Saturday, February 24, 2024

Q&A with Grace Ly



Grace Ly is the co-author, with her father, Marty Ohlhaut, of the new memoir Tent for Seven: A Camping Adventure Gone South Out West. She has worked for the American Red Cross and the CIA, and she lives in Cherokee, North Carolina.


Q: What inspired you to write Tent for Seven, and how did the two of you collaborate on the book?


A: Marty started writing Tent for Seven as a way to sort through the trauma of a disastrous camping trip our family took to the Canadian Rockies. After lying awake for several nights thinking about the events, he decided to write everything down. It took him about eight months to get the whole story on paper.


At that point he wasn't sure what to do with it: put it on the shelf, shred it, or ceremoniously burn it in a campfire. Luckily, he decided to put it on the shelf, which is where I found it 15 years later. When I read it, I thought, "This should be a book!" I spent the next several years reworking his manuscript.


Once we had a publishing contract, Marty and I collaborated on the book together. Up until that point, it was very much an individual effort for each of us. We spent two years working very closely with each other and our publisher to make the book what it is today. 


Q: Did you need to do much research to write the book, or was most of it from memory?


A: Marty began writing only a few weeks after the trip, so everything was fresh in his mind. The flashbacks throughout were based on Marty’s memories as well as on the memories of his traveling companions and the journals a few of them kept.


I actually did a fair amount of research while revising the manuscript, mostly to ensure the accuracy of the facts we presented: places we visited, the driving distances, and costs, along with the names of campsites and tidbits about the towns, mountains, and geography. For the opening chapter, we even confirmed the phases of the moon. 


Q: How was the memoir's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: Titles are very important to me. I think they are second only to a cover in terms of motivating a reader to pick up a book. I love a good play on words, so our goal was to come up with something catchy and clever. We also wanted to convey the humorous tone and subject of the book.


I think we did all of those with Tent for Seven: A Camping Adventure Gone South Out West. It is a clever play on words and lets the reader know the book is a funny camping story. 


Q: What impact did it have on you to write the book, and what do you hope readers take away from it?


A: For Marty it was cathartic. Through the process he realized just how crazy, and dangerous, some of his adventures really were. He can sleep at night now, but it's still very difficult for him to talk about the events of the trip, especially what happened to his wife.


First and foremost, we want readers to be entertained.


Second, we hope they learn some interesting facts and tidbits that will encourage them to learn more about the world around them.


Third, with everything that happened during this trip and the people who miraculously appeared out of nowhere to help us, we hope readers take away that there is kindness in this world, possibly divine intervention, and that whenever they have the chance, to lend a helping hand.


And, of course, we hope our book inspires readers to head out on an adventure of their own, whatever that might be.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: We have had so much positive feedback from Tent for Seven and requests to write another book. So we are working on a very rough manuscript based on the flashbacks in Tent. We want to tell the story of Marty and his friends’ 10-week, 13,000-mile trip across the American West as one continuous story.


I am also in the process of putting together a draft of my time working for the American Red Cross on military bases in South Korea, Iraq, and Germany and my travels through 30 countries, as well as my time working at the White House and the CIA. 


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: We really enjoy hearing from readers and appreciate their feedback. We do spend time reading reviews, and honestly those reviews and requests to write another book are huge motivators to continue our writing careers.


So please leave us a review, send us an email through my website, or follow us on social media @grace.ly_author. We love to hear from our fans.


Lastly, we absolutely love attending book clubs! We have had so much fun meeting readers, sharing our story with them, answering questions—and laughing a lot! We would be happy to travel to local book clubs or attend virtually. Please reach out to us. We’d love to schedule a time to meet!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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