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Gina Frangello

By Posted on 11 26 m read 2.4K views

Here is Angela Stubbs interviewing author/editor/publisher, Gina Frangello.

I think Gina Frangello is an expert. Most people have one solid area of expertise, but Gina isn’t most people. To start, she’s the Executive Editor at OTHER VOICES literary magazine where she molds chosen submissions into flawless pieces of literature with her keen eye. Knowing what makes a story publishable is what she does best. She has analyzed and researched various aspects of psychology to such a degree that she’s become an expert in everything from feminist theory to holistic therapy and the Freudian case study of Dora, in particular. As if all of this weren’t enough, Frangello is capable of choreographing some of the most intriguing, complicated and disturbed characters you’ll ever have the pleasure of meeting in a novel.

Gina’s debut, MY SISTER’S CONTINENT, is the perfect mixture of poetic prose, complex characters, dysfunctional families, damaged psyches and sibling rivalry. After having read a novel like MSC, I was haunted by the images and the story kept me thinking about these characters long after I’d turned the last page.

It was important for me to get to know the woman behind this piece of literature and not just because she really seems to know what the hell she’s talking about. Gina Frangello is just as articulate on the phone as she is with her work. During our phone call we talked about her drive to write, even at a young age, why she felt she had to leave the field of psychology and what it’s like finding a press to publish a book like MY SISTER’S CONTINENT.

Prior to starting your writing career, you studied psychology. What made you decide you wanted to go the creative writing route?

Well, I had always written. I tried to write my very first novel when I was 10. I wrote basically my entire youth until I was 16, then I concentrated on partying for a few years. At [U-W] Madison when I was an undergraduate I started taking workshops just for fun. I studied with Lorrie Moore and Ann Packer, but I was a psych major. Basically, I grew up very poor and I had no money. My parents had no money. I’m an only child and my parents are older. I always felt like I was going to have to help support my parents when they were older, so being a writer was simply the opposite of anything that would have been a practical career. It never even occurred to me to major in writing or go to graduate school for writing because it would have seemed preposterous. I was going to be a psychiatrist. I was going to go all the way through and get my Ph.D. I got my BA and my MA. During my MA in Psych I was doing a lot of work with battered women and foster girls who’d been taken out of their homes due to sexual abuse. I did a lot of things that schematically ended up popping up in this book later, but I was only about 23 years old. It is just a brutal field. I worked at a battered women’s agency and we used to get bomb threats. The husbands of my clients would say, “I know what that bitch’s car looks like and I’m going to kill her!” It was scary and in rural New Hampshire and it was indeed a very small community. You could run into your clients and their crazy, abusive husbands at the gas station. It was really intense and I had grown up in a really intense neighborhood where there was a lot of violence, too. I began thinking, “Boy, wouldn’t it be nice if I didn’t have to go to work and hear about how somebody’s dad invited everyone over to have sex with all the kids. What if I didn’t have this in my life every single day?”

I had intended to take a hiatus. I started writing the original version of MY SISTER’S CONTINENT while I was still practicing psych. I started calling in sick to work and blowing my responsibilities left and right. But it didn’t occur to me to go to graduate school and focus on writing until I got married and my husband got a real job. He was no longer in graduate school and we had a little bit of money. I thought, “Well, I could do this for two years. I could go get my Master’s in Creative Writing and won’t that be fun? I’ll take a little break from this dark world as a therapist.” Instead I ended up sort of plunging into a lot of dark literary material, but for some reason I never went back. Once I was studying and reading and got involved with OTHER VOICES and was publishing my short fiction, it was just clear very quickly that this was it.

You made a huge jump from psychology to creative writing. They are complete opposites in so many ways. Looking back, do you miss it?

I miss certain aspects of that job. I don’t think I’d have some of the same problems with it now that I had when I was so much younger, but there’s just no room in my life for it now. I’m running a magazine and press. I’m teaching. I’ve got 3 children and I’m writing my own novels and stories. I don’t think I’ll ever find the time to go back and work as a therapist again. Sometimes, I wish I magically had ten more hours a day and I miss certain parts of it. Writing can be isolating and even running OTHER VOICES can be a little isolating because even though it’s a large community, it’s a community all over the country and most of your work is still done in a solitary way. I miss the sense of very immediate contribution that you have when you are a therapist. You are sitting with someone who is in need. You’re talking to them and it’s very, very immediate. There were many rewards to that even though I may have been doing it at the wrong point in my life.

It’s hard not to get emotionally involved, even if it’s just your job.

Oh you definitely do. I’d gone into the particular type of psychology I ended up practicing because of issues that I’d grown up with in my neighborhood. So, in a sense it was kind of like I jumped right out of the frying pan and into the fire. I was so young. I don’t think I’d really given myself a chance to work out a lot of the issues of what I’d seen growing up before immersing myself in helping other people. And I think I did help them. In all fairness I think I did a reasonable job of it, but then the writing called and unfortunately I had to defect.

When you were in school, you obviously studied Freud’s case study of Dora. As you sat down to write MSC, did you have it in the back of your mind as a blueprint or were the Freudian parallels coincidental?

This is what happened. I had read plenty of Freud and I’d read about the Dora case study, but I’d never read that study when I was studying psychology. I was getting my master’s in the early to mid-90’s and there was an extreme New Age movement in psychology at that time. So basically, Freud was the devil. Nobody believed anything that Freud had to say. If you were caught reading Freud, it was strictly so that you could talk about what an asshole he was. It wasn’t like people were sitting there meticulously poring over Freud case studies. My concentrations in school were feminist and holistic therapy. Psychoanalysis was pretty far from what I was studying. I had read some Freud in undergraduate and I had read a little in graduate school. It wasn’t until I went back to get my master’s in English that everyone was all about Freud and Lacan and various types of psychoanalytic literary theory. I was particularly interested in it because of my background in psychology. I started reading a lot of the French feminist theorists and they all talked about Dora all the time. I’d read a couple of the other Freud case studies, but not that one and it sounded really interesting. Well, it sounded really interesting because when I started to read it, it was freakishly like this unfinished novel and story cycle I’d already been working on for something like four or five years! It was very, very weird.

I became so intrigued by the parallels between Dora’s life and the lives of my characters (Kendra & Kirby) that I began reading any bit of theory I could get my hands on about Dora. I taught it in a class called “Hysterics in Literature” at UIC and I became preoccupied with what it would be like to take this existing, contemporary storyline I had and really use that old case study as a frame. Kind of like Jane Smiley did with A THOUSAND ACRES. And that’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to re-tell the Dora case study. I didn’t want Dora to be my character. I didn’t want Freud to be my character and for it to take place in 1898 Vienna. I wanted it to be a contemporary story that had its own plot, its own characters so that you could read the book without ever having read Freud and it wouldn’t matter. It all really was something that came up much less because of my background in psych. I think it could have happened to any English grad student because the Dora case study is very prominent in psychoanalytic literary theory.

It’s almost kismet that MSC happened the way that it did. It’s bizarre that you happened upon a theory that served the book’s purpose.

The strangest thing was how much was already there in the stories I’d already written! The thing that strikes me is that growing up as a young woman is not real different in 1998 Chicago than in 1898 Vienna, which is a really scary thought. Some of the core issues of sexuality and identity and power are not that different now.

You wrote an earlier version of MY SISTER’S CONTINENT. Did you want to keep anything from the initial versions of those stories or was it easier for you to begin fresh?

I was trying to write this novel, then it evolved into stories and most of them got published. A couple years later I decided I was going to return to the novel but give it the Freudian framework. And so once I was going to do that, certain elements of the plot and characters emerged as more prominent than they had been. Certain elements of the plot changed and so I think it would have been a very convoluted, difficult thing to try and take things piecemeal from the former version of the novel and the published stories. Once I knew I was going to use that framework, I basically started over again. I didn’t want to try and cram the foot of the previous version into the shoe of the Dora case study. I just wanted it to be fresh and I was still very, very interested in the characters and the basic themes. That’s what made me so intrigued with the Dora case study to begin with. It was so incredibly similar to what I had already been working with. But there were differences, too. For example, a major difference is that the character of Leigh Kelsey, (Michael’s ex-wife) is a very important figure in terms of the case study since she represents Frau K (the woman Dora unconsciously loves). But in the original novel and stories, Leigh Kelsey never makes an appearance. Michael just has an ex-wife and I think she’s named but she’s never there. So, that changed a lot. Kirby is not in most of the short stories, but in one of the stories that were published, Kirby is already out as a lesbian. She has a girlfriend named Melissa and they’re living together. Clearly, I had to go way, way, way back in order to start telling Kirby’s story in a way that would fit more within the framework of what I was trying to work with regarding Dora. The characters remained very similar but they changed in some ways. One thing that changed a lot about them was in one of the stories Kendra is actually the one in therapy, but Kirby became the one in therapy (in MSC). The biggest difference was the ambiguous ending. In the short stories there were more clear answers.

I think people seem to have some preconceived notions about twins. They think they must be polar opposites.

The evil twin or the good twin. It’s this bizarre cliché. I lived with twins in college and obviously that was not the case nor is it probably ever the case, but it has a lot of power over the popular imagination. Plus, when it comes to novels in the corporate publishing houses, that’s what they’re looking for in terms of books, villains vs. victims. Especially in books by women. There have to be the bad guys and then the plucky heroines who triumph over adversity. MY SISTER’S CONTINENT is just not that kind of book.

I was so glad that it wasn’t that kind of book. Is that why you ended up going with an independent press for MSC?

Well, it was a long haul. The book did have an agent at one point and he did try to sell it, not just through the corporate houses but the very top corporate houses. That was kind of what he was accustomed to. He had some very prestigious clients and therefore maybe had delusions of grandeur for the rest of us, which in some ways was great, when it worked out. He wanted big advances and editors who were very well known. So he did his send out but it had a reception that was kind of complicated. There were a few editors who tried to champion it but it kept getting vetoed. There were other editors who were horrified by it. My favorite story is that an editor at Houghton Mifflin apparently told my agent that the book was so disturbing that she kept having to put it down and leave the room. I was thinking, “So that made you want to publish it, right?” They were saying, “No.” (laughs)

Any piece of work that moves someone in any way should be a good thing.

There was another editor who said something to the effect of “I couldn’t explain this book to a marketing rep without blushing or breaking down.” There was a really weird, extreme response from a certain contingent of the editors that it got sent to. After it had been sent out to about 10 of the top houses and it had not been taken, my agent didn’t want to send it anywhere else. He wanted to wait until I had another novel and sell that novel first, basically with the hopes that one of those original editors or the place that we sold the next novel would come sniffing back around and take it. This was shortly after 9/11 so it was awhile ago. The publishing industry was in a horrible place and everything had gotten puritanical. There was no money and the climate of the country was bizarre. Many people felt this was negatively impacting being able to sell edgier, more graphic, risk-taking fiction by newer writers.

My agent’s perspective was “I have no desire to take this to a smaller house or get a lesser deal.” He just wanted to wait and have something else happen first. He was my agent and I really believed in what he said, so I said okay. I spent 2 years working on my next book and didn’t even send this book out. I finished my next book. He and I were on the verge of sending it out and then his agency collapsed really abruptly and basically, I ended up out on the street without an agent. I decided I was going to look for a new agent, but I had no desire to start all over again with MSC. I just decided to start looking for an agent for the new novel and have found one. But where MSC was concerned, it was basically sitting in my former agent’s drawer for 2_ years, so I sent it out on my own. I sent it to three independent presses and it was taken by the end of the week.

In hindsight, do you regret not having sent MSC to an independent press first?

Sort of. I never thought he was trying to screw me or anything, but his agenda had to do with making money. That’s most agents’ agenda. It’s their profession and they don’t make money unless they get you a big book deal, you know? And you’re not going to get that big book deal with Chiasmus in Portland. Agents have to do what they do, but once I’d seen what the response was in New York from the big houses, I should have seen the writing on the wall and said to myself, “You know, it’s not acceptable for it to sit around for 2 _ years. I can do this on my own” and at least have tried that avenue. But it all turned out fine. I’m glad everything happened the way that it did in retrospect. It’s been a good learning experience.

There seems to be some trial and error involved in the marketing process of a first novel. Money is always a big factor for agents, publishing houses and for some writers, too.

Right. And I never really cared about that. Obviously most of the writers I know don’t make a lot of money, including those who have had their books published by the larger houses. They usually still have to teach and still have to do other things, so that wasn’t ever really a big concern for me. But certainly having a wider audience is important to most writers. You want a marketing engine behind you. You want people to know about your book. I think that’s the allure for writers, more so than money with the corporate houses, just feeling like they’ll put a lot of advertising bucks behind it and people will know about it. Of course that doesn’t always happen even with corporate deals. Many of their books disappear and are never really supported in-house. But it can be harder to get word of mouth when you’re with an independent press. On the other hand, there are so many pluses to having an independent press in terms of what the final product is. With a mainstream publisher, you might be asked to radically revise a riskier book. So the fact that Lidia Yuknavitch had a very similar creative vision was great. We were on the same page, so I didn’t end up having to make artistic compromises and that’s been really good. Particularly for a first novel. Your first book is your baby.

Will you take your next novel to the indy presses first?

Well, it’s a complicated mix of things. First of all, it’s a very different book, so it would be extremely unlikely to come out with the same independent press because it’s not at all an experimental book (my second novel). It’s a coming of age story about an Italian-American neighborhood in Chicago, basically just a very different, earthier kind of novel with a very young protagonist. I think it’s a somewhat more commercial book. It’s still a literary book but it’s more commercial in the sense that it’s not terribly a cerebral book. It’s got some violence in it, but it doesn’t have the same kind of sexual themes that MSC had so it’s different in that respect. If a big house doesn’t take the new novel I would never sit around pining after that for ages. But I do have an agent for it and with an agent it’s always an automatic that the first people who see it are going to be Ballantine or HarperCollins or whatever. They’re not going to send it to the small houses first. So, I’m just going to wait and see what happens, wait and see what she can do. If there is interest in that regard, fine. And if not then I’ll just immediately send it out on my own to indies that are suitable for it.

Your cover art for MSC is a great photograph. Was it Lidia’s idea to use that for the cover?

The photographer who did the cover image is a Chicago photographer named Robin Hahn. She’s represented by the gallery that feeds most of the OTHER VOICES covers to us, so I actually knew that piece. I had considered using it for the first title of our imprint, OV Books, but then when Tod Goldberg won our contest for his collection SIMPLIFY, which is very, very masculine, I thought, “Well, clearly not appropriate for the Tod Goldberg cover!” (both laugh) So I thought, “I’ve got to keep that on the back burner for something” and before I knew it, I was going to have my own book. I got an image of the photograph and sent it to Lidia and Lidia really loved it.

Often times we see a shift in the artwork from hardcover to paperback. This usually happens most when a novel has had a smaller press publish in hardcover and then a bigger house will distribute the paperback and the artwork becomes generic looking.

Yes, or often the American version will have some ridiculously generic cover and then the British version will have a really cool, edgy version. That happens a lot. But I love the cover of my book. I actually ended up feeling like it was fate that I didn’t use it for anything else. It fits better with mine.

Let’s talk about the ending of the book. When you were trying to find a publisher did anyone have any issues with the ambiguous ending?

Oh yeah. That was a major thing among the people who were not histrionically screaming how they had to leave the room because the book was too disturbing. The other editors had issues with two major things: One was that there were no answers at the end of the book and that the ending was too “confusing” or didn’t let the reader know what to think or who to believe. The other thing was that Kirby wasn’t “good enough” to be the good twin. They all wanted Kendra to be the evil twin and therefore Kirby had to be the good twin and everyone was just frustrated that Kirby just wasn’t good enough. They kept asking for Kirby to be more reliable, more “good” and sympathetic in order to exist in complete opposition to Kendra. And I was never interested in that at all nor was my agent, to his credit. We both thought that was such an asinine suggestion because really Kirby and Kendra are supposed to be flip sides of a very similar coin and that’s the whole point. They think they’re so different . . .

They’re not!

They’re not! Editors kept saying, “Well, I really want to be able to trust and believe Kirby. Kendra’s so intense. I need to able to trust Kirby. She needs to be my guide.” Well, Kirby is a little less intense than Kendra in some ways, but she was never going to become the good, clean twin, where you could believe everything she said, which seemed to be what those larger houses wanted.

Do you think bigger publishing houses will become open to risky or non-traditional endings like the independents are now?

Well you can best get away with it in bigger houses if you’re already known. I look at Margaret Atwood and I think she continues to write fiction that takes a lot of risks and has ambiguity. She’s definitely not someone who likes to wrap things up neatly. A lot of times you don’t know what to think and you don’t know how things are going to end. She’s 60-something and she’s been a grand dame of literature for decades and therefore she’s able to do certain things. But I think there’s always just a fear of how to sell new writers in a marketplace. Literary fiction makes up such a small percentage of what anyone wants to read anyway and even within literary fiction there’s a distinction between more and less “commercial” literary fiction. I don’t want to say literary fiction is itself becoming more and more formulaic in the way that genre fiction is, but I think there’s a little bit of truth to that. There is a fear of risk-taking in an arena that sort of has risk-taking as an inherent proponent of it. I find that somewhat confusing and disturbing not only as a writer, but as an editor and publisher as well.

MSC has a very strong psychological pull to the story and its characters. You’ve written a novel that contains intricate, multi-faceted story lines with layers of psychological issues. Will your next novel have anything to do with psychology?

I don’t think that I would be capable of writing a book that didn’t get into the character’s psychology. I think that’s just the way that I write. Kassia Kroszer said something really interesting on the Lit-Blog Co-op during that whole period where my book was being talked about. [MSC was a “Read This!” finalist on the LBC in Spring 2006.] She said a lot of literary fiction doesn’t let you get too close to the characters. There’s a lack of getting intimate with them, a kind of formal distance with them, and I think that that would be the opposite of my writing and the writing that I like. I think that for me, getting inside the character’s head is really what keeps you ticking when you’re writing. There is a problem in literary fiction with things remaining at too much of a formal distance in a lot of cases. If that’s becoming somewhat less true then it’s a very good thing. I don’t know.

I still have a hard time finding books where I feel like the writer is really getting in there and swirling their fingers around in the character’s guts. But I like it when I do find something like that and I get really excited. Mary Gaitskill is a writer who always does that and that’s why I wanted to interview her for OTHER VOICES. I just think she’s fantastic. She looks at the good and the bad and the ugly and her characters have thoughts and feelings and emotions and a past or histories that intermingle. There’s lots of ugliness and lots of beauty and nostalgia. She’s not afraid of positive or negative emotion. In my new novel there is still a lot of psychological development of the characters, but in a different way. The protagonist is 12 to 14 in the course of the book. She’s quite young so she’s a very different character than those in MSC who are all at least in their 20’s or older.

There is a very tense moment in MSC where Michael uses a tea kettle full of boiling water in the bedroom with Kendra. Did you become tense or nervous as you wrote some of these sexual scenes?

There was a lot of tension in the writing of it. But most scenes in the book have been revised so many times that you get de-sensitized to it. But originally there was a lot of tension in writing a lot of different scenes in the novel. I was just saying in an interview the other day that the scene in the law offices between Michael and Kendra was a very difficult scene to write. I didn’t know how it was going to turn out. I was very stressed out writing it because to me that was the scariest scene in the book. Kendra didn’t really know what the hell she was doing. She’s coked up and she’s turned the tables so that she’s taking on the dominant role and it’s not a role that she feels comfortable in. She’s an angry character. It’s never safe to let an angry person tie you up and do what they will to you. And Michael, just because of the way he is, is also a scary person to have as your victim in a sense. He’s too nihilistic.

One of the best things about the book is that the reader never knows what to expect from the characters.

I read a review where someone said they thought Kendra and Michael were going to kill each other and I thought it was a little funny because I never thought they were going to kill each other. But the law offices scene really scared me in the writing of it because I never knew how bad things might get or what might happen. Certainly the hot water scene is one that’s designed to create tension. Because of where it’s placed in the novel it was probably less tense for me writing because I knew nothing all that extreme was going to happen yet. Well, if having hot water poured on you isn’t extreme, I mean. But it was too early in the book for it to veer totally out of control. It was still exploratory at that point. What were these characters’ limits and how were they going to fuck with each other and also how they were going to build a certain kind of trust.

As an editor for OV Books and the OTHER VOICES magazine, how different would you say the criteria is for publishing a short-story at the magazine versus publishing a collection like Tod Goldberg’s for OV Books?

The biggest difference for me is that we’re only publishing one book a year. You have to be pretty damned choosy. You’re really going to be living, breathing and eating this book and it has to be what you want to completely represent your press for that entire year or possibly even a little bit longer. In that sense I will say that the word “marketability” started coming out of my mouth for the first time in my entire life. I have no aspirations of publishing a bestselling book and we’re not looking for the DA VINCI CODE over at OV Books. What I mean by marketability is very different from what the corporate houses mean by marketability. However, we’ve had to think about certain things like, “Is this gripping? Are people going to read this?” Being a page turner, being gripping like SIMPLIFY was . . . you want to keep reading that book! It’s very engaging. It’s not just like, “Hey, I can turn a phrase!” but it’s gripping. You want to see what’s going to happen. There are parts of that book that are like watching a car wreck. You can’t look away. So that became much more of a consideration for OV Books than it usually is for the magazine because we have stories in the magazine that are gripping. We have stories that are slow moving, luxurious and beautiful or strange and intriguing. You wouldn’t want to read 200 pages of it or not enough people would want to. OV Books still likes a good story. We’re very open to experimental or avant-garde work, but we’re also the kind of press that wants to champion work that probably would have been considered marketable by the big houses in the 1980’s or 90’s, but has been pushed out now because of a changed, more conservative political climate, and because short stories in general are being marginalized by the big houses. We’re aiming to publish collections that are risky, but not so much in form necessarily as in content. We like disturbing, thought-provoking stories that keep you up tossing and turning, that don’t make you feel good per se, but make you want to go out there and do something. Our second title, O STREET, is exactly like that. It is the kind of book that would have scared the big houses shitless, yet its form is relatively traditional and it’s a great, gripping story.

OPEN CITY magazine began Open City Books last year where they now publish one collection for the year, just as OV Books did. Did you look to OPEN CITY for help when you started OV Books?

OPEN CITY was really a big model for us. I talked to Joanna a couple years ago in New York when I basically wanted to launch OV Books. I think OPEN CITY is the most similar model for what we’re doing. They’ve got one book a year, a magazine and a book of fiction. I wanted to know how they did it. Joanna really told me a lot about how to launch a press.

What is a typical day for you when you work at OTHER VOICES? Does OV read in the summer?

We don’t read in the summer but right now we’re in the process of producing the next issue of the magazine as well as producing the next book, so even though we’re not reading new manuscripts over the summer, we’re still working. First of all, I should say a typical day for me in the recent past, because I just had a baby four months ago, has not really been involving writing my own fiction. I haven’t really written probably since January when I was putting the finishing touches on my new novel that my agent is finally sending out for the first time. Basically, right now I’m juggling OTHER VOICES and family and not having really any time for my own fiction. I have 20 hours a week of child care and OTHER VOICES can easily take twenty hours of my time if not more than that. I’m still reading some stories because my reading staff stops reading April 1st. But because as anyone who’s ever submitted to a literary magazine can tell you, a lot of readers do not read stuff the minute it gets to them. I’m still getting pass-ons in June and July. They’re trickling in. I’m copy-editing the current issue, OV 45, which was guest edited by Cris Mazza. She selected the stories and now I’m doing all the production, which is particularly intense since I haven’t read most of these stories. Usually I’ve already done a lot of editing by the time I get to the copy-editing stage because I’m the one who picked the stories. I’ve never even read some of these stories so it’s more labor-intensive.

What are your thoughts on blogging? Do you feel it has changed the literary landscape in terms of book sales and literature awareness?

It’s huge! And I should say I’m not the most computer literate girl who ever lived. I do have a blog, as you know ( and I was quite resistant to it because it was one more thing I would have to do and I don’t have a lot of time. I finally did it after years of people suggesting to me that OTHER VOICES should have a blog and once my own novel came out, my husband was like, “Okay, we’re making you a blog and we’re not taking no for an answer!” so that was that. But I think blogging is huge! I don’t even think I realized how huge it was. You remember when I got interviewed on Bookslut a few years back? Well, a friend of mine from Japan emailed me and said, “I saw your interview on Bookslut” and I thought, “What?!”

Bookslut readers in Japan. That’s great.

I was realizing that there are no barriers on who can read this. It’s a no-frontier type of forum for people and that’s really interesting. Most literary magazines, OTHER VOICES included, basically have maybe like 1,000 subscribers and a print run of like 2500 books. But if you’re writing a blog, you can get that many hits a day! Obviously my blog doesn’t get that many hits a day, but I’m sure Bookslut probably gets way more than that.

Bookslut has become such a successful little machine and Jessa Crispin is largely to thank for that. It’s just getting bigger and better.

When Jessa blogged about MSC, my book sales went way up on Amazon. Jessa had discussed the book with Kathryn Davis’s THE THIN PLACE, so next thing you knew on Amazon, if you go looking for my book, you’ll see us linked together in one of those “better together” deals, which totally benefited me since Kathryn’s marketing engine was a lot bigger, with deeper pockets, than mine. Bookslut did that. I’ll also say that Tod (Goldberg) went into a 2nd printing before SIMPLIFY was even officially released and he credited that to the blogging community, especially since he’s such an avid blogger. He felt everyone was really behind him. I mean, I don’t read all that many blogs. I do read a few of them, but I’m not checking everything out. My husband looks up my book and sees whose blogging about it and I guess people are blogging about it, which is amazing. There’s this word of mouth even when big newspapers are done with their reviews, after the book’s been out half a year. Blogs continue to spread the word, which is particularly helpful for indy titles like MSC and SIMPLIFY. This is the community that is making or breaking you these days.


Angie Stubbs is a writer, book reviewer, and band manager for OSGOODS. And, like Gina, she’s very pretty.

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  • Myfanwy Collins
    September 16, 2006

    This fascinating interview went very well with my morning coffee. Thank you!

  • Claire Cameron
    September 16, 2006

    I love the detail in this interview. Thank you all.

  • Carolyn Burns Bass
    September 16, 2006

    Gina’s story is inspiring to me on many levels. I had a similar reaction from editors when my agent submitted my novel, THE NEXUS. It’s a romance with literary panache, a bit unusual with a POV alternating between the male and female protag, and it doesn’t have a fairy-tale ending. (My agent calls it a mix between Audrey Niffenegger’s THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE and OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon.) I’ve binged back and forth about taking it to independents or waiting for my agent to send it on a second round. After reading Gina’s journey, I think I’m binging back toward seeking an independent. Thanks.

  • Susan Henderson
    September 17, 2006

    Angie – Absolutely fascinating interview. Thank you for this.

    Gina – I also started out as a counselor in the sexual abuse field, so reading about your journey from the trenches to championing small press felt a little like finding a soul sibling.

    Myfanwy – I think we’re drinking our coffee together, but I’m on your blog and you’re on mine!

    Claire – I’m always happy to see you here.

    Carolyn – If your book is anything like The Time Traveler’s Wife, it is right up my alley.

  • Pia
    September 18, 2006

    Okay, I’m right now beelining to order Gina’s book. What a great interview. Good on her for getting the mss out of the drawer and going with an indie publisher. I think the blog info is encouraging, because even though maintaining one or checking out other people’s can feel like a time drain, you are talking to/listening to people who care deeply about books! Books!

  • Angela
    September 18, 2006

    I am so happy to have all these commments come in regarding MSC. It was a pleasure to interview Gina and discuss this novel. Also, thanks to Sue for her hard work and wanting an interview with us. And to Tod Goldberg for introducing all of us. If you haven’t read My Sister’s Continent, you must hurry, run and buy this book! Once you’ve read this book, you won’t be able to forget it. The story Ms. Frangello has written is intoxicating and is one of the best writers out there. And there’s more Gina to come! It’s books like this that inspire other writers like myself and reminds us all why we write. Gina, I look forward to more! Again, thanks to all the readers who have read this book and to those who have yet to read it, you’re in for a real treat!

  • Chimamanda Adichie
    September 18, 2006

    What an interesting and intelligent and engaging interview. I really enjoyed reading it and have just ordered Gina’s novel.
    Nice blog, Susan!

  • Susan Henderson
    September 19, 2006

    Pia – You’re so right, Pia. None of us really have the time to read blogs, but we do because that sense of community is so vital. Did you read Jordan Rosenfeld’s blog yesterday? She talked about that so eloquently – how communing with other writers is often the only validation there is in this business. xx

    Angela – I’m sold on this book, too. And thank you and Gina and Tod for all the ways you add to the best of the literary world with your writing and your public discussions. Three excellent bloggers.

    Chimamanda – I’m so glad you’re here! Your piece on NPR yesterday was amazing – and what Achebe said about your writing!

  • Katrina Denza
    September 20, 2006

    Great interview! I have “My Sister’s Continent,” and am looking forward to reading it.

  • Rosalyn Drexler
    April 29, 2009

    Thankyou…enjoyed the interview. Didn’t know I was three years late in reading it…2006 WOW. The Brooklyn Rail is publishing my book TO SMITHEREENS about my life as a “Lady” wrestler named Rosa Carlo The Mexican Spitfire…out of print for around 30 years. MIght be coming out this summer or Fall.
    Hope you read it.

    Rosalyn Drexler

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