Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Author Q&A: Tara Woolpy

Tara Woolpy is the author of Releasing Gillian's Wolves, the story of a woman -the consummate, supportive political spouse of a philandering congressman- who finally is forced to choose whether to stay in her marriage, or to leave, and learn how to forge a life of her own. I reviewed an advance copy of Releasing Gillian's Wolves earlier this year, and was thrilled to have the chance to talk more with Tara about the book, her own childhood as part of a political family, the media climate for today's political wives, cooking, and the publishing process.

I was surprised and interested to learn that you grew up in a political family, except one very different from Gillian’s (in your case, your mother is a politician, your father is the political spouse, and there was no scandal). In Releasing Gillian’s Wolves, Gillian’s story is the main focus, but her grown children play a large role as well. How did your own family experience inform or inspire the story or characters in Releasing Gillian’s Wolves?

Gillian's family is very different from my own and the challenges they face are much more daunting than anything in our experience. But I do have a sense for how large the political career looms within the family. Everyone participates (as a child I went door to door, stuffed envelopes and handed out leaflets at parades) and when your parent's name is in the paper on a regular basis, you give up any sense of anonymity. My mother was a loved and respected state senator so I've spent my life hearing about all the good things she's done. I imagine that in the wake of a scandal that could turn ugly very quickly and it was that understanding that informed Releasing Gillian's Wolves.

Recently there seems to be more media attention given to the spouse’s story (thinking of Silda Spitzer, Elizabeth Edwards, Jenny Sanford) – What is your take on the way the media covers these more recent scandals? How have things changed for betrayed political wives? If you (or Gillian) could give them advice, what would it be?

More women are refusing to stand on the podium with strained smiles on their faces and that's probably a positive sign. On the other hand, we're far too concerned with how these women react, as if it were a measure of something important. Voters are more likely to forgive and re-elect a man whose wife stands beside him while he admits his affair (so if she still thinks he's the best man for the job, she has to take that into consideration). We're seemingly obsessed with her presence on the podium, even though presence or absence probably has more to do with how she feels about his political life, her own temperment and how long she's had to think about it (remember Dina Matos McGreevey, who found out two hours before the press did and was undoubtably still in shock as she stood beside her adulterous husband as he came out to the world).

Betrayed women get labeled anti-feminist and weak for supporting their husbands, although Hilary Clinton got through that by simply declaring she wasn't a stand by your man kind of wife even as she stood by him. It's all part of the larger-than-life quality of political life that we feel free to judge these women at a time when their world is in melt-down.

Food and cooking are very important to Gillian- there are even a few recipes (brownies, pasta sauce) included in the book, so I’m guessing you may do a little cooking and baking yourself? What would you cook/bake/serve if you were:
  • Celebrating
  • Needed cheering up
  • Hosting a dinner party for your very closest friends

Ah, now you'll learn my dirty little secret, which is that I'm not the cook in the family. Most of the recipes in the book are my husband's, although Survive Anything Brownies is all mine and that's definitely what I would make if I needed cheering up. Jerry says he'd cook leg of lamb for a celebration. Some of our closest friends are coming to dinner next weekend and he's planning on making moussaka. Yum.

Can you tell us a little more about other books in the Lacland series?

Sure. The Lacland series is a set of books all set in Lacland, a fictional town in the upper midwest. Each book is written from a different character's point of view, although characters overlap between the books. The next one to be released is Raising Wild Ginger, in which Edward and Sam contemplate adopting a child. After that will come Midnight Supper at the Rise and Shine, the story of Irene and Claire, owners of the Rise and Shine cafe. And after that... who knows?

How has the experience of founding Bats-in-the Boathouse Press and the self-publishing process been for you – what have been the highs and lows, the challenges, rewards and surprises so far?

I resisted the idea of self-publishing for a long time. But the process of getting someone else to publish the books was taking a lot of time and energy and moved frustratingly slow. I finally realized that what I really wanted was for people I didn't know to read my work and that I could accomplish that most quickly by simply publishing the books myself.

I studied the process and made some good choices and a few not so good ones, but overall it's been a great experience. My best choice was to have Pat Bickner design the cover using Tom Nimsgern's great photo. The cover took my breath away when I opened the first box. My worst choice was to go with only one round of editing. I hired an editor (which was good) but didn't hire a second copy editor to catch all the errors in my edited book - some of which were not caught the first time and others were generated during my final edit. I'd rather this was a perfect book but it's not and there's probably a lesson in that. Still, I'm very glad I created Bats in the Boathouse Press rather than waiting around for someone else to love my book enough to publish it. I'm really enjoying talking with folks about the story and I love that people all over the country are reading my work. It's amazing.

You can find Tara on Goodreads and at the Bats in the Boathouse website. Releasing Gillian's Wolves is available for purchase at local, independent bookstores in Wisconsin and on Amazon.


  1. Great interview. My husband couldn't cook a lamb if it jump in the roaster itself. I like the concept of the book, sounds really inviting.

  2. Lena, thanks so much for checking it out (What a hoot about the hubby and the lamb!)


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