Written Interviews

TLOP Interviews Gabriella Balcom

“You deserve to do things which mean something to you. If writing is one of your aspirations, then pursue it with every fiber of your being” —Gabriella Balcom

What is your name, where are you from and what are your hobbies?

Hello. My name is Gabriella Balcom, and I live in Texas. I like traveling, music, good shows, photography, history, interesting tales of all sorts, genealogy, scrapbooking, plants, and animals. I’m a sucker for a great story and love forests, mountains, and back roads which might lead who knows where.

How did growing up as a writer looked like for you?

My father was a teacher and linguist, and my mother taught before my birth, working in a library afterward. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t surrounded by books and reading materials, and my mother taught me to read and write when I was quite young. Words have always been very important to me. However, I stopped writing altogether when I went to college, because I was busy with classes and jobs. Marriage, children, and work kept me occupied for years, and after I divorced, I literally met myself coming and going.

In 2012, I couldn’t hold back the words anymore, and they poured out of me as if floodgates had opened. What I wrote was mostly cathartic, but it turned creative. A few years ago, I had the idea to earn money with my creations, and realized for that to happen, I’d need to build upon my skills. I joined my first writing group on Facebook, learned about a call for short stories, wrote two works for the specified theme, and hired my first editor. One of my creations was accepted and published in an anthology. After that, I joined other FB groups, continued submitting for calls and getting acceptances, and the rest is history.

I write fantasy, horror, science fiction, romance, literary fiction, children’s stories, and more. Over 250 of my creations (poems, drabbles, and stories of all lengths) have been accepted for publication. One of my stories was voted best in the anthology in which it appeared, and I won the opportunity to have a book published by Clarendon House Publications. My multi-genre anthology of short stories, On the Wings of Ideas, came out in 2020, and I was nominated for the Washington Science Fiction Association’s Small Press Award. I won second place in JayZoMon/Dark Myth Company’s Open Contract Challenge (a competition in which people can win publishing contracts), and my novelette, Worth Waiting For, was released, along with Free’s Tale: No Home for Christmas-time. Black Hare Press published my sci-fi novella, The Return, in March 2021, and another novella pends publication.

I’ve earned very little money thus far, with the majority of my acceptances not paying anything. However, I hope to someday be able to support myself with my writing.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Writing energizes me. It’s both cathartic and builds my self-esteem.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

Yes, I thought about it repeatedly before deciding to do so.

How did publishing your first book (If you have any) change your process of writing?

It didn’t, but it did serve as a self-esteem and confidence booster. Anytime I’m down or discouraged, I think about being published or other successes, and I immediately feel better. Now, if only more copies of my books would sell, so I could earn something… Lol!

What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

The majority of my stories are not based on actual people. I do draw upon reality now and then for personality traits or life events—such as in my story, “Nun or Not?”—but the majority of the time I do not. And, even when I do, I stretch what I use way, way beyond the truth. Some real people I’ve used as inspiration were abusive monsters, so if I owe them anything at all, it would be the ringing declaration, “I survived in spite of you.”

Many of my characters “come to me,” per se, popping into my thoughts fully-formed. Sometimes I can picture them in action or hear them. Other times I make them up, along with their backstories.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

I’ve only gotten a few reviews so far, and they’ve been good. I read them because doing so lifts my spirits and serves as encouragement for me. They also motivate me to write more.

What inspires you to write?

Many things inspire me: the woods around me which I love, animals, plants, smells, music, things from my past, my dreams for the future, pictures, my imagination—pretty much anything and everything..

How do you expect your book (If you have any) to connect with your readers?

Depending on the genre of my story, I aspire to touch, astound, inspire, or horrify. I hope my creations open doorways for readers, leading them from their everyday lives into other worlds and situations. I want people to feel the impact of my words long after they’re through reading, and with some of my stories, I try to encourage readers to never give up and always keep trying.

What was your hardest scene to write in one of your books (If you have any)?

I think it was either a sword-fighting scene, or one in which a character was dealing with her sadness, past abuse, and inner demons.

Why should I purchase your book (If you have any)?

I believe readers will enjoy my stories and be captivated. Most revolve around everyday people coming face-to-face with amazing situations, magical beings, unexpected adversity or adversaries, or struggling to overcome challenges or inner demons. Readers have told me they were brought to tears, horrified beyond belief, or felt they were on the edge of their seats and there alongside the characters about whom they read.

Get it on Amazon

Do you want each of the book you write (If you have any) to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

Most of my stories stand alone, so readers can start with any one rather than needing to go in order. I have some works-in-progress that are inter-connected, but they’re not available to readers yet.

What do you believe are the common traps for aspiring writers?

Many assume their works are ready for publication as soon as they finish writing. They don’t realize how important editing is, and put out books which are full of errors and leave a bad impression. Some of the most common mistakes are: telling versus showing, switching back and forth between tenses, head-hopping, and erring as far as sentence structure, grammar, and punctuation.

Writers sometimes become discouraged when they submit things and get rejection after rejection. They don’t realize this is common for those starting out, and that they should keep on keeping on.

Others expect to rake in money from the time they put out their very first work, even though doing so is extremely rare. It’s typical for authors to make little to nothing at first, then earn more as they persevere, improve their writing, and publish more things.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

I’d say, “Believe in yourself, no matter what.” I would also tell myself to not stop writing when I did, but to continue and make regular time for it.

My advice to writers out there is: Don’t let anyone make you feel worthless or drive you to give up on your dreams. You deserve to be happy. You deserve to do things which mean something to you. If writing is one of your aspirations, then pursue it with every fiber of your being. Put regular time into learning, improving, growing, practicing, and always—always—BELIEVE IN YOURSELF!

The League of Poets, I want to thank you for interviewing me.