You Own Me
, which was released on Valentine's Day. Today we chat with Gebhard about her book and her life leading up to writing it. (All photos and materials courtesy of Gebhard.
Mary Catherine Gebhard
Gavin: Hey Mary, first thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I've lived in Salt Lake City, Utah my entire life. I occasionally go on vacation from reality, but don't worry I send postcards. Also, I have two cats, a dog, and the occasional imaginary friend.
Gavin: What first caught your interest in literature, and what were your favorite titles growing up?
The first thing that caught my interest is, I believe, what catches most people's interest: escapism. While reading I was catapulted into another realm. I always had a huge imagination as a kid (still do) and it was awesome to me (still is) that all I had to do to be a fairy, a witch, a Rockefeller, was just open a book. Also romance. I loved and still love romance books. I was huge on "love at first sight," do anything to be with the person, Romeo & Juliet
type books growing up. Now, I still love epic Romance, but with some reality thrown in. You know, for seasoning.
Gavin: What pushed you to start writing early on and what were some of your stories about?
So I said earlier that I loved to escape. It soon became clear that books weren't enough for me. I wanted to create my universe. That's what had me writing my own stories. I wanted to read about an eleven-year-old marine biologist that fought crime and had a pet dog named Spunky. Uh... They didn't carry that particular book at the store. So I wrote it. Later on my writing became about survival and empathy. When I was sick, writing characters with the same illness and hardships as me made me feel less alone. It was like finally there was someone out there who dealt with the same shit. Finally, I wasn't alone. I read my characters and felt kinship.
Gavin: In some of your posts about becoming an author, you mentioned that you grew up being chronically ill. What was your life like growing up in SLC while working through an illness?
It was tough. I have and still have the greatest family and greatest support system I could ever want, but it was really terrible, I'm not going to sugar coat it. I wouldn't want to change any of it because without my illness I wouldn't have become the writer I am or have my life now. Who knows who I would be... Still, it was rough. There were times I fantasized about getting hit by a truck. Not because I wanted to die—not yet anyway, the suicidal thoughts came later. I wanted to be hit by a truck because then I would have a reason to be sick. My illness was so invisible that even I began to doubt if it existed. I figured if I was hit by a truck I would have a reason to feel the way I was feeling. There would be no doubts anymore. That's a really tough place for a girl growing up to be in. Despite all that I've gained through the turmoil, sometimes I wish all I had to worry about was puberty.
Gavin: You've studied at the University of Utah. Did you take any courses related to writing or were you looking into other fields at the time?
I actually just started at the U. I'm getting a degree in Psychology with an emphasis in neuroscience. I'm hoping to one day
work at figuring out the link between mental illness and those who suffer from the same kind of invisible illnesses I do.
Gavin: What was the biggest influence for you to want to write a novel?
I wanted my stories out there. I wanted to give my characters and, by association, me, a voice.
Gavin: How did the inspiration for You Own Me come about?
Mary: You Own Me
is one of what I call my “bipolar books.” I wrote it before I was diagnosed with bipolar and was having a manic episode. Before my diagnosis, I would periodically get super inspired, write half a novel, then forget about it and move on. When I was finally diagnosed and got on meds I went back and organized all of my bipolar books and started reading You Own Me
again. I was like, “hey, this is kind of good!” At that time, You Own Me
was just a shell of what it is now. When I began to really write You Own Me, it
transmogrified into semi-autobiography (semi,
because I don't have a psycho, stalker ex). Lennox's journey to find what happiness really meant and get over the gnawing, sinking hole inside and be your own happiness was very similar to my own this year.
Gavin: What was it about having a psychological romance story that you found so appealing?
I really love getting into the mind of the character. It's my favorite part of reading any book, so naturally it's my favorite part of writing a book. That's why I love psychological books and what drew me to the genre of Psychological Romance.
Gavin: Did you find yourself going back and fixing a lot of things as you went along, or was it a straight-forward process for you?
For You Own Me
it was pretty straightforward. I knew what I wanted and I wrote it. There are some books, though, where I start out with something and it's completely different in the end.
Gavin: What was the initial reaction from people who read it prior to publishing?
It was mixed. Some people love it and some people hate it. Though the visceral reactions were a little startling, I can't say I'm too surprised. The characters I wrote are difficult. They aren't easy to get along with. Lennox and Vic are both battling with mental demons and do things that are sometimes counter-productive.
Gavin: You chose to self-publish the book on your own through Amazon. What made you decide to go that route rather than find a publisher?
I've self-published a few short stories and novellas on my nom-de-plume before and I really loved the freedom it gave me. I was able to be in charge of everything on my own. It was pretty exhausting though.
Gavin: You also launched a successful Kickstarter to help fund the efforts. How was it asking for help from the public and seeing that kind of response?
I loved doing the Kickstarter! It gave my family and friends a chance to be a part of the publishing. Having now completed the Kickstarter, though, in hindsight there are a few things I might've done differently. I invited people I didn't know personally to fund my Kickstarter. While I made new and lasting friends that way, notably some blogs and authors, I also aggravated people. They saw my invitation as me begging for money and in extreme cases, a personal attack on their livelihood. At the beginning of my campaign, I received a lot of hate mail. That was... interesting.
Gavin: What do hope readers will take away from the book?
If they take anything away I want them to take away an experience. I want them to have read You Own Me
and escaped for a few hours. When I read a book it's a way to unwind and disappear into a new world. I hope readers can do that with my book.
Gavin: Being a new author, what has your experience been like getting this book out, and what do you recommend to others trying to do the same?
Don't ever give up! Ever! Write every single day, and if you miss a day, don't be hard on yourself. You have to be your cheerleader, because no one is going to cheer as hard for you as you can. The most important thing to remember is that if you love this and you want to do this, don't stop. Don't ever stop. Not for a bad review, a bad attitude, for anything. Don't ever stop.
Gavin: What do you have currently in the works for your next book?
I've got a few books on the horizon. I'm writing a comedy romance, a dramatic romance, and a psychological thriller romance series. I'm also releasing a werewolf series on my nom de plume, Eva Natsumi.
With so many writers in the community, myself included, everyone seems to be working on a novel or a script at some point. It's always the natural progression of a writer to branch out and become more than the sum of their parts, so making a grander gesture in the form of a lengthy manuscript always seems like it's the direction to go. Now that self-publishing has become a much more productive beast in the past few years, especially with eReaders capturing a wider audience, many who chase that dream are finding success both strenuous yet easier to obtain. One of the most recent local authors to enter the fray is Mary Catherine Gebhard, who has produced her own romantic suspense novel titled