Do you like Christian fiction? Perhaps you enjoy a good page-turning read. Have you ever thought about becoming a self-published author? Then you might be excited by this post. I know I am!

Recently, I was fortunate enough to interview Catholic author Ellen Gable about her new novel, A Subtle Grace. I asked her a few questions...

When did you decide to become a writer? Did you work in another area before you began writing?
I worked as a court reporter for seven years before having children and becoming a full-time mother. From the time I was a teenager, I loved to write and I kept a journal for many years. However, I never had any aspirations to write professionally until a friend approached me to write an article about pregnancy loss for her magazine. After that, I occasionally wrote non-fiction articles and essays for various magazines.  Then, one day in early 2000, I experienced a life-changing event while praying for my great-grandmother in front of the Blessed Sacrament. When I came home and told my husband about it, he suggested that I write a novel telling the parallel stories of both myself and my great-grandmother.  Although the stories were fictionalized, Emily’s Hope was based on a true story so I felt somewhat restricted in how I told the story and created the characters. So...once I finished the book, I realized that I wanted to write more novels. My next book would be strictly fiction. And I found it a much more enjoyable and edifying experience.

What genre books do you write?
I like to call this genre ‘edgy, Catholic fiction’ because most of my novels deal with ‘edgy’ themes of sexuality. Although edgy, there are no scenes of explicit sex or violence and no crass language.

Can you tell me a little about your previous novels? Which is your favourite?
I’ve written four novels.  First, Emily’s Hope (published 2005) is about a modern woman, Emily (based on myself) who comes to realize that she has a unique spiritual connection to her great-grandmother.  In Name Only (2009) is about a widow who must enter into a marriage of convenience with her obnoxious brother-in-law. Stealing Jenny (2011) is a suspense novel a pregnant mother of five who is kidnapped by mentally unstable woman.  I’m not sure that I have a favorite, although if I did, it would probably be my newest book, A Subtle Grace.

What do you enjoy most about writing?
I find it interesting to create characters and to develop them.  I have come to love and care for my characters even though they’re not “real.”  I also enjoy the research. I can lose myself for hours doing research on the internet.

Who are your favourite authors? Has anyone in particular inspired you and influenced your writing?  My favorite Catholic authors are Dena Hunt and Krisi Keley.  I also enjoy Kathleen Morgan’s Christian romance novels as well as Mary Higgins Clark’s earlier novels.

Can you tell me a little about your current novel?
(From the synopsis) A Subtle Grace continues the story of the wealthy and unconventional O’Donovan Family as they approach the dawn of the 20th century.  At 19, Kathleen (oldest daughter) is unmarried with no prospects.  Fearing the lonely fate of an old maid, her impatience leads to an infatuation with the first man who shows interest. The suave, handsome son of the local police chief seems a perfect match.  But will her impulsive manner prevent her from recognizing her true beloved?  A disturbing turn of events brings a dark shadow that threatens the life-long happiness she desires. Dr. Luke Peterson (the family’s new physician) also makes quite an impression on Kathleen. His affection for her leads him to startling revelations: about Kathleen, about his practice and, most importantly, about himself. Will (oldest son) believes God may be calling him to a religious vocation. Eventually, he discovers the hidden circumstances of his humble beginnings compelling him to embark on a pilgrimage to Rome. 

How long did it take you to write it? Did it involve a lot of research? Your favourite character? Why?
If you consider that I started writing it in 2009, then it would officially be five years that I worked on it. However, as hard as I tried, up until 2012, the story and characters still seemed flat and unbelievable and I rarely spent time working on it.  In late 2012, I felt inspired to finally finish it. I deleted the original manuscript and started fresh.  It took just over a year of writing and editing that particular draft.

Research: I spent a lot of my time researching fashions, current events, infectious diseases, phrases etc.

Favorite character: I love Dr. Luke.  Most of my male protagonists remind me of my husband in many ways.  I also have grown to love Kathleen, whose character has evolved quite a bit from my earlier drafts.

Your novels are never just entertaining stories. They always have thought provoking themes and are based on your Catholic beliefs. Can you share something about this.
I believe novels should be edu-tainment. I heard this word many years ago to describe something that is educational and entertaining. I want my readers to come away not just entertained but also thinking and reflecting on the themes and messages. I’ve changed the way I do this, though.  My most recent novels are less preachy. My focus has been to write a compelling story well and the message hopefully shines through. I think my target audience has increased because of this.

This is a sequel to an earlier book. When you finished ‘In Name Only’ did you immediately think of writing a sequel?
I didn’t have a sequel in mind until I was near the end of writing In Name Only.  At that point, I felt there was more of the O’Donovans’ story to tell.  I decided that ‘grown up’ Kathleen would be the main female protagonist in the next book, and that I would include Will as a secondary protagonist.  I knew at the end of In Name Only that Will would have a vocation to the priesthood, but I had no idea (until I started researching) that it would be so difficult for him.

You are a self-published author. What are your thoughts on self-publishing compared to mainstream publishing?
Obviously, self-publishing is a big job.  A self-published author is not only the writer, but also the editor (I hire two editors), the formatter, one of the many proofreaders, the publisher and the marketing person.  Nowadays, I think self-publishing is so easy that anyone can do it.  The problem is that since everyone is doing it, there are a lot of badly written self-published books out there. 

In terms of mainstream publishing, I knew that my first book would not have any chance with mainstream publishers.  Twelve years ago, there really was only one Catholic publisher and they published few novels. So I decided to self-publish and now I own a publishing company and publish other authors’ works.

What would you say to anyone who has aspirations to write and publish a novel?
Practice writing every day!!  Read creative writing books and blogs.  Then read every day! I can’t emphasize enough the importance of reading to improve one’s writing.  Eventually when you feel inspired, write your story.  Then hire people to help you make it the best novel it can be: developmental editors, copy-editors, proofreaders, cover designers all can help to make a novel much better. 

What are your future writing plans? Will you be writing a sequel to ‘A Subtle Grace’?
Yes, there will be another novel in this “O’Donovan Family” series. I’ve already outlined basically what is going to happen.  Without giving too much away, it will likely feature Patrick (who was the babe in arms at the end of In Name Only and who is 13 when A Subtle Grace begins) as the main male protagonist. That being said, I need to feel inspired to write a 420 page, 126,000 word novel!  So I don’t know when it will be written, but I’m hoping within a few years.  Until then, I’ll be working on a Christmas novella, Julia’s Gifts, that I hope will be published in mid-2015.

Thank you so much Ellen for answering my questions! You can find Ellen Gable on Facebook and at her blog, Plot, Line and Sinker.

And to tie in my clothes theme with Ellen's interview, here's a short quote from A Subtle Grace.

The bodice of the dress was made of satin and pearls, had a V neck design with lace sleeves, and a plain white satin skirt with a lace overlay. She embraced her mother, Jane and Izzy. Her mother put the veil on her head and over her face...

... fashion from 1896!

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  1. "So I decided to self-publish and now I own a publishing company and publish other authors’ works." that is pretty impressive and "edu-tainment" what an awesome term. Last year I had an obsession with Amish stories, I just loved them! I think I might have to try some Catholic fiction now. :)

    1. Lisa,

      Ellen is a very remarkable person! If I was Ellen I'd have my children's book published by now. (Ellen edited the manuscript and keeps encouraging me to get it into book form.)

      Amish stories? Do you remember someone mentioned an Amish series on my FB page recently? Maybe it was you! I hope I bookmarked the link because I want to find out more. Janette Oke's books are good too.

      Yes, try some Catholic fiction! My favourite of Ellen's books is 'In Name Only'. You could start with that one and then go on and read this new book!

  2. Thank you, Sue, for hosting me today at your blog!!!

    1. Ellen,

      You're welcome. It has been a real pleasure!

  3. That was a lovely interview with a lot of information. I love reading spiritual books but never read books on catholic Fictions. It seems interesting.

    1. Diana,

      I am glad you enjoyed the interview. Ellen's books are very enjoyable. Maybe you will get to read them. Thank you so much for stopping by!

  4. I really enjoyed this, Sue. I am looking forward to reading Ellen's book(s)!

    1. Nancy,

      I've never done an interview before. I enjoyed compiling some questions for Ellen. I enjoyed the answers even more! I'm glad you did too. Thank you for your comment!

  5. Great interview Sue! I have such admiration for those who write fiction. I don't think I could ever write fiction...not enough imagination. I did write some stories for my son when he was a little boy. They were always to get across a lesson...maybe edu-tainment. Ellen's stories sound wonderful! I love the cover for her latest book. Wonder what D will be???? I'll tune in tomorrow to see. Love ya! ;)

    1. Patricia,

      So lovely to see you on my blog!

      I didn't think I could ever write fiction but I tried it and now enjoy making up stories. (They contain a good dose of family incidents!) I bet you could write some wonderful stories.

      Book covers are so important... as I have discovered. I just can't decide on one for my children's novel!

      My D post? I've published it. It's about dogs and duffle coats. It's a lot longer than 300 words. I gave in and wrote like I usually do. Feel free to write a long comment like you usually do (if you wish!) They're the best kind!


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