Catriona writes: I'm delighted to welcome as a guest today Alexia Gordon, a medical doctor, a lifelong writer and a debut author, whose writing journey and work ethic is an inspiration to all. And the book is a blast too. I was lucky enough to read an early copy of MURDER IN G MAJOR and I tip my hat to the detailed exploration of place (Ireland) and theme (orchestral music), the expert juggling of a huge cast (the pupils of a school and their teachers, the orchestra, the population - alive and dead - of a village) and, most of all, the sheer fun of the (slightly bonkers) plot. I'm thrilled to have the chance to quiz Alexia about how she did it.
C: How do you write Ireland in Texas?
A: With Google. I discovered maps, train schedules, bus schedules, photos, newspapers, school calendars, school lunch menus, Irish language guides, Irish slang guides, Irish naming guides, Irish pronunciation audio files, Irish music, Irish history sites. The internet elevates armchair travel to a whole new level. Not that a virtual tour of Ireland could ever be as good as an actual tour. Which is why I treated myself to an Irish vacation to celebrate my book’s publication.
Femmes Fatales readers, If you had to write about a country absolutely outside your experience, where would your imagination take you?
C: Was writing about music tough? How did you go about it?
A: Writing about music was tough. I’m a music lover but not a musician. I had to learn a lot of the musical jargon. Classical Music for Dummies became my go-to book for technical information. I also asked musician friends for feedback. They’d tell me how a musician would refer to something as opposed to a layperson. For example, a musician would say they played percussion, not they played the drums. Spending a lot of time at the symphony helped. I had the luxury of living within walking distance of the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, Texas. I attended as many concerts as time and budget allowed. I read the notes in the program guides which helped me understand the message the composer was transmitting through music and to see how music writers described that message with words. I also took the advice of a writing instructor to think about the role music played in my story. Did it highlight an emotion? Did it provide foreshadowing? Examining the music’s function in terms of the plot and characters helped translate the sounds to words.
C:If you were in the pickle Gethsemane finds herself in at the start of Murder in G Major (out of work and penniless, thousands of miles from home) would you do what she did?
A: If someone stole my belongings and left me stranded I’d call my parents and ask them to loan me the money to get back home but I’d definitely be embarrassed about having to make the call. I’d blame myself for letting my guard down and not heeding my parents’ words of caution. If I made an unwise career move (as I have) I wouldn’t admit I’d made a mistake or that I regretted my decision. That would be too much like admitting failure. I’d rectify the situation on my own then tell my parents about the change afterwards, being sure to put a positive spin on the details (better location, better salary, etc.) My parents aren’t as harsh as Gethsemane’s mother and eldest sister but asking for help doesn’t come easy for me. I come from a long line of over-achieving perfectionists so failure and defeat aren’t concepts I handle well. I’m pretty hard on myself and don’t ever want to be viewed as a disappointment.
C: I'm taking that as a "yes"! Back in the real world, can you tell us about your writing journey?
A: Murder in G Major is my debut novel but, as cliché as it sounds, I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I’m an introverted only child and expressing myself in writing has always been easier for me than expressing myself verbally. I didn’t think about writing for publication until recently, except for maybe a fleeting childhood fancy quickly tempered by a parental, “You need a job that will pay your bills, dear. You can write creatively and earn a professional degree.” I wrote for pleasure through college but I put literary endeavors on hold when I went to medical school. Medicine is a jealous mistress. Anatomy and physiology and pathology and diagnosis and treatment took over my life. Medical writing, with its acronyms and abbreviations and crappy grammar (who cares about conjugating verbs when it’s two a.m., you’re on call, you’ve just gotten your fifth admission, and you’ve only had an hour’s sleep?), was all I had time for.
I finished my family medicine residency and established myself in practice for several years. Then I reached the point (I can’t say exactly when but I think it was around the time I learned Michael Crichton and Tess Gerritsen were physicians) where I realized medicine wasn’t enough. I felt demoralized and depressed and empty. Something was missing. I needed a creative outlet to refill my mental and spiritual well. I received a brochure in the mail advertising a writing program aimed at physicians. That program was out of my budget but seeing the brochure prompted me to enroll in writing workshops and classes and seminars.
Eventually, career moves landed me in Dallas where I discovered The Writer’s Path, the non-credit creative writing program at Southern Methodist University. It’s a step-wise, pay-as-you-go program with evening classes aimed at working adults. One of the program’s goals is to leave you with a finished manuscript if you do the work to complete the sequence of classes. I enjoyed the first class so I signed up for the next and the next and so on until, oh my gosh, I had seventy-thousand words that had come from my brain to form a mostly coherent narrative.
With some encouragement from friends and mentors I queried and pitched agents and editors after reminding myself several times that “no” did not mean the end of the world. Serendipity stepped in and I saw the announcement for DFWCon in Dallas just before the registration deadline. I signed up mostly because the conference location was within walking distance of my apartment. Two pitch sessions were included with the conference registration fee but you could purchase additional sessions on site on a space available basis. I hesitated about buying an additional session but then I saw Kendel Lynn of Henery Press was one of the editors who had times available. I’d attended a lecture some months prior where the speaker mentioned Henery Press as a publisher of cozy mysteries so I took a chance and signed up to pitch to Kendel. Fate smiled on me as it turned out Kendel was in the market for a paranormal cozy—exactly what I’d written . . .
C: People, doesn't it gladden your heart to know that a budding writer can still - even in these "interesting times" - take classes, pitch editors and end up published?! Yayyyy, for Alexia and Gethsemane.
Alexia Gordon bio: A writer since childhood, I won my first (okay, so far, only) writing prize, a copy of Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends, in the 6th grade. I continued writing through college but put literary endeavors on hold to finish medical school and Family Medicine residency training. My medical career established, I returned to writing fiction.
Raised in the southeast and schooled in the northeast, I migrated to the southwest after a three-year stint in Alaska reminded me how much I needed sunlight and warm weather. I completed Southern Methodist University’s Writer’s Path program in Dallas, Texas then moved to El Paso, Texas where I currently practice medicine. If pushed, I will admit Texas brisket is as good as Carolina pulled pork. I enjoy classical music, art, travel, embroidery, and a good ghost story.
I am a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and the Writers’ League of Texas. I am represented by Paula Munier of Talcott Notch Literary Services, LLC and published by Henery Press.