September 9, 2015

Author Interview: Stephanie Gayle

I recently got to interview author Stephanie Gayle for Shelf Awareness. Her interview was a lot of fun (yay for authors who are willing to email back and forth in a timely manner!), and I thought you guys might like to read some excerpts. You can find the full review at Shelf Awareness.

Stephanie Gayle: Secrets in a Small Town

photo: Sayamindu Dasgupta
Idyll Threats (full review here), Stephanie's latest book, stars Thomas Lynch, the police chief of Idyll, Conn. When Cecilia North turns up dead on the local golf course, mere hours after meeting Lynch, he's appalled--because if he reveals that he knows where Cecilia was, he'll also reveal his greatest secret: he's gay.
What gave you the idea to write a story featuring a closeted detective as the main character?
When I began writing Idyll Threats, I didn't know Thomas was gay. It emerged as I got to know him. So it isn't something I set out to do, which is probably a good thing. It can be intimidating to write other perspectives and Thomas: male, a cop and gay, has a lot of perspectives that are different from mine. Of course, once that realization came, the story changed a lot. But all for the better.
Since Thomas is nearly your polar opposite in terms of perspective, how did you step into his shoes? Was it difficult to get to know him?
Thank god for a hyperactive imagination and a well-developed sense of empathy! Thomas was harder than most of my characters to get to know. Because he is not, at the best of times, chatty. He speaks in two-word sentences. When I started, I knew that I didn't want to create a cop who had a super-human intellect or much support from his team. Lonely outsiders make great narrators. He's easy in the sense that he is not ambivalent about anything. He has strong opinions. And he does share one trait with me: We're both suckers for blue-eyed men.
The events of Idyll Threats take place in 1997. How different do you think Lynch's career would be in 2015?
People think everything has changed. It hasn't. Same-sex couples are being denied marriage licenses, despite the Supreme Court ruling. I spoke to a cop about the plausibility of Thomas being closeted. "Oh, absolutely," he said. That was before I told him I'd set the novel in 1997. We tend to see progress as absolute, but it's incremental. So while ground has been gained, I think in the world of policing, Lynch's career would not look much different today.
One more question--are you big on puns? With a title like Idyll Threats, it seems like you might be.
I do enjoy a good pun. But I didn't come up with the title. Of my two novels, I am zero for two on titles. My mom came up with my first novel title, My Summer of Southern Discomfort. And my editor, Dan Mayer, mentioned that a title with the word "Idyll" might be good in my second book, especially if we did a series. I mentioned this and my boyfriend, Todd, said, "How about Idyll Threats?" When he found out it was the title, he asked how much he got paid. I told him he'd only come up with two words. "But," he said, "They're on the front of the book!" Six weeks, later I came up with an adequate comeback: "I have two words on the cover too. My name."

Are YOU big on puns?