SERIES / Themes & Premise

What is the Gist of Your Story? #5

A sound premise and compelling themes are undoubtedly the hallmarks of great writing. In another addition to the series on literary themes and premise, I’d like you to join me in welcoming Mary Gottschalk.

Mary’s bio

Mary-Gottschalk-7x9Mary has made a career out of changing careers. After finishing her MBA, she spent nearly thirty years in the financial markets, working as an economist, a banker and a financial consultant to major corporations. She has worked in New York, New Zealand, Australia, Central America, Europe, and amazingly, Des Moines, Iowa. Along the way, she dropped out several times. In the mid-1980’s, Mary and her husband Tom embarked on the multi-year sailing voyage that is the subject of her memoir, Sailing Down the Moonbeam. Twice, she left finance to provide financial and strategic planning services to the nonprofit community, first in New York and later in Des Moines. In her latest incarnation, she defines herself as a writer. She is working on her first novel, writes for The Iowan magazine, and lectures on the subject of personal risk-taking.

Mary on her writing in general

Ever since “dropping out” to go sailing at age 40, I have been fascinated by the opportunities for personal growth that arise when you step outside your comfort zone, when you are forced to look at your own cultural norms and values from a different perspective.

It is often said that there are three stages of adjustment to a new situation: 1) enthusiasm/ euphoria at things that seem so interesting and exciting; 2) disappointment/ depression at the absence of familiar support systems as well as the challenges to one’s own values and beliefs; 3) a gradual integration of what is best from both the new and the old as well as tolerance for those things — old as well as new — that do not suit you.

For many, including myself, this process has offered a path to emotional maturity. It is this idea that I want to explore in my current and future novels.

The premise of Mary’s work-in-progress novel

My novel-in-progress, entitled A Fitting Place, follows a successful professional woman, Lindsey, who slips into a rebound romance soon after her husband leaves her. Her new love is someone whose social, intellectual, and spiritual background is completely different from her own. At first, those differences offer an exhilarating sense of possibility, but she gradually comes to realize that this new romance reprises many of the emotional patterns of her marriage, with one dramatic exception— her new lover is a woman.

As Lindsey begins to understand the ways in which this compelling and powerful relationship threatens some of the values she holds most dear, she also begins to understand her own contribution to the failure of her marriage.

The themes that drive Mary’s story

The primary themes that drive the novel are responsibility and integrity. In exploring these themes, almost all of my characters have to address issues that include betrayal vs. loyalty, friendship, intimacy and gender identity.

Remember, effective book publicity relies on strong promotional messages, which are extracted from the themes contained in your writing that, collectively, make up the premise of the story. 

Promotional opportunities for Mary’s book

Available online atAmazon and Barnes & Noble

Available online at
Amazon and Barnes & Noble

I am just beginning the theme-based marketing of my book.

  • I have redesigned my website to highlight issues relating to personal growth, including that of “stepping outside your comfort zone.” I’ve started doing blogs that specifically tie these themes to issues raised in the novel, some for my own website, some as a guest on other websites. In the next few months, I plan to invite guest blogs from writers who are exploring similar themes in their work.
  • I am working with therapists, both personally and through social media, to identify and explore the characteristics of rebound romances generally and lesbian rebound romances in particular. Many women slip into a lesbian relationship after their marriage breaks up.  While some see this is an opportunity to “come out,” many do not alter their view of their innate sexual identity. Most women in this latter category are reluctant to talk about that experience in a public forum, but are very interested in how others have dealt with it.

Ways to connect with Mary

Website: /

Join me as I discuss the need for compelling themes and a sound premise with published and newbie authors over the next few months. If you want to participate as a guest blogger in this series, please do not hesitate to contact me for details. You can also participate by leaving a comment for Mary below.

24 thoughts on “What is the Gist of Your Story? #5

  1. Mary, your real-life story of “stepping out of your comfort zone” as portrayed in your memoir is as intriguing and exciting as your upcoming novel. I have no doubt your themes of responsibility and integrity will appeal to many, especially those who feel stuck in dead-end jobs or relationships and are looking to find more meaningful lives. Congratulations on your great work.

  2. Mary, you and I seem to be on similar tracks; I’ve got about 1/3 of my novel done…focusing on the creative writing guide at the moment. And we’ll both be doing the A – Z Blog Challenge – I’ll definitely swing by your blog to watch what you’re doing. Thanks for participating in Themes & Premise.

  3. Pulling out themes and articulating them clearly is the next task for my WIP. I’ve admired the process Mary has gone through to get there. As her writing partner, I can tell you her novel will be a terrific read. Get ready!

    • Hi Carol, Thanks for stopping by; I’m sure Mary’s book will be great. Let me know if you’d like to participate in this series; I’m booked for March and April will be taken up with the A – Z Blog Challenge, but I intend resuming this series in May.

  4. Mary, when you stepped out of your zone to sail, you likely never realized where those winds would carry you! A memoir published, a novel almost there — I’m in awe of your accomplishments. And it sounds from this post that there is more to come from Mary Gottschalk. I can’t wait!

    • Hi Doreen,

      Welcome at MROP. I just had a look at your website; I’m so sorry for your loss. Just from what I read in your bio made me think you might have something in common with another memoirist who’s releasing his book soon. I don’t know if you’re part of the Gutsy Indie Authors Facebook Group, but he’s on there – Larry Edwards. Maybe you want to check out his blog and connect with him…just a thought.

      Thanks for stopping by, and good luck with your endeavors. Let me know if you want to participate in this series.

  5. Meeting Mary in person a couple of days ago, has enabled me to get a better understanding of who she is, and her enthusiasm to help other indie publishers. I admire her knowledge, her courage and her enthusiasm for continuing with a novel, after her memoir.

    • Ditto, Sonia! I’m so envious of your indie get-together y’all had in California – it’s such a lovely idea to cement the bond that has developed between all of us thanks to your Gutsy Indie Author blog and Facebook group; well done on taking the lead in such a cooperative way.

    • Wow … I could say exactly the same thing about you … knowledge, courage, and enthusiasm to share. And you did share … to the benefit of all the rest of us! Thanks for making that lunch happen!

  6. Pingback: The Gist of a Great Blog Series | My Rite of Passage

I welcome comments, and I always respond.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s