Behind the Scenes Q&A with SpeakEasy Author Aimee L. Gross

Speak-Easy Author Interview web graphic Aimee L Gross

Each week, the library is publishing a new chapter in our 2013 Community Novel Project and sharing a behind-the-scenes interview with the Topeka author who brought that part of our collaborative story — SpeakEasy — to life.

Read Aimee’s Chapter 1 online.

Why did you want to participate in the Community Novel Project?

I adore the writing community I have discovered in Topeka via the annual Nanowrimo event. I would have crossed paths with few, if any, of the people I’ve met who love to tell a great story while hearing about the tale you are spinning, as well. Participating in the first Community Novel Project was a means of challenging myself with something totally new, and it proved to be a blast! I’m back for more, having learned so much from the first experience besides just having fun with other authors. I hope the project continues to be an annual event for TSCPL.

What do you like about the premise and characters of this year’s Community Novel Project Speak Easy?

Ronni, Pete, Julia and Charles are, like many characters who come to my thoughts, fully realized with a back-story and personal agenda from their first appearance in my mind. The biggest challenge for me this year is letting go of my investment in their story, and settling back to see where each successive author takes them next.

What is your favorite addition that you contributed to this novel in your chapter?

Writing the opening chapter, I wanted to be sure and establish the characters’ voice, Ronni’s goal and what was preventing her from getting to it, plus introducing some conflict and potential plot lines for the authors to come. That is a lot to do in 2000 to 3000 words, but I think I did it! I am most proud of the pacing, and starting with the broken-down car (instead of another beginning I was considering with Ronni trying to justify her choice of Julia to a dubious professor. Too dull and talky.) My least favorite piece? I may have been unfair to Carl, using him expediently to step up the conflict. I know many very helpful guys who work @ oil change places.

What do you hope happens or doesn’t happen in the chapters that come after yours?

I’m trying to be Zen about it, but I hope readers discover that Julia is hiding something about the past, and that Ronni springs her from the nursing facility for a journey into her memories that ultimately reveals….(stay tuned!)

How did you write your chapter – in a burst of inspiration or carefully outlined?

As usual, I spent time exploring different beginnings in my mind, looking for a ‘hook’ before I sat down to type. I’m a ‘pantser’ (write by the seat of the pants- a Nanowrimo term) and find when I try to write with an outline, the characters just have no respect for my plan at all. They tell the story their own way; I just have to listen close and get it down.

What have you learned about writing fiction from participating in this project?

I have learned there are so many ways to take a story forward, all valid, and how many directions a plot can veer with each author’s vision doing the steering. I don’t know another way to learn about these aspects of fiction, except sharing in a Community Novel Project!

What is your writing background? What do you usually write? How was this project different?

When I was about nine or ten, I wrote stories that usually involved mysteries kids would solve, or spooky tales in a fairy tale vein. My family often joked when I was seen bent over a tablet with pursed lips and a scribbling pencil, “Aimee’s writing the Great American Novel again.” As an adult, I have written YA fantasy primarily, but I have a particular love of SF, and am working on a western and an espionage novel. Both last year’s and this year’s Community Novel Project are different for me, due to a contemporary setting and an intended audience of adult readers.

Aimee L. Gross is a local author who relished the challenge of last year’s community novel project, so volunteered for another round. She is currently editing/revising her four Young Adult novels, while also working on a western and an espionage tale. A life-long writer, many of her best days are spent accommodating all those characters who appear in her mind’s eye with a story they want told. She can be reached at


Lissa Staley

Lissa Staley helps people use the library. She is a Book Evangelist, Health Information Librarian, Trivia Emcee, Classics Made Modern book group leader, NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison, Community Novel Project leader, HUSH podcaster, and frequent library customer. She reads a new book every few days, but recently enjoyed Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley.

2 thoughts on “Behind the Scenes Q&A with SpeakEasy Author Aimee L. Gross

  1. I loved reading your thoughts on the project, and about your writing background.
    You did a great job setting up the story to come by establishing character and conflict, and your writing is very smooth. I think being the first person to work on this would be an additional pressure, too, because so much rests on the strength of the opening–every chapter onward is shaped by what you established. Well done!
    I’d love to see some of your YA fiction. I’m a big fan of YA and of Sci. Fi and Fantasy, so it sounds right up my alley. 🙂

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