MANCHESTER, N.H., Dec. 16, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- So a writer walks into a bar . . . and with that a story begins—as was the case in the most literal sense with Kelly Stone Gamble, the author of the mystery/thriller "They Call Me Crazy," which hit bookstore shelves just last month.
In 2012 Gamble was about to claim the academic badge of a writer, her Master of Fine Arts in Fiction from Southern New Hampshire University. As a student in that low-residency program, she was living in Las Vegas and had been working online with faculty members in writing the historical novel that would earn her that Master's. But twice each year she came to New Hampshire for program residencies, these held at the famed Mountain View Grand Hotel in Whitefield.
"It was the middle of January, and I was graduating that evening, and having some drinks in—well, it wasn't exactly a bar, more like a fancy tavern," she said. "For some reason, there was a show on the television about building koi ponds. I pointed to the screen and said, 'Looks like a grave to me.'"
The bartender replied that it wasn't deep enough for a grave. "A good rain and you're busted," he said.
"I'm busted? Why me?"
"It's your story."
Indeed it was—a brand new one, or at least its flowering seed.
Kelly Stone Gamble had been a writer, actually, all her life. In third grade she had been accused of plagiarism for her poem on Arbor Day. In high school she left edgy stories instead of notes for her friends. She wrote a novel at eighteen, and threw it out. She became a nurse, and a mother, and after raising her children she resolved in 2010 that it was time to write another novel, one that she would keep and try to get published.
And no sooner had Gamble finished the novel that served as her thesis—"Ragtown," a literary story based on the building of the Hoover Dam—than she began this next one. "I wrote it in seventeen days," Gamble said. "Then I spent a year revising and editing it."
She wrote a tale about Cass Adams, a woman who lives in small-town Kansas, where Gamble grew up. About how Cass buries her good-for-nothing husband Roland in their backyard koi pond—but not deep enough. The rain washes him up, and Cass is busted by a police chief running for sheriff and in need of a quick verdict. But Cass's secret was only one of many in the town of Deacon, and soon they start coming to light like so many grinning skulls.
It's one thing to write a book, or earn a degree—another to publish. Gamble acquired and lost an agent, weathered a series of rejections, and journeyed on her own into the wilderness of small independent publishers. Eventually she had good offers from two such publishers, and she chose North Carolina-based Red Adept Publishing.
"They were good at allowing me to be a big part of the process," said Gamble, "which was important to me for my first book."
The novel came out on November 12, and soon after there was busy book signing in Baxter Springs, Kansas, which served as a model for the fictional Deacon. Another is planned at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, where Gamble now teaches literature and professional speech.
Her nursing days are done, but now she has to work even harder than that as a writer. She'll have to do most of her own drum-beating for this first novel even as she forges ahead into the next—another mystery/thriller set in Deacon, this one tentatively titled "They Call Me Chief."
Meanwhile an agent has requested the manuscript for "Ragtown," and that different sort of story, edgy in its own way, may yet find its way into print. Gamble also publishes stories and journalism in a variety of magazines, and authors a popular blog on the writing life, Staring Out the Window.
But did she start too late in finally writing her books? "Besides her god-given knack for pure narrative, Kelly has a teenager's energy, drive, and effervescence," said Richard Adams Carey, assistant director of Southern New Hampshire's MFA program. "She'll get it done. Her books will find readers."
Gamble's own literary idol is Marguerite Duras, who didn't publish her novel "The Lover" until she was 70. "I think that's inspiring, to know that a writer like Duras was never quite satisfied with her own work, with her own story," Gamble said. "Instead she continued to develop it into her sixties, trying to get the story right."
Some stories grow slowly from within like that, and others pop out of a television set in a New Hampshire tavern on a cold winter's night. This writer takes them as she finds them.
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