Helen Ginger has been writing for as long as she can remember. In high school, she wrote tragic love stories. As soon as she finished a page, someone would take it, read, and pass it on. She has no idea what happened to any of those stories. As a college student, she wrote a lot of poetry until it came time to write her thesis, which was a study of the communication on both vertical and horizontal levels within three different companies. Even now, she has a writer’s split personality, writing both non-fiction and fiction.
In addition to writing, Helen’s been a teacher, a mermaid, a mother, a wife, an editor, the Executive Director of the Writers League of Texas, President of the Sisters in Crime: Heart of Texas chapter, Coordinator of Story Circle Network‘s Editorial Services, Partner and Co-Owner of Legends In Our Own Minds®, and a Volunteer Chair for the Texas Book Festival. And she’s proud to say she’s never been fired from any of those jobs.
Helen, it’s a pleasure having you guest post for my blog today. Welcome!
Telling Angel’s Story by Helen Ginger
I’ve written three books for TSTC Publishing. Each is a resource book for those thinking of getting a degree in that particular area of study. Each book required hours of research online and in person, days of interviewing and transcribing. There’s very little of “me” in any of my nonfiction. And that’s the way it should be.
My current fiction book, Angel Sometimes, on the other hand, has a lot of me in it. Angel’s life is not my life, but there are bit and pieces of me in her, the biggest thing being her job. At 17, after 5 years on the streets, she gets a job swimming as a mermaid. To write the scenes of her swimming at a bar/restaurant, I drew from my 3 years swimming at a resort/park. A lot of what you read is based on those years of getting into and out of the tail, eating and drinking in the underwater picnic, doing synchronized ballet, feeding the fish, other things the mermaids did in the underwater show. Not everything is the same, though. For example, Angel has to swim through a fairly tight tube to the outer walls of the restaurant and then perform in the more narrow outer tanks.
Angel also swims for a different audience. The crowd at Aquarena Springs, where I performed, were primarily tourists, both families and adults. At the Aquarium, where Angel swims, there are two sections. The “G-room” is where families eat. The mermaids who swim that room wear a less revealing suit. Angel swims the main room where mostly men watch while they drink and eat. The mermaids wear bikini tops and the tail. The mermaids are the big pull for the bar. But Angel isn’t fazed by the leers. She’s been there long enough to know how to handle herself. What’s most important to her is that the mermaids who swim in the main tank get paid more than those in the G-room.
Angel Sometimes is a strong woman. At 12, she was driven 800 miles from home and left on the streets. At 16, she hitchhiked to Austin, Texas, almost halfway back home. At 17, she gets a job at The Aquarium. At 22, she has a car and she almost has her G.E.D. The only other thing she needs to go home and confront her parents is a gun. And she knows where to get one.
As I wrote, I felt Angel’s presence. She almost seemed to be in my head, telling me her story. By the end, I began to envision possible book covers. My first thought was a mermaid, but I dropped that because I wanted readers to have their own version of Angel in mind. Then I thought it should be a picture of IH-35, the highway that took her from her home and the highway she takes to return home. Finally, I realized it had to be a picture of a flower garden — a garden that Angel’s mother planted each Spring in honor of Baby Celia.
I thought about having a professional cover made, but in the end decided to do my own since I knew what I wanted. My husband and I spent a day taking pictures at the Lady Bird Wildflower Center. When I saw the picture that came to be the cover, I knew it was the one, the garden that Angel’s mother planted each year.
Helen, thanks so much for joining us today. I love stories about how novels came together and the writing life. There’s always a piece of the author in each book, so I’ll be thinking of your connection to Angel while I’m reading Angel Sometimes.