Writers@Work: An Interview with Indie Author Gayle M. Irwin
November 12, 2019
An Interview with Gayle M. Irwin
By Rochelle Melander
Welcome to the blog, Gayle! Can you tell us about your new book, Rescue Road?
I appreciate the opportunity to be here – thank you!
Rescue Road is a clean, contemporary romance with a bit of intrigue mingled with dog rescue. The theme of the story is second chances, for both human and animal. My primary characters, Rhiann and Levi, experienced rejection in love; therefore, even though they’re attracted to one another, both resist involvement. Rhiann and Levi have more trouble than simply resisting each other romantically – they also lay claim to the same ranch, which logically dampens the spark of attraction. I also throw in a villain who attempts to charm Rhiann in order to obtain the ranch. Rhiann rescues and rehomes dogs, giving them a second chance at life and love, and readers will meet some of those furry friends in the story. They will discover the inner strength and deep compassion of this woman – as does Levi. The book is set in southwestern Montana, an area I once lived. The region is beautiful, and I think readers will be able to place themselves there as I describe sights and sounds of the setting throughout the book. This is the first in a series I’m calling Pet Rescue Romance; each novel weaves pet rescue into the human romance story.
I see that you are an advocate of adopting rescue dogs. And I see that you have published several books that connect to your love of dogs. Can you talk about how you’ve turned that passion into a writing career?
I have been a pet rescue and adoption advocate for decades. My first pet as a child was a stray kitten; my family and I had her until she passed due to old age. I’ve rescued and adopted ever since. I also worked for two different humane societies (one in Montana and one in Wyoming) over the course of my career, conducting education programs, speaking on TV and radio programs as well as creating newspaper ads and announcements, and helping with adoptions. I’ve been a volunteer transporter for several years, helping rescue groups in my region (Rocky Mountain area) by driving dogs to their new families. I also support these groups by donating a percentage of book sales to them. All my current pets are adopted. I firmly believe in pet adoption – adoption saves lives, both the animal adopted and the next one waiting to come into rescue. The catalyst for becoming an author was my blind springer spaniel. My first published book, “Sage’s Big Adventure: Living With Blindness,” is a children’s chapter book that highlights the life of my blind dog, Sage. The book helps children understand several important life lessons: perseverance, courage, and trust, as well as that disability doesn’t mean inability. I was blessed to have two short stories about Sage published in two different “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books. I weave life and faith lessons into my work, including the importance of and joy of pet rescue and adoption. “Jeremiah Finds a Home,” a children’s picture book, highlights that concept through rescue and adoption of my Shih Tzu, Jeremiah, a puppy mill survivor. Jeremiah is also the foundation for a dog named Jax in “Rescue Road;” Jax is Rhiann’s beloved canine companion. At the end of the book people will find information on several organizations around the United States that rescue and rehome companion animals.
I also blog every week about companion animals, helping pet owners/pet lovers learn more about animal health, rescue and adoption, and other authors who write about pets. I also create a monthly newsletter called Pawprints when people subscribe via my website.
You have indie published several of your books, including this new romance novel. What are some tips you have for readers who want to go this route?
I enjoy being an Indie author! There are challenges, but my personality likes a challenge now and then. As the former editor of a small-town newspaper, I took on the tasks of writing and editing stories, taking photographs, helping design ads, and putting the newspaper together, all by a specific deadline each week with just one or two helpers. Of course, I was much younger then! The pros of being an Indie author include freedom – you design your book how you want, you express yourself how you want, and your voice stays your own. Plus, you can turn your work around much faster. You get to choose your editor and cover designer. If you’re writing for children, you can choose your illustrator, which I did for two of my books. My other children’s works feature photographs of my dogs. My husband is a videographer and photographer, and he and I take LOTS of pictures of our pets. With “Sage’s Big Adventure,” we decided to go with black and white photos instead of color. Sage was blind, and so grayscale pictures seemed appropriate, and it’s a unique style to use. That was our choice, and I’m glad we had the freedom to go that route. Traditionally published (one of my books, “Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned With My Blind Dog,” was traditionally published) offers many benefits, too, and I’ve thought of going that route again, but I guess I’m too much of a control freak – comes from being an only child, I think!
You write nonfiction, fiction, and children’s books. Can you talk about your writing process? How do you keep it all straight?
I enjoy sharing what’s in my heart. Ideas come from everywhere: hearing a story, traveling, personal experiences. For example, several years ago I transported a dog for an organization in Colorado called Big Dogs Huge Paws. The dog’s name was Jazmine, and she was going to a family in Canada. My job was to take her 2 ½ hours north of where I live and hand her off to another transporter. She was a sweet, gentle giant: a Great Pyrenees who had been abandoned with six puppies. Fortunately, someone found her and the pups and took them into rescue. As I drove, I thought about how many people she’d come to know, from the person who abandoned her, the one who found her and the pups, to her foster/rescue family, and each transporter along the way to her forever home in Canada. The idea of a children’s book popped into my head, as told from Jazmine’s point of view. The book will be completed in 2020. An appropriate year: perhaps we humans will improve our vision to 20-20 when it comes to how we treat animals in the future.
So, how do I keep all my writings straight? I guess that comes from juggling stories at the newspaper and now as a freelance writer. I’m often working on two or three articles at a time plus whatever book manuscript I’m writing. I believe one of my strong traits is multi-tasking, and I apply that to my writing career.
What are you reading now?
I’m reading a few different books. No Kidding in Love is an animal rescue contemporary romance by Eliza Boyd and You’re Made for a God-Sized Dream by Holley Gerth plus her accompanying devotional Opening the Door to Your God-Sized Dream. Eliza and I “met” earlier this year via a writers Facebook group, and when I learned what she was writing, there was a connection. I chose Holley’s work because even though I’ve been a writer for more than 25 years, I still struggle with self-doubt at times, and I heard a lot of good things about her writings and the work she does to encourage women in their purpose. I’m enjoying both women’s writings and look forward to reading more from each one. I’ve also discovered some cozy mysteries involving animal companions that I look forward to reading this winter.
About the author. Gayle M. Irwin is an award-winning author and freelance writer, being recognized by Wyoming Writers, Inc., and the Wyoming Press Association for several of her works. She is a contributor to seven Chicken Soup for the Soul books and the author of many inspirational pet books and stories for both children and adults. She subtly weaves important life lessons within the lines and pages of her stories, including courage, kindness, perseverance, friendship, appreciation of nature, and the importance of pet rescue and adoption. Her first novel, a clean, contemporary pet rescue romance titled Rescue Road, releases November 2019. A pet rescue and adoption advocate, she volunteers for various dog rescue and humane society organizations and donates a percentage of all book sales to such groups. Gayle resides in Wyoming with her husband and their adopted animals. Learn more about the author, her writing endeavors, and her pets, and receive free stories and resources by visiting her website: www.gaylemirwin.com. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.