|Welcome to our New Faces column, wehre you can meet debut authors in the mystery genre. Chris Gavaler's first romantic suspense, Pretend I'm Not Here, is available from HarperCollins.
Chris, welcome to TRR! Tell us about yourself.
I grew up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, then spent a decade in New Jersey
getting educated, married and whatnot. My Yankee family and I now find ourselves living in
Lexington, VA, the burial place of the Confederacy. It's a great small town, with a surreal
number of lawyers and painters. I was a little startled when my toddler started saying "bye" with
a Southern accent.
Are you coming to romance writing from another job?
This is my third career, if you count the two confused years I spent in
theater administration right after college (I worked for Olympia Dukakis during her cousin Michael's
Presidential campaign). After going back to Rutgers for a Masters in Education, I taught high school
English for a decade (with heavy, heavy doses of creative writing). Teaching is a fantastic,
all-consuming job which I both miss and don't miss. My "other" job is taking care of my kids in the
afternoon (I write in the mornings).
What led you to write a romantic suspense?
I didn't set out to meet the conventions of a romantic suspense novel. I
wrote what intrigued and entertained me. I have fun when I write. The fact that Pretend I'm Not
Here turned out to be a romantic thriller is a kind of accident. While writing it, I simply thought
of it as a novel, one I wanted to be as enjoyable for readers as it was for me. That's my only real
Tell us about your road to publication.
Getting published requires any two of three things: talent, luck and
contacts. I had nothing in the last category, so I added perseverance to the mix. I wrote seven novels in
seven years, amassing literally hundreds of rejection letters before landing my first agent.
Knowing a well-connected author or having a friend in a publishing house would have been easier, but
the hard work made me a better writer.
What kind of research was involved for your first book?
Pretend I'm Not Here is set in the Virgin Islands where I honeymooned about
ten years ago. Researching meant rereading my honeymoon journal and all the sentimental
guide books still lining my book shelves. The main character is a chaperone for a TV dating
game, so I also sat in front of my TV with a remote, studying videotaped episodes. Thinking like a
chaperone was easy - I've served in that capacity at enough high school events to know the
flirtation rituals of young adults.
Who are your influences as a writer?
I hate to confess this, but I don't read much in my own genres. I fear it
would lead me too much toward imitation. On the other hand, the vast majority of literature could
be categorized as romances and mysteries. It all influences me. When it comes to specific
authors, I learned most of what I know about psychological suspense from Henry James and Charlotte
Perkins Gillman. And we're all indebted to Jane Austen for formulating the romance plot as we
(Egad!! I just reread that paragraph, and I sound like a stodgy old English
teacher. I take it all back-my influences are Suzanne Vega, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and every
stand-up comic I've seen on Comedy Central.)
What does your family think of having a romance author in their midst?
My daughter says when she grows up she's going to "work on the computer,"
too. She likes to type random words and letters and then print out her own "novels." I got my
toddler his own keyboard because he was so jealous of mine. Sometimes he sits on my lap and
we both punch away at the keys together.
Tell us about plans for future books.
My second romantic thriller introduces another unlikely heroine, a special
effects make-up artist at a low budget horror movie company. When the TV actor she's had a crush on
since high school signs up for a production, it looks like her romantic fantasies are coming
true. But then she learns he's only there to dodge the thugs collecting his ex-wife's gambling debts
and to ask her the favor of a lifetime. He wants her to help him fake his death.
I just finished the first revision (the biggest hurdle). You should expect
it in July 2003.
How can readers get in touch with you?
My e-mail address is email@example.com and my website is http://chrisgavaler.com. Don't be shy. Writers love to hear from readers. If you prefer the U.S. postal service, I 'm at 202 Myers Street,
Lexington, VA 24450. Look forward to hearing from you.
Chris, thank you for joining us, and best of luck! Readers, we have a review of Pretend I'm Not Here on our site.
July 12, 2001