Interview with Gayle Carline, Runner Up in the Summer 2008 Flash Fiction Contest!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Gayle Carline was a software engineer for over 20 years, until she finally chewed her way out the cubicle and became a freelance writer. She quickly became a regular contributor to California Riding Magazine, and in 2005, began writing a weekly humor column, What a Day, for her local newspaper, the Placentia News-Times.

Although she came late to the writing party, Gayle is making up for lost time. Her humor essays have been recognized in contests held by both Humor Press and the Watermark Writer’s Conference, and she wrote a screenplay for the 48-Hour Film Project, an international competition. Her debut novel, Freezer Burn, will soon be published by Echelon Press.

Gayle lives with her husband, Dale, their teenage son, Marcus, and a small zoo that includes two horses. In her spare time, she likes to laugh with friends over a glass of wine. You can visit her at

WOW: Congratulations on placing as one of the Runners Up in our Summer 2008 Flash Fiction contest! How do you feel?

Gayle: As writers, we do our best and think it's good, but sometimes we wonder if we're biased, so it always feels great to be validated. Thanks so much for the recognition.

WOW: It's well deserved! Could you tell us a little about your story and what encouraged the idea behind "Quarter Life?"

Gayle: "Quarter Life" actually came from an online writer's group I belong to, the Orange County Writer's Meetup. We had a member for awhile, Victory Crayne, who would provide first or last sentences and let us take it from there. I had recently been to Vegas with a girlfriend, so an opening line about a guy turning his collar up to the cold suddenly made me picture a down-on-his-luck gambling addict on the streets of Vegas. It's a departure from my usual writing, which tends toward humor.

WOW: It's always interesting to hear about a story's background. Have you written other flash fiction? What type of writing do you most prefer?

Gayle: I'm actually pretty popular at 250 words or less (LOL). I've attended several Southern California Writer's Conferences ( and entered their flash fiction contest each time. Of 5 entries, I've won twice and been runner-up once. I usually look at the prompt and go, "nah, I can't think of anything." Then I think of something. When writing fiction, I like my stories dry with a twist.

My favorite type of writing is the humor essay. James Thurber, Erma Bombeck, Dave Barry, and Gordon Kirkland are my heroes. When I'm not writing fiction, I write a weekly humor column for the Placentia News-Times. It's about my home and family life. I would describe it as non-fiction, although my husband says he has his doubts. I never lie—but I do exaggerate.

WOW: So you're good at flash fiction, non-fiction, and you've also written a book. Your first novel, Freezer Burn, is coming out soon. You must be very excited! What did it take to complete that big goal?

Gayle: It took two SoCal Writer's Conferences, a trip to Paso Robles, my girlfriend, Robin, and a wicked bartender.

I got the first idea at my first conference, for a guy who hires a PI to find an ice cube tray in his freezer. In the meantime, Robin and I had been joking about a new PI for our times: Peri Menopause. She solves every crime by eating chocolate, weeping and bitch-slapping people until they confess. I combined the two ideas and asked myself, what else could Peri find in a freezer? The rest of the plot came to me as I slept while my hubby and I drove to Paso Robles for a horse show. I started writing the plot, then when we went on vacation that summer, I asked Mark the bartender if he could think of a cool signature drink for my heroine—something she saved her pennies for. He came up with a dirty martini, the perfect drink for a gal who used to clean houses for a living. Finally, at the San Diego SCWC, I met Karen Syed of Echelon Press ( She read 20 pages of the novel and said, "Give me the rest if it's ready."

I had no idea if it was ready, but I gave it one more good scrubbing and sent it in. She loved it.

And yes, I'm very excited! Every time I see my cover art, my tail starts wagging!

WOW: It sounds like a great read! We will definitely keep a lookout for Freezer Burn. Aspiring authors would probably love to know more about your writing routines. For example, where do you write? How many hours (or words) a day do you write?

Gayle: I wouldn't recommend my routine to anyone - it's fairly chaotic, although I'm organized about it. I start with a spreadsheet that gives me the clues, who finds them, and some info like day, location, etc. Time tends to leap around in my stories, so I need to keep track of which day it is, even if I don't specifically mention it. Then I write a little in the morning, in between loads of laundry, and anything I have to do for my teenager (I volunteer at his school). Then I run errands and usually go to the ranch and ride my horse. After I fix dinner in the evening, I open my document and write more.

And, as unproductive and wacky as all that sounds, I still managed to write Freezer Burn (about 70,000 words) in three months.

WOW: That's very inspirational, thanks—especially for us momwriters! According to your bio, you were a software engineer for over 20 years before becoming a freelance writer. How did you orchestrate that change, and how would you compare your life then and now?

Gayle: There were a few things happening at that time. One is that, as much as I enjoyed the technical aspects of my job, I was the lead on a proposal that kept dragging out and keeping me from the work I liked. The desire to write more pulled at me as I grew unhappier with my job. The second event was that I had bred my mare; she was due to foal in April and I really wanted to spend a lot of time imprinting with the baby. The last "thing" was just the fact that I was getting home late every night and not spending a lot of time with my 12-year old. I wanted to be in the room when he had something to say. I talked it over with my husband, that my ideal life would be writing, tending to my horses, and spending time with my family.

I'm married to a generous (if laconic) man. He said yes.

There's not much about my engineering life I would like to return to - except the salary!

WOW: How great that you've created a satisfying life built around family, writing, and your beloved horses. Do you have any final words of wisdom for our women readers/writers?

Gayle: Words of wisdom? Wait - let me stop laughing... it took me nearly fifty years to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up.

If you're a writer, write. Don't sit and whine about how you want to if only you could think of something to write about, or don't have time, or blah-blah-blah. Write a journal. Look up some writing prompts. Find a picture in a magazine and make up a story about it. Even if it's 20 words a day, it's 20 more words than you had yesterday.

And whether you're a writer or not, find your own bliss, then spread it around.

How's that?

WOW: Just perfect! Thanks, Gayle. Be sure to let us know when your novel comes out, so we can spread the word.


Every Tuesday we're featuring an interview with a top 10 winner from the Summer 2008 Flash Fiction contest. Visit next week to see who's next!

Also, check out WOW! Women On Writing's current contest. The deadline for entries is February 28, 2009.

--Marcia Peterson


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