JEANNE LYET GASSMAN: BLOOD OF A STONE IS A STORY OF MURDER BETRAYAL AND LOVE
Posted by Ognian Georgiev
Jeanne Lyet Gassman’s full novel debut Blood of a Stone was published in March. The novel gathered decent feedback and currently is standing with average 4,6 Amazon stars from 24 reviews. “Incredibly Written”, “A fantastic read!” and “Suspenseful and satisfying” are few of the notices from the readers.
We are happy to have as a guest Jeanne Lyet Gassman for our next feature chat.
– Jeanne, What is your debut book Blood of a Stone about?
– Set in the first century on the edges of the Roman Empire and the Jesus movement, Blood of a Stone is a story of murder, betrayal, love, and the search for redemption. When Demetrios is brutalized by his Roman master, Demetrios confronts his master and flees to Galilee where he attempts to create a new life and identity. But secrets cannot remain secret forever, and Demetrios must answer the question we all ask: Can we ever be free of our past?
– How did you decide to write the story?
– Believe it or not, the core of the story is based on a dream my husband had about Kirk Douglas directing a movie about a man who plots to assassinate Christ. My husband is renowned in our family for his vivid dreams, and when he started describing this one to me, I stole the idea and ran with it. I was so obsessed with this story that I wrote the first 65 pages in less than four days.
– What was the biggest challenge during the write up process?
– Research. Once I finished those first 65 pages, I realized I had very little knowledge of the era other than Bible readings and Sunday school lessons. To bring this story to life, I needed to know more about the different cultures, the lifestyles, and the flora and fauna. I took a break from writing the book (several years) and focused on my research by reading scholarly texts, interviewing experts, and visiting museums. After the book was accepted by Tuscany Press, I worked one-on-one with a brilliant historical expert who reviewed the entire manuscript and advised me on several major changes. The historical accuracy is something I’m very proud of.
– Tell us something more about your main characters Demetrios and Elazar? Are they close to someone from your real life?
– Neither Demetrios nor Elazar resemble any one person in my real life. They are composites of personality types I’ve known. When it came to matters of faith and belief, I wanted Demetrios to be a blank slate, a person who had no religious traditions. I wanted to explore what the Jesus movement would look like to an outsider. Demetrios first meets Elazar when they are both slaves owned by the cruel Roman general, Marcus, and Elazar assumes the role of mentor to Demetrios. At the beginning of the book, Demetrios is dependent on Elazar to guide him and teach him, but as Demetrios matures, he begins to chart his own path.
– How much time did you need to finish the story and to publish it?
– From the first chapters to the published book? About seven years. I took time off for research and to write other projects, so the book stumbled along for several years. Then I whipped through a complete first draft in less than six months during my MFA program. After that, everything moved more quickly. Tuscany Press offered me a contract in late 2012, and we began the revisions in 2013. The book was ready to go to press in the fall of 2014, but we held back so that we could time the release around the Easter season.
– Tell us more about your short stories?
– Ah, I cut my teeth on reading short stories and learned my craft from writing them. My published short stories range in length from short flash (280 words) to longer forms up to 6,000 words. Most of my short fiction is dark and intense, but I have also written some humor. “Mental Express,” for example, is a light-hearted piece about the woes of too much technology in our lives. You can find my published short fiction in numerous literary magazines, including Switchback, Red Savina Review, Hermeneutic Chaos Literary Journal, The Museum of Americana, Assisi: An Online Journal of Arts and Letters, WOW!, and LQQK, among others.
– Who are you?
– I am a person who is truly blessed. I have a wonderful family, and I’ve been able to pursue my dreams.
– What are your writing habits?
– I tend to be fairly disciplined. When I’m working on a big project, such as a new book, I write all morning from about 8:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. Then I break for lunch with my husband. In the afternoon, I may work on “business” tasks, such as edits for my clients, social media and promotion, or responding to interviews like this one. I try to set evenings aside for family and relaxation. I’m also very good with deadlines. If I don’t have an external deadline for a project, I set my own deadline to keep me moving forward.
– Are you satisfied by the sales of your books?
– Blood of a Stone was just released in March 2015, and I’m so new at this that I don’t really have a good feel for how well sales are going. I will know more when the first royalty statements come in October. The book is available as an eBook, paperback, and hard copy from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound, so it’s getting good distribution. And Blood of a Stone received an Independent Publisher Book Award (bronze) in the national category of religious fiction in April. Reviews have been good, too. One can hope all of that will contribute to successful sales.
– What are you doing to promote your book by the best possible way?
– Prior to publication and shortly thereafter, my publisher and I worked as a team to get Blood of a Stone reviewed in the press. We did pick up some nice reviews and mentions in several regional and national papers, as well as reviews on blogs and a radio show interview. In May, I participated in a virtual blog tour with 15 blogs, and I have another virtual blog tour coming up the end of June through early July. I’ve also spoken to a couple of book clubs and signed books at several venues. I still have book signings scheduled for the coming months. In addition, I’m active and engaged with readers on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. But promoting a book is always a challenge, I think, whether the book is traditionally published or self-published.
– When will we see your next novel and would you unveil something more about it?
– Since I don’t have an agent or a contract for the next novel, I can’t tell you when it will come out. I can tell you that a draft of The Double Sun is nearly complete and will be off to beta readers soon, before I dig into the final revisions and begin the submission process all over again. This novel is quite different from my current book. Set in the mid-twentieth century and narrated from four distinct points of view, The Double Sun is about a family whose lives are intertwined with the atomic bomb tests in Nevada during the 1950s and 1960s. When the mother, Irene, becomes convinced her miscarriages are caused by living so close to the Nevada Test Site, she abandons her husband and young son to protect her unborn child, creating a rift in the family that may never be healed. The Double Sun is the story of the compromises we make for reconciliation and the grief and guilt that hold us back.
– You lost a son and a daughter and later became activist in groups for parents who have lost children. How important is it for parents to seek help from others in such tough moments of their life?
– It can be valuable to seek help from others who have experienced the same loss. The death of one’s child goes against the laws of nature, and you can feel terribly alone in your grief, especially if you are surrounded by happy, intact families. I remember the first time I attended a meeting of The Compassionate Friends (a support group for parents who have lost a child at any age) I was so relieved to be able to talk about my pain and sadness and hear that others understood. But it’s also important to remember that not everyone grieves in the same way. Some people prefer to grieve and work through their feelings alone. If your grief is holding you back from participating in everyday life, damaging personal relationships, or costing you professionally, then you should seek help, either from a professional or a grief support group. I personally prefer the community of the grief support group, but that’s just me.
– You graduated at a late age with an MFA in writing. What kind of changes to your literary creativity showed up after you took courses and received the degree?
– For me, the MFA in Writing was life-changing. Prior to the MFA, I was a writer who worked sporadically, spinning a short story or two, adding another chapter to my novel-that-was-taking-forever. The MFA greatly enhanced my craft and taught me discipline. I began to think of myself as a “working writer,” which meant I showed up at the page even when I wasn’t inspired. And I wrote–a lot. After graduating, I started getting published regularly. I won first place in a flash fiction contest sponsored by WOW! and received a fellowship to Ragdale, a dream artist’s residency. My completed first novel, Blood of a Stone, was a finalist for the Tuscany Prize and received an offer of publication by Tuscany Press. That same book won an Independent Publisher Book Award in the national category of religious fiction. None of this would have happened if I hadn’t pursued my MFA.
– If you may ask yourself one question in the interview what will it be?
“What’s next?” Write more books and short stories. Enter more writing competitions and apply for more artist residencies. Continue to hone my craft. The sky is the limit!
Take a look at her book:
Blood of a Stone