Gabrielle St. George is the author of the new novel How to Murder a Marriage, the first in her Ex-Whisperer Files series. She also has written the Gal Guide nonfiction series. A screenwriter and story editor, she is based in Canada.
Q: What inspired you to write How to Murder a Marriage?
A: Sad but true, my own rocky relationships are the inspiration and fodder for this book. I use loads of my own real-life experiences and I also steal indiscriminately from people close to me. It’s like I promise not to tell a living soul but you can bet your ass whatever you share with me will end up in print.
Surprisingly everyone’s cool with it (I do change the names and mash up a lot of the details) but the villains in my life would definitely be able to recognize themselves and that is extremely satisfying for me. Therapy was too expensive so I exorcised my trauma and exacted sweet revenge by writing down the bones in my books.
Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?
A: I’m all about the ending so as soon as I have my premise I figure out my ending before I do anything else. I wrote this book very fast, even for me and I’m a very fast writer.
I come from a screenwriting background so I am a serious outliner but with this manuscript I deviated from the outline much more than I usually do. The characters sort of took over the story which was pretty magical for me to witness. I basically just did the typing. The ending didn’t change completely but it definitely morphed.
When I was finished writing the book and received my first
few rejections I was surprised that my strongest feeling was one of
disappointment, thinking that if the book didn’t sell I wouldn’t be writing
more in the series and I realized that I would miss spending time with the
characters and finding out what their futures held for them. They really did
take on a life of their own and drove the story.
Q: Your character Gina is an advice columnist, and you also began writing self-help guides as your character, the Ex-Whisperer. What do you think the novel says about the idea of advice columns and self-help guides, and their importance in today's world?
A: I think my mystery novel says that writing advice columns and self-help guides can be a very dangerous enterprise. But they can also be a lifeline for the desperate and that makes them very important in today’s world.
The internet has made physical connection less common and the global pandemic made it near impossible. I think my mystery novel highlights how awfully lonely many people feel. They are starved for connection.
The Gal Guides self-help books are a bit of a cross between a reinvention of Miss Lonelyhearts and Dear Abby with attitude. Women write to me all the time sharing deeply intimate stories and asking for advice.
I write in a conversational style that I hope makes my readers feel like we could just as easily be sitting at a kitchen table having deep convos over coffee or a bottle of chardonnay.
Reading a Gal Guide is sort of like sitting down with a best girlfriend and letting her give it to you straight. The books are a unique blend of self-help and memoir and at times, cross over into true confession.
I don’t shy away from sharing extremely intimate stories from my own tumultuous relationships in order to make it real and to help others. My intention is to provide inspiration and supportive advice and it seems that is sorely needed.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?
A: I feel so crazily grateful that readers choose my books to invest their considerable resources of time, energy, and money in and I hope from the bottom of my heart that they feel the experience was worthwhile for them.
Beyond that I hope readers feel like they’ve connected with a friend in my main character Gina Malone and that they’ve had a good laugh along the way. I love to entertain and I consider being able to do so a high calling.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m currently working on the first draft of Book 2 in the Ex-Whisperer Files series, titled How to Kill a Kingpin. (Waiting for the characters to take over the writing again so I can put my feet up).
On the heels of that I’ll be writing the fourth book in the nonfiction Gal Guides series, which doesn’t have a title yet.
I’m also starting a company of organic health products for elder gals like myself which I’m hoping to launch next year. (I have no idea where I will find the time for that but rational thinking rarely poses an obstacle for me.)
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I’m also hungry for connection. The pandemic has me feeling pretty lonely and isolated which has surprised me because I am a die-hard introvert.
I’m thrilled when readers and other writers reach out to me and I invite them to do so. Instagram is my favorite platform and I am on it way too much. Give me a shout @gabrielle.st.george .
--Interview with Deborah Kalb