Updated: Mar 14
"If your life were a novel..." We've heard this prompt before, a meme to create a clever title that encapsulates your wackadoodle life. But collaborative biographer Mary Grace Gallagher actually works with clients to write their stories. She's written fourteen biographical novels (with two more about to print) through her business A Novel Life. To do this, she spends hours interviewing her subjects, drawing out their stories, and following novelization techniques to put them into writing. Every story has a narrative arc, every chapter has a challenge and growth. And Mary Grace hasn't met anyone yet whose life hasn't had a turning point. (My fellow writers are all nodding along right now.)
In our chat, Mary Grace tells me how she went from journalist to biographer, why the Greatest Generation is the reason her biographies are novelizations, and the sorts of questions to ask to get people talking.
Mary Grace's #WIPMondays action step:
I wanted to chat with Mary Grace because we can all be better conversationalists. I wanted to know how to get people to open up and tell more of their stories. Here's what she does:
Two prompts Mary Grace uses in her interviews are "Sit down in the kitchen of your youth. What do you see?" and "Tell me about when you learned to drive." The second one in particular resonated with me (my story involves a driving range, my grandfather, and driving in reverse).
What we're reading:
Mary Grace is reading The Dutch House, by one of my favorites, Ann Patchett, and Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson. That's two guests now that are reading Caste, so I think it's high time I put it in my reading queue. I'm reading The Only Woman in the Room, by Marie Benedict, for my local book club discussion. The Only Woman in the Room, historical fiction about Hollywood superstar Hedy Lamarr, who was also the co-inventor of a frequency-hopping communications system for guiding torpedos, is a good example of how we don't always know people's stories.
Watch our chat below!
Learn more about Mary Grace Gallagher and A Novel Life at http://anovellife.com/.