Interview with Gina Barlean AKA G. M. Stevens
By G. K. Fralin
G. M. Stevens is a shocking double personality. What, did I just accuse the writer I am interviewing of being psychotic? No, I do not think so. Authors have the ability to have multiple personalities they can portray on paper. G. M. Stevens the author eclipses Gina’s sweet nature in her stories. However, on her blog Gina Barlean opens up unashamedly portraying her love of cooking, travel, being a farm wife, and having a family.
Gina may well be that sweet innocent woman of the plains. However, G. M. Stevens breaks free from the bonds of a simple life and into a world of crime, the darkness of an overbearing religious family patron, then breaking back into the humorous side of life with a story about a man named Barney Pfeiffer.
Q. Gina from what I have related to the reader so far, do you feel I have portrayed you with any accuracy?
A. You are very close, I think. I do live a simple life on a farm, near a small, rural community. I'm fairly typical and blend in quite nicely with the locals - but little do they know.... mwahahahaha.
Although I love teaching Bible stories to a Confirmation class at my church, and I always volunteer to work the canteen at the blood drives, I also love to read Stephen King and watch horror movies. Like the characters I try to create, I like most people have layers of personality that make me who I am. One can't run around acting out the horror movies we watch now, can we? I don't though, write what I consider horror. I like a deep topic and a good moral at the end with some of my writing and I enjoy using dramatic situations to achieve that. The book I hope to publish within the next six months is such a story. The tentative title is CASTING STONES: SAVING JAMES RAVEN. This dramatic, single title work should leave the reader pondering things for a day or two, if not longer.
Q. G. M. Stevens sent me a chapter of a story in progress about a man who sees himself as the hand of God over a family cringing in fear of his violent teachings. I must say, I wanted to shoot the guy from the beginning, and I am not violent. How did you come up with this character?
A. Something that has been in the news for a while is the picketing by the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka Kansas. Their leader Fred Phelps is certainly the type of person who looms heavily in my concerns for how people can negatively perceive Christians. The character in the book I am working on is the epitome of how not to see all Christians. I've also had family members who have border-lined on this type of zealous, judgmental example. Hypocrisy is at the heart of the "moral to the story" that I am trying to achieve. I want the reader to hate that character. He is one of the stories villains.
Q. I want to ask one more question about the voices of THE BARTON FAMILY. You give a voice to each character in the book. Each character intrigued me. As an author myself, I must ask how you keep these voices separated?
A. I am an aspiring author. I started seriously writing in 2009 and I'm on a mission to learn the craft. I'm still in the process. Of course, I don't think I'll ever be done learning, but I make huge strides every day. There is so much more to writing than I would have ever expected. Writing the story is the easy part by far. Marketing, creating a platform, learning how to submit, being involved with writing groups and critique groups... the list goes on and on. Yet, the most important thing to me at this point, is learning the proper skills to honor the art of writing itself. One thing I'm learning through a critique partner I've found, is how to avoid "head hopping". I so love to be the omniscient observer and slide in and out of every character's thoughts. I'm doing my level best to resolve this bad writing habit. I am hoping by the time I publish any of my books, I will have them fine tuned and easy to read. I love to read old books, not necessarily classics, but more just things written in the past. I was just reading some short stories by Flannery O'Connor. I love her wording and style. I also love that narrative style and yes, her work kind of head-hops. I suppose it's all of these things that lead me to write this way, yet, I realize today's readers, particularly genre readers, prefer point of view to be clearer.
Q. Your crime novel DEAD BLOW meets sledgehammer to head. My minds eye immediately saw a shed with walls splattered with blood and a menacing figure standing in the darkest corner with a giant sledgehammer. I felt chills and that was from the synopsis. Do you have a shed on your farm that inspired this story? Where does the peaceful Gina go when G. M. Stevens crawls into your mind to relate to these violent fiends?
A. Ha. Well, maybe the fiend-creating GM Stevens keeps Gina so peaceful. Yes, I have this exact shed on our farm. It's funny because when I was writing this murder scene I wasn't sure what farm tool I wanted to use as the murder weapon. I wandered out to my husband's machine shed in which he also has a machine shop. It didn't take me long to find a Dead Blow sledge hammer leaning beside a table, just begging to be written about. I'll enclose the picture I took of it. Then I proceeded to handle the hammer and feel what it would be like to swing it. It was a good experiment and helped me write the murder scene and ultimately title the book. I also spent time talking to my husband about how the hammer is made and used and why it's different than a regular hammer.
Q. Your biography lists other accomplishments from you life. Careers, family, and many other factors influence many authors. You have owned and run a photography studio, been the Director of the David City Chamber of Commerce, and most recently you joined and participated in the events of the Nebraska Writer’s Guild. What drives you as a person and a writer?
A. I think above all else, I'm a curious person. I am a creative soul I suppose. I've been a painter, a singer, a jewelry maker. I sew, crochet, cook, garden... and who knows what will drive me next. I pursue the things that interest me, and let's face it... the world is a very interesting place!
I hope you'll all be watching for me. You can follow me on twitter. Look for @thegmstevens. I have a blog called thegmstevens.wordpress.com, and website, gmstevens.com. I have an author page on Face Book too. I currently belong to the Nebraska Writers Guild and a new founded group in Seward, Nebraska called The Local Muse. I hope to publish both DEAD BLOW and CASTING STONES: SAVING JAMES RAVEN, by the spring of 2012. CASTING STONES may very well end up becoming a series.
I'm also working on a mother/daughter mystery series, which I think will prove I can let my silly side out. This will be a quirky jaunt with fun characters. The main character is Cyd Cherise DeGraffe, the bumbling middle-aged gal whose daughter has to get her out of all the trouble she finds. (Maybe that's the real me after all!)
Welcome readers, to the school of writing that all authors join from the first snippet of a poem or story. Gina, aka G. M. Stevens chose to add a new career to her repertoire of successes. She chose to write. I look forward to reading her books and encourage you to be looking for them soon.
I found it refreshing to interview an individual coming into the world of words from a fresh point of view. The mistakes we make in the beginning can become the builders that help our characters evolve. Constructive criticism will always help a writer grow.
G. M. Stevens is breaking out in a big way. She seems to be unafraid of a challenge. She encourages me, as an author, to jump into the deep water of ‘what if’ without reservation.