What is the Gist of Your Story? #5

A sound premise and compelling themes are undoubtedly the hallmarks of great writing. In another addition to the series on literary themes and premise, I’d like you to join me in welcoming Mary Gottschalk.

Mary’s bio

Mary has made a career out of changing careers. After finishing her MBA, she spent nearly thirty years in the financial markets, working as an economist, a banker and a financial consultant to major corporations. She has worked in New York, New Zealand, Australia, Central America, Europe, and amazingly, Des Moines, Iowa. Along the way, she dropped out several times. In the mid-1980’s, Mary and her husband Tom embarked on the multi-year sailing voyage that is the subject of her memoir, Sailing Down the Moonbeam. Twice, she left finance to provide financial and strategic planning services to the nonprofit community, first in New York and later in Des Moines. In her latest incarnation, she defines herself as a writer. She is working on her first novel, writes for The Iowan magazine, and lectures on the subject of personal risk-taking.

Mary on her writing in general

Ever since “dropping out” to go sailing at age 40, I have been fascinated by the opportunities for personal growth that arise when you step outside your comfort zone, when you are forced to look at your own cultural norms and values from a different perspective.

It is often said that there are three stages of adjustment to a new situation: 1) enthusiasm/ euphoria at things that seem so interesting and exciting; 2) disappointment/ depression at the absence of familiar support systems as well as the challenges to one’s own values and beliefs; 3) a gradual integration of what is best from both the new and the old as well as tolerance for those things — old as well as new — that do not suit you.

For many, including myself, this process has offered a path to emotional maturity. It is this idea that I want to explore in my current and future novels.

The premise of Mary's work-in-progress novel

My novel-in-progress, entitled A Fitting Place, follows a successful professional woman, Lindsey, who slips into a rebound romance soon after her husband leaves her. Her new love is someone whose social, intellectual, and spiritual background is completely different from her own. At first, those differences offer an exhilarating sense of possibility, but she gradually comes to realize that this new romance reprises many of the emotional patterns of her marriage, with one dramatic exception— her new lover is a woman.

As Lindsey begins to understand the ways in which this compelling and powerful relationship threatens some of the values she holds most dear, she also begins to understand her own contribution to the failure of her marriage.

The themes that drive Mary's story

The primary themes that drive the novel are responsibility and integrity. In exploring these themes, almost all of my characters have to address issues that include betrayal vs. loyalty, friendship, intimacy and gender identity.

Remember, effective book publicity relies on strong promotional messages, which are extracted from the themes contained in your writing that, collectively, make up the premise of the story. 

Promotional opportunities for Mary’s book

I am just beginning the theme-based marketing of my book.

  • I have redesigned my website to highlight issues relating to personal growth, including that of “stepping outside your comfort zone.” I’ve started doing blogs that specifically tie these themes to issues raised in the novel, some for my own website, some as a guest on other websites. In the next few months, I plan to invite guest blogs from writers who are exploring similar themes in their work.
  • I am working with therapists, both personally and through social media, to identify and explore the characteristics of rebound romances generally and lesbian rebound romances in particular. Many women slip into a lesbian relationship after their marriage breaks up.  While some see this is an opportunity to “come out,” many do not alter their view of their innate sexual identity. Most women in this latter category are reluctant to talk about that experience in a public forum, but are very interested in how others have dealt with it.

Ways to connect with Mary

Website / Twitter / Facebook / Amazon

Join me as I discuss the need for compelling themes and a sound premise with published and newbie authors over the next few months. If you want to participate as a guest blogger in this series, please do not hesitate to contact me for details. You can also participate by leaving a comment for Mary below.