Friday, July 26, 2019

Author Spotlight: Beth Gilstrap

One of my favorite things about running an author interview series is having the chance to introduce new readers to authors whose work truly stuns me and leaves me in awe. Beth Gilstrap is just such an author. I had the opportunity to read with her (for the first time- I will jump at any chance at all to read with her) a few years ago and was floored by how well she is able to capture the voice of the tough Southern woman- in all its complications and vulnerabilities and rawness and messiness that, unfortunately, so many authors seem to have trouble finding. Afterward, I devoured her two collections- I am Barbarella and No Man's Wild Laura and have read every short story she's published since. I guess you could say I'm an unabashed fangirl and I'm both thrilled and honored to have her as part of the Author Spotlight series. Please go check out her work- you can thank me later.... :)

Who: Beth Gilstrap
Latest Book: No Man's Wild Laura
Follow! @BettySueBlue
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Has the publishing industry ever made you cry? What did you learn from the experience?

Unfortunately, yes. It’s not an industry that values short story collections unless you already have a name as a novelist. I’m speaking from the frustrating process of trying to place a second full-length collection. But the truth is I don’t know if I ever will write a novel and so, a lot of doors seem inevitably shut for me unless I win some sort of major award.

What do you tell yourself when you begin to doubt yourself as a writer? How often do you doubt yourself?

I doubt myself all the time. Every day. I feel like I’m so far behind most of my peers who have novels under their belt, agents, teaching jobs, etc. I get overwhelmed by the idea that no matter what I accomplish it won’t be enough, but then I remind myself that I am under no obligations to follow whatever rules or timelines I think there are to being an artist. I love this quote by Cheryl Strayed:

 “You don’t have to get a job that makes others feel comfortable about what they perceive as your success. You don’t have to explain what you plan to do with your life. You don’t have to justify your education by demonstrating its financial rewards. You don’t have to maintain an impeccable credit score. Anyone who expects you to do any of those things has no sense of history or economics or science or the arts. You have to pay your own electric bill. You have to be kind. You have to give it all you’ve got. You have to find people who love you truly and love them back with the same truth. But that’s all.”

This is what I strive for though I am well aware that I likely wouldn’t be able to pay my own electric bill if it weren’t for my husband. I have to cling to the hope that giving it all I’ve got and going to work every day I can will be enough.

What is the first book you ever read that you threw across the room?

Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk. I am not a fan of shock for shock’s sake. For me, you have to earn it. Or maybe it was much earlier with Where the Red Fern Grows. Do not give me a story with dogs dying under any circumstances.

What’s your favorite thing to do to procrastinate from writing?

My favorite way to procrastinate is to play with my dogs & cats, garden, or cook. But really, I tend to be thinking of stories the whole time I’m doing those things so maybe the real answer is obsessive cleaning. 

If you were being shipped to a deserted island and were only allowed to bring one book, what would it be? Why? How hard would it be to choose?

It would be Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. Though I’ve read this book several times, it continues to bring me to my knees every time I think about it. The way the characters continue to find beauty in their hopeless world is a lesson to us all.

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