Monday, July 9, 2012

Telling Angel's Story by Helen Ginger

Helen Ginger has been writing for as long as she can remember. In high school, she wrote tragic love stories. As soon as she finished a page, someone would take it, read, and pass it on. She has no idea what happened to any of those stories. As a college student, she wrote a lot of poetry until it came time to write her thesis, which was a study of the communication on both vertical and horizontal levels within three different companies. Even now, she has a writer's split personality, writing both non-fiction and fiction.

In addition to writing, Helen's been a teacher, a mermaid, a mother, a wife, an editor, the Executive Director of the Writers League of Texas, President of the Sisters in Crime: Heart of Texas chapter, Coordinator of Story Circle Network's Editorial Services, Partner and Co-Owner of Legends In Our Own Minds®, and a Volunteer Chair for the Texas Book Festival. And she's proud to say she's never been fired from any of those jobs.

Helen, it's a pleasure having you guest post for my blog today. Welcome!


Telling Angel's Story by Helen Ginger 

I've written three books for TSTC Publishing. Each is a resource book for those thinking of getting a degree in that particular area of study. Each book required hours of research online and in person, days of interviewing and transcribing. There's very little of "me" in any of my nonfiction. And that's the way it should be.

My current fiction book, Angel Sometimes, on the other hand, has a lot of me in it. Angel's life is not my life, but there are bit and pieces of me in her, the biggest thing being her job. At 17, after 5 years on the streets, she gets a job swimming as a mermaid. To write the scenes of her swimming at a bar/restaurant, I drew from my 3 years swimming at a resort/park. A lot of what you read is based on those years of getting into and out of the tail, eating and drinking in the underwater picnic, doing synchronized ballet, feeding the fish, other things the mermaids did in the underwater show. Not everything is the same, though. For example, Angel has to swim through a fairly tight tube to the outer walls of the restaurant and then perform in the more narrow outer tanks.

Angel also swims for a different audience. The crowd at Aquarena Springs, where I performed, were primarily tourists, both families and adults. At the Aquarium, where Angel swims, there are two sections. The "G-room" is where families eat. The mermaids who swim that room wear a less revealing suit. Angel swims the main room where mostly men watch while they drink and eat. The mermaids wear bikini tops and the tail. The mermaids are the big pull for the bar. But Angel isn't fazed by the leers. She's been there long enough to know how to handle herself. What's most important to her is that the mermaids who swim in the main tank get paid more than those in the G-room.

Angel Sometimes is a strong woman. At 12, she was driven 800 miles from home and left on the streets. At 16, she hitchhiked to Austin, Texas, almost halfway back home. At 17, she gets a job at The Aquarium. At 22, she has a car and she almost has her G.E.D. The only other thing she needs to go home and confront her parents is a gun. And she knows where to get one.

As I wrote, I felt Angel's presence. She almost seemed to be in my head, telling me her story. By the end, I began to envision possible book covers. My first thought was a mermaid, but I dropped that because I wanted readers to have their own version of Angel in mind. Then I thought it should be a picture of IH-35, the highway that took her from her home and the highway she takes to return home. Finally, I realized it had to be a picture of a flower garden -- a garden that Angel's mother planted each Spring in honor of Baby Celia.

I thought about having a professional cover made, but in the end decided to do my own since I knew what I wanted. My husband and I spent a day taking pictures at the Lady Bird Wildflower Center. When I saw the picture that came to be the cover, I knew it was the one, the garden that Angel's mother planted each year.


Helen, thanks so much for joining us today. I love stories about how novels came together and the writing life. There's always a piece of the author in each book, so I'll be thinking of your connection to Angel while I'm reading Angel Sometimes.

You can read more about Helen and her writing at her blog Straight from Hel. She is on GoodReads and can also be found on Facebook and Twitter


Laura Eno said...

I love the feeling of having a character in my head telling me the story - especially when they argue with me and point me in a better direction. ;)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You got to use your mermaid experience - that's cool!

Karen Casey Fitzjerrell said...

Golly, Helen. The way you describe your relationship with Angel, it's as if you "channeled" her. The book was wonderful. I especially liked the way you tied Angel's experience in water to the truths she sees at the end of the story. Great post. kcf

Karen Walker said...

I loved loved loved this novel. And it's so sweet to hear that parts of it are Helen's story as well. I have loved Helen's mermaid tales on her blog.

Helen Ginger said...

Hi all. I'm a bit late here today. Sorry. Been online with iYogi. The tech was fixing a problem on my computer.

I enjoyed having Angel in my head. I may write a sequel, but I'm still pondering where life takes her next.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Good morning everyone, and thanks again, Helen, for being here today. "Angel Sometimes" is next up on my reading list. The reviews have been wonderful.

Lynn Proctor said...

this does sound like you had her in your head telling you her story--even before i read the part about you and your husband designing your cover--i thought it was absolutely stunning!

author Christa Polkinhorn said...

Helen, as you know I loved the book--and the beautiful cover. I can relate to your having Angel in your head all the time. My characters constantly follow me around, poke me, complain, and try to tell me what they want to do, but I love them! Looking forward to your next book!

susan said...

Hi Helen, I've downloaded the book and look forward to reading it. The cover is beautiful. I'm impressed that you did it yourself!

Anonymous said...

You know you're tapped in when you feel a character's presence, telling their story through you. Great post and best wishes for you and Angel Sometimes.

Sylvia Dickey Smith said...

I'm REALLY late! Didn't even know the book had been published! Helen!, so sorry I missed it. Heading to Amazon right now for my copy! I'd waited on this story for a long time, thrilled to see it is out! Guess I've had my head buried or something!

Glynis said...

I am like, Sylvia, out of the loop and late to the party! Congratulations, Helen. Loved the interview, and am so looking forward to reading about the Mermaid experiences. I love how you brought a bit of you into the story!

Jemi Fraser said...

I've got my copy of Angel - just have to get to it!! Life is always so full :)

Helen Ginger said...

Christa, I'm just glad Angel didn't visit my dreams every night. Characters used to do that to me.

Sylvia, that's my fault. I haven't done a shout out to friends. I didn't want friends to feel spammed by me.

Amen, Jemi. That is the truth!

Arlee Bird said...

I've never been to one of those water places with the mermaids, but I've seen them on TV. I used to be fascinated when I'd see those TV shows about Cypress Gardens I guess it was and the women who were able to do the mermaid performances. I could never hold my breath like that.

Tossing It Out

Helen Ginger said...

Arlee, we had air hoses, but when we did synchronized ballet, we handed off the air hose. Those who had been there a long time would do the ballet moves slowly. Sometimes, we'd be close to three minutes before we reached for the air hose. Those who were rookies would be grabbing for it before the rest of us finished the first backwards roll. We had a lot of rookies in the summer. Winters were the long-termers.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Helen, thanks again for being here today. I did see those lovely underwater ballerinas at Cypress Gardens when I was a teenager and was amazed, especially when I hated to open my eyes underwater.

Now that I know one needs to hold one's breath for three minutes to be a successful mermaid, I see I would have had two strikes against me. :D

lizy-expat-writer said...

The very idea of swimming through a tube fills me with horror!

Helen said...

Being able to hold your breath that long takes a long time to develop. I certainly couldn't do it today! Back then, I swam almost every day. Aquarena was open every day except Christmas day.