The author of Secretarial Wars resides in Silver Spring, MD. She is currently planning the release of her second novel, The Rock Star’s Homecoming, due for release in the near future. Ms. Gould’s attitude toward POD publishing and the thoughtful advice she offers to neophyte authors are impeccable. Without any derogatory or negative intent toward the other author interviewees whatsoever, I feel compelled to state that, as an iUniverse author, if you read only one of the interviews on this site, read this one!
Tabitha: What inspired you to write Secretarial Wars?
Linda Gould: When I graduated from college in 1974 with a degree in English, and returned home to the Washington area to get a job, I didn’t exactly bowl over the bureaucracy with my job skills. I had to settle for a secretarial position, a pretty good one for that time, but still somewhat disappointing. The quasi-government grants program that I worked for was hiring college graduates for its secretarial positions, but not giving them clear avenues for advancement. It was puzzling and frustrating, especially after five years had gone by.
But Secretarial Wars did not arise entirely from frustration. In those days I was also immersing myself in friendships and a vibrant nightlife in D. C. My marriage broke up, but the ex and I remained friends. The “Kramerkeller” nightclub in the book was inspired by one of my hangouts. I hope I managed to convey some of the joyfulness of those times.
Tabitha: Are there particular, actual persons who inspired your lead characters?
Linda Gould: Yes, Cass and Jocelyn were based on real people, although exaggerated, of course. The “Jocelyn” character in particular was a close friend. Actually, her exploits were not exaggerated all that much! “Mrs. B” was based on a formidable boss lady who pretty much told me what the Deputy Director in my story told Miriam, that I had no future in the organization.
Tabitha: I understand that the subplots involving the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys were inspired by events from The Sixties. Would you explain this particular inspiration to your readers?
Linda Gould: Actually, I was describing the Redskins of the 1970s, when I was just beginning to get interested in football. My true passion in sports was and is baseball, but the Senators departed in 1971, and baseball did not return to D. C. until 2005.
Back in the 1970s I began paying attention not only to football games, but to the gamesmanship that seemed to go on behind the scenes. Every team goes through a periodic changing of the guard, when old heroes are forced out by newer talent. But I think this process was unusually prolonged and explosive in Washington, because Coach George Allen tried to have it both ways. He hired the new talent, but refused to give up his old favorites. The quarterback controversy I describe was inspired by Allen’s favorite, Billy Kilmer, and Joe Theismann, the brash youngster who was always getting into trouble with his mouth. I really admired Kilmer the most. He had suffered a serious automobile accident early in his career, which took away almost all of his mobility. He did not have a strong arm either. He used to say, “I do it with my mind.”
Tabitha: When I read Secretarial Wars, I could not help but be reminded of the antics of our current, illustrious Bush Administration? Was the character of your fictional President Bailey inspired by George?
Linda Gould: I began the book so long ago (around 1991) that I can’t say “W” was the original inspiration for my President Bailey. Then again, it took so long to finish the book that I can’t swear “W” didn’t get into it. I think Bailey is a composite of recent Republican presidents. For example, Nixon was a huge Redskins fan and a close friend of Coach George Allen. He used to visit the practice facility and would even suggest plays for the offense to run. One such brilliant suggestion was used in a game, and resulted in a 13-yard loss. That was the end of Coach Richard Nixon!
When it comes to presidential scandals, my favorite is Iran-Contra. I’m not sure why: it’s rather obscure and convoluted compared to other favorites like Watergate and Monica. But I used to spend hours back then listening to the Congressional hearings and reading the transcripts.
Tabitha: The plot of Secretarial Wars reminded me of the movie 9 to 5 without Dolly Parton’s big boobs, of course. Was that movie in any way an inspiration for your book’s storyline?
Linda Gould: Much as I love that movie, I can’t say it inspired Secretarial Wars. 9 to 5 is essentially a farce, although a very satisfying one. What secretary hasn’t fantasized about poisoning her boss and then kidnapping him to keep him quiet? Great stuff, but not exactly what I was attempting.
Tabitha: In my opinion, the cover of Secretarial Wars is appropriate for the tone and subject matter of the book, but no cover credits have been notated. Who designed the cover? Did iUniverse create it strictly from your ideas, or did you supply the artwork or other elements? Are you satisfied with the cover?
Linda Gould: iUnverse designed the cover, based on some vague ideas of mine. I believe I suggested the images of the computer and the filing cabinet. Not being an artist myself, I didn’t have strong opinions about the design. I approved the first design that iUniverse submitted, and yes, I’m satisfied with it.
Tabitha: The single most impressive element of Secretarial Wars that I noticed as a POD reviewer is the high level of vocabulary, editing, and proofreading employed. Did you attend writer’s classes or workshops before releasing the book? Did you hire a professional editor or proofreader?
Linda Gould: I took a course on “beginning a novel” at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland. That convinced me to throw out what I had done up to that point and start over. A small contingent of the students continued to meet after the class was over. That critique group is still going strong after more than ten years, while adding and subtracting some members during that time. The variety of opinions and viewpoints that the group offers has been especially valuable. One thing I’ve learned is that if the entire group declares that something doesn’t work, and this has happened quite a few times, it has to go.
I purchased the iUniverse proofreading service when I submitted Secretarial Wars. They were thorough, but their software put in some coding errors. Even when a manuscript reaches the final stages, it’s a good idea to review it carefully to make sure there are no glitches.
Tabitha: Did you consider other publishers before you selected iUniverse?
Linda Gould: I didn’t consider any other POD publisher. I had read an article in The Washington Post about iUniverse that was sympathetic to its mission. I also checked out a website called “Predators and Editors,” known for uncovering scams that victimize authors. Pred-Ed gives iUniverse good marks for not promising authors more than it delivers. That is not the case with all POD publishers. Some misrepresent themselves as traditional publishers, or claim to be more discriminating than they are.
Tabitha: How satisfying has your experience with iUniverse been?
Linda Gould: I think iUniverse deserves the good reputation it has. Of course, it would have been nice to sell a few more books than I have. But marketing is mostly up to the author, a fact that iUniverse makes plain from the beginning.
Tabitha: What is the most significant thing you have learned as a POD author? Do you have any advice to offer to new or prospective POD authors?
Linda Gould: Revise and proofread endlessly. The quality of the book is up to you. POD publishing is a great thing, because it allows you to realize your own vision. But that makes it all the more imperative not to release your work until it’s the very best you can do. Get as much impartial criticism as you can. If you don’t have confidence in your own proofreading skills, get someone else to do it, preferably a professional.
Tabitha: What sort of educational experience do you have, and is it relevant to your writing or the subject matter you have chosen?
Linda Gould: I got my undergraduate degree in English from Western Maryland (now McDaniel) College, a small campus about sixty miles north of D. C. It resembles the school that I try to portray in my next novel, The Rock Star’s Homecoming. To try to advance my government career, I got a Masters Degree in Political Science from American University in D. C.
Tabitha: What about your work career? Has your choice of profession influenced your writing? Are you a bureaucrat or a secretary?
Linda Gould: I am a bureaucrat now, rather than a secretary. After my secretarial experiences in the grants program, I went on to a satisfying career in government, where I’ve been able to utilize my writing skills on budgets and reports.
Tabitha: Who are some of your favorite authors and books? What genres do you like to read?
Linda Gould: I like “chicklit” as a broad genre, but to me that doesn’t necessarily require a happy ending or a totally resolved plot. I’m not a fan of traditional romances: the required happy endings are not close enough to real life. I have enjoyed Candace Bushnell’s Lipstick Jungle, Trading Up, and the original Sex and the City (the book is quite a bit more jumbled and confused than the TV series, just like real life). I love Gail Godwin’s all-encompassing novels about Southern families. I prefer lush writing to spare writing. For that reason, I love Pat Conroy, especially The Prince of Tides, Beach Music, and his wonderful memoir about his college sports career, My Losing Season.
Tabitha: What have you been reading lately?
Linda Gould: I’m reading Al Gore’s alarming An Inconvenient Truth. I have a feeling that if we don’t start to get a handle on these problems, all other bets are off. I love American and British history, and am always reading something along those lines. I’m also renewing my acquaintance with Kurt Vonnegut, who passed away recently. And I recently finished The Nanny Diaries, which if I’m not mistaken, was originally self-published.
Tabitha: Exactly when is The Rock Star’s Homecoming expected to be available?
Linda Gould: I just received the editorial evaluation. It was generally favorable, but there are some editing issues, so I don’t have a publication date yet. I hope that the book’s slightly experimental style doesn’t put off readers or critics. The story revolves around one third-person narrator (a female college student), interspersed with brief first-person narratives that are intended to bring other characters into sharper relief. Since a girl unavoidably encounters many characters on a college campus and even in her own dormitory, I’m hoping this method helps to keep them straight.
Tabitha: Do you have any further books in the pipeline?
Linda Gould: I’m currently working on a baseball novel, tentatively entitled Play Ball.
Tabitha: Do you have any final remarks to address to our audience?
Linda Gould: POD publishing is a revolution of sorts. We all want to make it a revolution that actually proves to be beneficial to literature. It’s up to us as self-published authors to avoid self-indulgence, seek and accept constructive criticism, and make our products as good as they can be.
Note: No photos of Linda Gould were available at the time of this interview, and Ms. Gould does not currently have a personal website. Anyone seeking more information on this very literary author can follow the links to her pages at Amazon, B&N, and Authors Den. Thank you.