Interview with Gayla Scot-Hays

When did you first start writing?
I remember writing my first story in second grade.

In it, the Pirate Queen, a lethal lady if there ever was one, rises from the table (in a quest for more rum, perhaps?) and growls out to her mates, "Save my seat!"

So much for writing what you know!
What's the story behind your latest book?
The story behind "The Silver Cross" is a long one.

It began as a creative writing exercise over twenty years ago... inspired, if I recall, by Mad Max, The Road Warrior. You can still see reflections of Max in Zero's (Brother Michael's) leather clothing, and in the vast expanses of desert wasteland. Anyway, I remember thinking that Max really needed hook up with a good woman so he could get some healing going on, so I created my own "Max", threw a sweet young thing in his path, and started writing.

The only problem... Zero wasn't interested in any of my attempts at matchmaking. And I didn't understand why. But I kept the faith, I guess, and kept writing, and one day, while listening to a musical piece called "Salve Regina," it finally hit me. Zero couldn't love Cross the way I intended, because he was already in love... with God. And at last I understood. Zero was a priest, and his inability to live up to his vows and his own moral code had engendered in him such a raging, frightful anger that Cross, and her naive attempts to secure for herself a little bit of love, could never hope to stand against it.

So, while what I first conceived as a post-apocalyptic love story ended up as something grittier and far darker, it is, I feel, more true to the characters as they presented themselves to me, and the particular world they live in.

One last funny thing about Cross's name. That was her name from day one, although years had passed before I understood the significance of it.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I went indie because I could never imagine getting my book out past the gatekeepers in traditional publishing. For good or for ill, "The Silver Cross" does not fit neatly on a particular category shelf. Going indie gave me, and especially my characters, a chance to be heard.
What is your writing process?
Recently, my writing process has devolved into something of a non-process!

Ideas, pictures, revelations, words... all come when least expected, forcing me to scurry to try and capture them in black on white before they fade away. Sometimes, when pressed, I can attract the coy ones by immersing myself, to the extent possible, in the world of my characters; their music, be it ethereal chants or driving percussion; and their flavors, the oily bitterness of olives, the sharp saltiness of feta, the sweetness of warm, fresh bread.

Still, seldom do the words come easily; oftentimes, they come not at all.

All I can do is trust, and wait.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I don't remember the first story I ever read, but I do remember my classroom in second grade, and slipping out from under my seat... whenever Mrs. Feldman's back was turned... a big, brightly illustrated copy of "D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths."

That wonderful book just about covered the entire top surface of my little beige desk.

So it's very likely that I always had a fascination with the hero's journey and the manipulation of mankind by higher powers, be they gods, or angels, or the one true god.
How do you approach cover design?
The cover for The Silver Cross cover was somewhat challenging. Although TSC has strong elements of romance, readers of traditional romance might not expect or appreciate its sharp left turn to the dark side. So, since I didn't want prospective readers misled by the cover, the focus is on Zero, as TSC is primarily the story of his journey toward understanding and hopefully, one day, redemption. Still, as Cross is absolutely integral to the story, she appears in an illusory sort of way that works well, I think, with the theme of the story.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell. Why? Scarlett, Scarlett, Scarlett. Scarlett got a raw deal; Rhett is the one who convinces her to flout convention and then, when her reputation is in shreds, complains that she didn't protect her reputation. The same guy who left her on the road with a sick Melanie, her newborn, and an addle-brained Prissy, to make her way back home alone, to Tara. What a guy. Scarlett is a survivor, and I love her for it.

Dialogues with the Devil, by Taylor Caldwell. Why? Caldwell managed, in 1967, to forsee many of the societal issues we are dealing with today. And, managed to make the Archangel Lucifer, perhaps the ultimate bad boy, sympathetic.

The Border Lord, by Jan Westcott. Why? Francis Hepburn, Lord Bothwell: another bad boy, of course! Romantic fiction at its finest; lords, ladies, swords, and the windy highlands of Scotland. Does it get any better than that?

The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson. Why? Just because. The first paragraph, "No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality...." has been called the finest opening paragraph in American literature written in the last century. I think the book offers one of the best psychological profiles of a protagonist ever written, not to mention the language. Consider also "The Lottery," and "We have always lived in the Castle." I think Jackson remains, even today, the master of understated horror.

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Why? The words, ever and always, the words. Like Daisy herself... her external beauty disguising the shallow emptiness beneath... Fitzgerald's prose lays like a shimmering garment over the decadence that is Gatsby's world and compels the reader to look, and think, and ultimately feel for his un-happy and un-beautiful people. That is the power of black on white; that is the power of words.
What do you read for pleasure?
Perhaps oddly for an aspiring fiction writer, I read mostly speculative non-fiction for pleasure.

Only non-fiction sparks my imagination; some aspects of TSC were conceived after reading "Bloodline of the Holy Grail - The hidden lineage of Jesus revealed" by Laurence Gardner.

"Bloodline" also influenced Dan Brown. He wrote "The DaVinci Code" and everyone knows the rest of that story.

Oh, well.
What are you working on next?
I'm working on the sequel to The Silver Cross. My plans are for "The Bright Angel" trilogy; chronologically, TSC is the second book; the third is "The Road to Heaven." The first book is planned as a prequel; "The Brotherhood."
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
When I'm not writing, I think about writing, read about writing, and have guilt about not writing.

Other than that, I knit.
Published 2013-10-23.
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Books by This Author

The Silver Cross
Price: Free! Words: 130,420. Language: English. Published: August 20, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Dark, Fiction » Science fiction » Apocalyptic
(4.00 from 1 review)
Brother Michael finds a young woman in the middle of the wasteland, but never imagines she's anything more than lucky to be alive. Still, the silver cross glinting in her hair demands he pledge his sword to defend her. Now, as Michael wages a hopeless battle against his inner demons, the warrior sees his faith crumbling. Will rescuing Cross cost the priest his soul?