“Wilfred had no idea his life is about to change, and he never dreamed he was lonely—not until Sadie came to his door.”
THE INTERVIEW: Gabriella Balcom
Would you tell us a little about yourself?
First, I want to thank you, Sue, for interviewing me. I greatly appreciate it.
I’m Pavla Chandler, but I write under the pseudonym Gabriella Balcom. I’m from Texas, and I live in a small town in the country. Woods surround my home and I love both them and being able to see and hear animals daily. I write in several genres, the main ones being fantasy, horror, sci-fi, literary fiction, and romance. I also write poems, children’s stories, and occasionally in other genres.
What is the first book that made you cry?
I started Where the Wild Things Are when I was pretty young, but got scared, and couldn’t finish the story; in fact, I didn’t until many years later. I believe this happened because my real life was full of scary things, and I couldn’t handle more (or any I perceived as scary).
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Writing typically energizes me, builds my self-esteem, and is cathartic.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Someone constantly interrupting me or talking nonstop during my writing time aggravates me to no end. I’m especially irked if the other person is yammering for the millionth time about their problems, but he/she hasn’t done anything to address them.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
I think some individuals who feel things shallowly could still write, but I suspect their creations would lack true feeling and depth. However, I realize people sometimes “pretend” convincingly, have good imaginations, mimic the real thing, or copy others.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
I’d say, “Don’t stop writing, no matter what!” I would add, “Believe in yourself, even if others don’t.”
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
My best financial investment was hiring an editor after I wrote my first stories for a submission call.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I grew up in a very abusive home, and was physically and emotionally abused from the time I was little. Along with being beaten, I experienced horrible, hurtful things being said—or yelled—and learned firsthand how powerful words can be.
On a more positive note, someone told me about God when I was young, too. Little was said overall—mainly that He existed and loved me—but those words had a great impact on me.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
The wolf. I admire wolves’ strong family ties, loyalty, and how they mate for life and persevere despite being misjudged, misunderstood, and targeted at times.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
My first response is to sigh. Lol! Right now, I have a novelette, novella, and novel ready for publication. Work and life keep me rather busy, along with draining my energy sometimes, so I haven’t moved forward with them. One is under contract, however, and the publisher is “stalled” (dealing with personal issues). With the other two, I need to get on the ball and submit them or send out queries.
As far as incomplete books, I’m working on a sci-fi novel; it’s a little over 39,000 words long right now, but will be at least 45,000 words when I’m done, if not more. In addition, I began a fantasy story a year ago which is around 12,000 words, but I haven’t worked on it in a while. I have ideas for several other stories and have three which range from 4,000-9,000 words apiece, along with several others that are shorter; I periodically reread and revise or expand these.
I wrote when I was younger, but set my writing aside for years, focusing instead on college, family, work, divorcing, being a single parent, and just living. In 2012, I couldn’t hold the words back anymore, and they came flooding out of me. I wrote a lot. Writing was cathartic at first, but my focus turned creative, and I did several full-length novels (love stories, memoir-type works, some about a social worker, etc.) At some point, I’ll go back and work on these earlier stories, because my writing has improved since then.
What does literary success look like to you?
Success is having loyal fans who love my work and buy it regularly. Someday, I’d love to be able to make sufficient money from my writing to stop working.
How many hours a day do you write?
This depends on my work schedule, and whether I’m working full-time, putting in extra hours, or have time off. It could range from two hours a day to eighteen or more.
How do you select the names of your characters?
They usually “come” to me. When they don’t, I look through my list of “Names to Be Used Someday,” or scroll through dozens of names online until one or more jump out at me.
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
I work fulltime as a social worker, primarily dealing with people in crisis (wanting to kill themselves or others, or having hallucinations).
Does your family support your career as a writer?
I’m a private person, and prefer to keep the most meaningful, intimate things to myself. I do the same with ones that are devastating and shattering. With that said, I didn’t tell any of my relatives that I wrote until a few years ago, and even then, I only told some of my children. They were and are supportive. I haven’t told any other relatives.
Which is your favorite season to write in, and why?
My favorite season in which to write, live, and do anything is fall, because it’s usually more comfortable temperature-wise—not too hot and not too cold.
If you had the opportunity to live anywhere in the world for a year while writing a book that took place in that same setting, where would you choose?
Slovenia. My father emigrated from there, with generations and generations of our ancestors having lived there before him. I’d love to walk where they walked, see sights they saw, and learn more about both the settings and them.
If I could choose another site, I’d pick Scotland. Some of my mother’s ancestral lines came from there, and I’ve seen stunning pictures of the country’s towns, mountains, castles, and much more. Scottish history is rich and varied, and I’d like to learn more about it, my ancestors, and where they lived.
Do you like audiobooks, physical books, or e-books better? Why?
Physical books are my favorites by a huge margin, because they seem more real to me. I love holding them, smelling them, and manually turning the pages. However, I began buying e-books about three or four years ago, because they cost less and “arrived” rapidly.
What is your most unusual writing quirk?
I don’t know if others would consider this a quirk or not, but I type on my laptop while sitting cross-legged on my bed. In the background, I keep music playing low, not only because I enjoy it, but to drown out distractions outside my room. I position my notes beside me, have others up where I can see them, and keep markers, index cards, and a notebook beside me so I can jot down things that pop into my head. I always have water, blue Powerade, or fruit juice nearby, and fruit, crackers and cheese, or other snacks now and then.
What is your favorite genre to read, and why?
My favorite genres to read are fantasy, sci-fi, horror, mystery, and romance—because I love them. However, I read a wide variety overall.
What is the funniest typo you’ve ever written?
One time, I thought I’d typed, “Got it,” but what I’d really put down was, “Go tit.” Lol. I’ve made that same mistake other times, too, while rushing.
Who is the most supportive person in your life when it comes to your writing?
I’d have to say myself, because I keep most of my successes and disappointments to myself. Any time I feel down or discouraged, I do things to help myself feel better, reread stories I’m particularly proud of, and try to give myself an emotional boost.
What is the hardest part of writing your author bio?
I know authors need to share about themselves, their works, and successes, but many times it seems strange doing so. Saying “I’ve had x number of works accepted for publication…” or “I won yada-yada…” feels like bragging, even though other writers do the same thing.
What is your favorite word, and why?
I like “determined,” because I believe I am. And, I’m convinced authors have to be in order to improve their writing, stick with their craft, not let themselves become discouraged, and keep on keeping on despite obstacles.
I’m going to add a second word, though: “never.” I love the idea of never letting someone make you feel less than what you are, which is wonderful, and never giving up.
What advice would you give to other writers or people contemplating writing?
If you believe in yourself, you can do anything. I truly believe this. If writing is something you aspire to, do everything you can to make your dream come true. But, you need to understand it’ll take hard work, including improving your writing until it’s publication-ready and publication-worthy. Using an editor is a good idea, at least when you’re first starting out and building your skills, because he/she will probably spot things you hadn’t thought of (varying tenses accidentally, having plot holes, telling versus showing, and all sorts of other stuff). Lastly, I’m going to stress: Believe in yourself, and don’t ever give up.
Have any of your works been published? If so, where can they be found? Have you won any awards?
I’ve had about 270-280 creations accepted for publication, including drabbles, poems, short stories, and longer works. Some appear in books which were best sellers. When one of my stories was voted best in the anthology in which it appeared, I won the right to have a book published by Clarendon House Publications. My multi-genre collection of short stories, “On the Wings of Ideas“, was published after this.
In 2020, I was nominated for the Washington Science Fiction Association’s Small Press Award, and won second place in JayZoMon’s Open Contract Challenge, a competition in which around one hundred authors competed to win publishing contracts. My romance novelette, “Worth Waiting For“, was published as a result of my second place win. Black Hare Press published my sci-fi novella, “The Return“, in March 2021, and another novella pends publication.
My books can be found at various places, including the publishers’ websites and Amazon.com. Here are some links:
Sue, thank you again for interviewing me for your blog.
Gabriella, it has been my distinct pleasure to get to know you better! Thank you so very much for participating in the “Featured Author” portion of my little blog.
To keep up with Gabriella’s latest publications, you may visit and follow her on Facebook by clicking HERE.
“We make a living by what we get,
but we make a life by what we give.”
— Winston Churchill