Today, award winning author Gloria Zachgo is here with us to talk about her writing! It’s a natural for Gloria to write stories with Kansas settings. She grew up on a farm in Lincoln County, Kansas, where she attended one of the last one-room schoolhouses in the country. After graduating from Brown Mackie Business School she married her high school sweetheart.
Living out of state for several years, Gloria and her husband moved back to their Kansas roots. While their children were young, she ran a small business out of their home. When her children left the nest, she pursued a lifelong dream and took various art lessons.
Always wanting to learn new things she joined a creative writing group in 2006. She soon found she had a passion for writing fictional short stories. One particular short story was written from the prompts of a gingerbread man and a small toy horse. It led to her first novel, The Rocking Horse.
“I knew there was more to the story. I kept seeing the image of a young woman, all alone, with a quirky little toy trying to give her a message.”
After her debut novel won honorable mention in the 20th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards, she started working on another book.
“I love writing about ordinary, everyday people and their struggles with what life deals them.”
Gloria certainly did write about the struggles of ordinary people in her second novel, Never Waste Tears. She lets five individuals each tell their own story of what Kansas looked like in the 1860’s, when the land was free, but the true price was often high.
Gloria, when writing, what makes you feel happiest?
I’m happiest when I become the character—it’s like getting inside someone else’s head. It’s easy with characters that have the same flaws and values I have. It’s a little more difficult when I become someone I don’t like or agree with. In fiction, I can visit for a while and then come back to my own life. That makes it both challenging and fun.
What makes you feel the most frustrated?
I’m frustrated and disappointed when I know I’ve worked my tail off on a paragraph or chapter, only to realize it doesn’t fit well in the story. Slicing a good scene out of a story is painful, but if it doesn’t fit, it should go.
I might put it in my file I call bits and pieces. I’m an optimist. Who knows, it might be the perfect scene for another story someday.
What are the challenges you face when sitting down to write?
My biggest challenge is the editor part of me often trumps the creative part. All the workshops I’ve ever attended tell me to write, and worry about editing later. Yeah, easier said than done for me. Way too often I find I must get a sentence or phrase just right before I can continue. It slows the writing process.
What traits and values do your characters have that you have most in common with?
I especially relate to the actions of Sarah, in Never Waste Tears. We are both quick tempered, but neither one of us can stay angry for long at those we love. We both seek honesty in ourselves and others—and, we are both terrified of snakes.
How would your characters describe you?
Most of my characters would describe me as being one of them. Because I have to make friends with them. The people I’ve met in my lifetime are who I write about, using their personalities, physical traits, and idiosyncrasies. I mix them all up with emotions I’ve experienced myself. I take them on journeys and throw obstacles in their path. They are a part of me and I’m a part of them. Sometimes they take over and lead me. That’s where the passion is.
If you were to write your memoir, what title would you give it?
Sometime before I ever thought about becoming a published writer, I put together a home-made version of memoirs for my kids. I simply called it Sharing My Memories. In sharing some of my early life experiences, I wanted them to understand what made me who I am.
What are your themes in storytelling?
In both my published novels, courage and isolation are predominant. In The Rocking Horse, Julie is isolated because of an abusive relationship. Courage takes her on a journey where she finds her true identity.
On the Kansas prairies in Never Waste Tears, Rebecca is driven mad from her isolation. It’s courage that allows Hannah and Sarah to survive.
My next novel will deal with the power of a woman over the life of a child. When the child becomes an adult, she uses her courage to unmask the hidden evils of the woman.
What is the emotion/feelings you have after writing for hours?
When I write a really intense scene, I live that scene myself. I laugh with my characters when they’re happy. I cry with them through the difficult times. It can be a wild ride on that emotional roller coaster. I need to remember to give myself and my reader a little time in normal every now and then.
Do you have a habit in your writing that you wish you could get rid of? Explain.
I’m unscheduled. Since I’m self-published, I have no deadline to fulfill. Therefore, I let life’s distractions take over quite often. It’s not always a bad thing.
When I was young, unlike many of my writing friends, I was not an avid reader. My daughter-in-law once told me I was busy living life instead of reading stories. That early life was filled with dressing kittens in doll clothes, making (sometimes even tasting) mud pies, riding a horse bareback through the pasture, milking cows, and lots and lots of chores. Yes, instead of reading fairy tales, I made up my own with the magic one can find when growing up on a farm.
What is the best compliment someone gave you about your book(s)?
The best compliments are from those who tell me I’ve touched their life through a character in one of my books. If my writing can let people see themselves in their own struggles and joys, I feel as though I’ve accomplished the reason I write.