Interview with Cecilia Gray, Author of That Was Then (Second Chance Book 1)

30 Jun 2021

What can you tell us about your new release, That Was Then?

That Was Then follows a woman experiencing a midlife reboot during the first 18 months of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of my friends, colleagues, and family–even myself–reevaluated our lives during that period. I wanted to capture that assessment against the very real backdrop of the entire world reassessing itself. I wrote many of the scenes in real-time, so the scenes that are dated during the pandemic were actually written on those dates as the real-world event or news unfolded.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

Telling stories is something I have always done since I was a child and continue to do.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

This is difficult! I feel anxious whenever I’m asked to list my favorite books because it’s an impossible question. Books can be meaningful to you for different reasons and at different times in your life. I really love Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong, Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, and The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan. They’re beautifully written and say a lot in what they’re not saying, which takes such talent. I’ll leave the fifth book a mystery.

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?

Andy Weir, author of The Martian and Hail Mary. I love his journey to becoming an author and how he crowdsourced his science scenes. I would ask how did he maintain his voice amidst all the content and daily feedback he received from fans? When I write, I can’t read, because I find myself mimicking the author.  

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

For most of the process, your story feels like a hot mess but at some point, about 80% of the way through, the random scenes and snippets all seem to come together, as if your mind had planned it the whole time and is only just letting you in on it.

What is a typical day like for you?

I wake up around 8, usually to my cats trying to snuggle under the blanket with me. And yes, I reach for my phone and check my emails and texts. I usually spend an hour or two with breakfast and exercise, then get down to the business of my day job. I write after dinner, at least for an hour, and, if things are going well, far into night.

What scene from That Was Then was your favorite to write?

How to do this without a spoiler? Hmmmm. There is a scene in which the heroine finally realizes how to actually be a heroine and what it means to be heroic in your own life and the lives of others. Writing this scene was such a catharsis because it’s as if I gave myself the same realization for my own life. After writing that scene, I literally changed my life….where I live, who I’m with, and what I do.

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

Manage your investment. I don’t just mean financial, I mean how you invest your time, your energy, your space, and your money. It’s easy to let life go by and settle into routines that don’t benefit you. To really grow, you need to check in with your investments and whether they’re giving you the returns that you want.

Cecilia Gray is the author of the new book That Was Then

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rebecca