me to tackle my greatest writing fear-editing- I wouldn’t be as strong as a writer as I am.
I’ve had the pleasure of having my poetry published along with hers in the collection IN THE QUESTIONS from Spider Road Press and we were in the same critique circle for several years which was educational and fun. I highly recommend her Samantha Newman mystery series (her Samantha is much different from my Samantha Locke in ‘Blood On The Potomac’ in which we joked often during cc) not only does it keep you on the edge of your seat, but Yellen’s descriptive quality, especially with food, is so precise that your mouth begins to water. Needless to say I think that she needs to come out with a cookbook.
And now I’m going to introduce you to the woman who’s done it all, and now is sharing her stories with the world, thankfully I had the chance to live during the same time as her thus able to meet her characters.
Twenty Questions with Gay Yellen
Every writer has that one book that made him or her want to be a writer, what’s yours? I can’t really pick one. Writing seemed to be a natural extension of reading, and as a child, I read voraciously. Family lore has it that when I was a toddler, I would turn magazine pages and babble words as if I were reading them.
How old where you when you started writing? In my baby book, my mother recorded a poem that she swears I made up at the age of three.
Name four authors that you’d love to have lunch with. Anthony Doerr. Hank Phillippi Ryan. James Michener. Theodore Geisel.
What would you eat? Fries. Vanilla malts. Maybe Green Eggs and Ham.
How do you plot out your work? I’m not much of a plotter, except for the bare-bones structure. Once I have the main characters and what the story is about, the rest more or less falls into place, although it takes quite a while to get to The End.
Do you write in the morning or evening? I start in the morning and work as long as I can.
Is there music on? Not for my mysteries. I’m also working on a historical fiction, and I use music of that period to help immerse me in what is otherwise a distant and underexplored era.
What inspired your last story? After The Body Business was published, I regretted cutting the ending short, leaving readers hanging. I wrote The Body Next Door to continue the story. Now that it’s won the international Chanticleer Mystery & Mayhem Award, I’m glad I made that decision.
Name three books so good you wish you wrote them. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson. The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak.
What television shows, movies, or albums do you believe are written well? TV has some of the best writing ever. Veep, Silicon Valley, Life in Pieces, Better Call Saul come to mind.
Which actor would you cast in the protagonist role of your most recent piece? Emma Stone would be a perfect Samantha Newman.
Which of your pieces was the hardest to write? The next one.
Which was the easiest? The Body Business. I’d just helped the author of an international thriller polish his book, Five Minutes to Midnight, which did very well, according to The New York Times. That success led me to try writing one of my own.
Which of your pieces did readers ‘get’ when they told you their thoughts on it? I love to hear from readers, whether they leave a question for me on my website, or I get to meet them in person at a book club or other public appearance. It’s a thrill for a writer to learn how the characters on the page come alive in a reader’s imagination.
What are you working on now? Book 3 of The Samantha Newman Series.
What story do you have to write before you die? The historical fiction has been in my heart for years. I started it years ago before my first mystery was published. The opening chapters actually won Best Historical Fiction in a Houston Writers Guild contest in 2013.
What’s your best fan story? I love meeting new fans who tell me that my book brightened a few hours of their lives. And when a long-ago friend discovers my books and reconnects with me, it’s a plus I hadn’t counted on, and I love it. That’s a long way of saying I have no best fan story, just a lot of wonderful encounters with readers.
What sentence have you written that you feel encapsulates your style? Here’s one from The Body Next Door. Samantha is talking about the little girl she’d befriended a few days earlier: Anyone but Lizzie would have annoyed me beyond endurance, but somehow, we vibrated at the same frequency.
Have you ever based characters off of real people? A writer’s head is filled with experiences, some we’re conscious of and some that seem to bubble up from nowhere. I’ve never consciously based an entire character on any real person, but some character traits may resemble those of people I’ve observed.
Who’s your favorite character? Lizzie, from The Body Next Door. That sad, lonely little girl in need of a friend. I have no idea where she sprang from, but I fell in love with her at first sight, as did Samantha Newman. I think that relationship helped define Samantha in a good way. I still think about Lizzie. She’ll definitely be in Book 3.