Monday, September 10, 2012

Interview with Gretchen Elhassani

Today I'd like to introduce Gretchen Elhassani whose novel "Volunteers for Literacy" has just been released this month.  If you're looking for something new to read; this is the story you want.  First, let me show you the book cover... just so you know what you're looking for. Going to the library will have a whole new meaning for in the future.


Now for some details about both the author and the book.

What is the title and genre and give us a 30 word or less tagline about your book: Volunteers for Literacy, thriller. A learned edifice. A hostage crisis. The heroes: a librarian, a homeless man and an illiterate woman.  Sometimes learning to read can be a killer.
What makes your book different from others on the market? This book tackles social issues such as illiteracy and homelessness in the course of the narrative. It shines a light on the hidden epidemic of adult illiteracy, but in such a way that the reader should relate to the character and her struggles.  At its heart, it is a fast-paced action/adventure novel set in a library.  Sure to engage those bibliophiles among us!
Why do you write this particular genre? I dropped out of college because I was sick of academia.  This means that the jobs I am able to secure are not necessarily thought-provoking endeavors.  I have time to ruminate as I slave over my data entry, and my mind naturally inclines toward thrillers.  I always imagine myself a warrior defeating criminals, though in reality, I am just an ordinary person.
Why did you pick this particular title? Volunteers for Literacy is the organization within the library that brings the heroine into her situation.  I also wanted to highlight the uniqueness of the main character, her inability to read.
Which came first, the title or the idea? The idea.  I worked for a volunteer literacy organization for ten years in the basement of the public library.  The book is loosely based on my experiences.
Your experiences? Are you telling us you were illiterate? No, I am not illiterate. I worked with adults who were illiterate.
Okay, my bad. Was there much research for the novel? I did some research for the novel specifically, but most of it came from my own personal experiences within the library.  The details about adult literacy are a by-product of my work environment.
Who are your influences for writing? James Ellroy is super cool, I think.  I went through a long period where the only thing I read was true crime.  Then I creeped myself out on that, and went through a phase of not reading.  Recently I have been devouring books by other indie authors.  A Cold Day for Murder by Dana Stabenow got me energized to write again recently.
Do you have a writing regime? I like to push myself, but when I really don’t feel the mood, I have learned to let it go.  When I’m kicking it into high gear, I wake up early to write, and I stay up late.  I write while the kids are watching television, and on my breaks at work.
You tell us you have children. I raised four children -- writing and raising is an interesting combination. Would you care to expound on that? If not, I understand some don't want their personal lives splattered all over the internet, but, if you wish...  I do have children, and they come first. I am often unable to work on a project due to homework or dinner or potty time. It's the nature of the beast. I just keep plugging away every chance I get.
How long did it take to create this manuscript? Variations? How many? It took about a year to write this novel, but I took some time off in the middle of that year.  The manuscript is largely the same (with massive edits), but the ending is completely different.  I had a lovely woman read the first copy and was terrified to read her comments.  I then changed the ending, adding a bit more of a secondary character and changing the location.  I think the enhancements worked well.  (The first draft was a bit weird)
Who is your favorite and least favorite character? Why?  Amanda is my favorite character, she is the protagonist and the woman who cannot read.  My least favorite character is the lead bad guy, Johnson.  I wrote him almost one dimensional.  There are other characters who participate in the murders but are more sympathetic.  Johnson is just a cold blooded killer. 
Who do you consider your audience for this novel? I hope this novel will appeal to those who enjoy frequenting libraries.  There are nuggets of library gossip hidden within the narrative, and the entire plot revolves around literacy. 
Why do you write? What inspired you? And how long have you been writing? I’ve been writing ever since I was a child.  My first work was a book of poems about Winnie the Pooh.  I’m my biggest critic, however, and I am always striving to do better.  This book was edited by Kim Coghlan, and she did a wonderful job, teaching me nuances even as she polished the book.  If I live to be 100, I’m sure I will still be learning!  Even if I couldn’t publish, I would still be writing.  It’s what I do; it’s in my bones; I’m addicted to it.
So, where can we find you on the web? I have a blog called Creative Writing Addict at http://publottery.blogspot.comI do author interviews, book reviews and my own random musings.
Where can we get our hands on this very interesting novel, Volunteers for Literacy? It’s out in ebook on Amazon at and also at
Thank you Gretchen for spending a few moments with us and sharing this great insight of your novel. We look forward to this exciting read.
Until next I ramble...


  1. Thanks for posting this blog entry!

  2. Gretchen that was a great interview!