Gathering of the Ghosts – January 22, 2024

GG Craft Interviews: Pauline Bartel

February 24, 2023

Gotham Ghostwriters Craft Interviews highlight the extraordinary talent of our writer community. Each month, L. M. Archer interviews a member of our network about one of their books, delving into their inspiration and creative process.

This month, Archer asks writer Pauline Bartel all about her book, Gone With the Wind: 1939 Day by Day.

What was the impetus for writing your book, Gone With the Wind: 1939 Day by Day. Why is 2023 the perfect time to interview you about the book?

In 2014, I wrote a year-long series of blog posts that celebrated significant dates in the film’s 1939 production year. I used those posts to promote the second edition of The Complete GONE WITH THE WIND Trivia Book that was published for the film’s 75th anniversary.

Toward the end of the year, as I wrote a post that celebrated the film’s December 15th Atlanta premiere, I wondered: What happened in Gone With the Wind world the next day? That sparked an idea: Writing a book that chronicled what was happening every day of Gone With the Wind’s production year. I thought fans would love having a daily snapshot of events on and off the set. The book would also be a deeper dive into 1939 than my previous Gone With the Wind book. Those thoughts inspired my writing of Gone With the Wind: 1939 Day by Day.

For each day’s entry, I included three sections:

  • “In the Spotlight,” highlighting the birthdays of cast, crew and others associated with the film
  • “Behind the Scenes,” detailing the trials, tribulations and triumphs of Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Olivia de Havilland, Leslie Howard, producer David O. Selznick, and others before, during and after principal filming
  • “In the News,” sharing press speculations and reports about the film’s casting and production

With Gone With the Wind: 1939 Day by Day, fans can enjoy following the day-by-day drama and intrigue of Gone With the Wind’s production on each event’s exact date, especially in 2023 when the calendar matches the days of the 1939 calendar.

How long did the process of writing the book take, from start to finish?

Almost two years. In September 2019, I signed the book contract that had a manuscript delivery date of September 1, 2020. I had prepared a project management timeline for the book and had calculated that a year would give me sufficient time to write a 50,000-word manuscript. What I didn’t anticipate was COVID-19 hitting in March 2020.

The pandemic tossed a Molotov cocktail into my work life. Valuable writing time evaporated as I struggled to replace lost business income.

By May 2020, I knew I wouldn’t make the manuscript delivery date. I notified my agent, who contacted my editor to request a deadline extension. At the time, my publisher had only just resumed business operations. My editor was handling a backlog of manuscripts, so he readily agreed to extend my deadline to early 2021. What a relief I felt in having that extension! I then revised my project management timeline – once again – and focused on completing and then editing the manuscript.

I emailed the final manuscript to my editor on April 7, 2021. As I hit the “Send” button, I had some sense of the relief producer David O. Selznick must have felt on the day he finally completed editing Gone With the Wind – only four days before the film’s Atlanta premiere. I welcomed the publication of Gone With the Wind: 1939 Day by Day on July 15, 2022. Since then, I have been working with my publisher to promote the book in advance of 1939’s twin year: 2023.

What were the biggest challenges you encountered while writing it?

The biggest writing challenge was telling the story of Gone With the Wind’s production year in 365 discrete entries while maintaining the continuity of two story threads. The main thread was in the “Behind the Scenes” section. That content concerned happenings on and off the set that took place before, during and after principal filming. The secondary thread was in the “In the News” section. That content concerned media reporting about the film throughout 1939. I had to make certain that each thread told its complete story while complementing the other thread. Writing the book in chronological order helped me make sure that the two threads unspooled as I had intended.

Any unexpected lessons learned while writing the book?

The pandemic reinforced for me the value of public libraries and librarians to writers. While working on my manuscript, I had requested research books through my local library’s interlibrary loan program. One book was an oversized, weighty volume borrowed from a neighboring library. I renewed that book again and again.

As pandemic shutdowns loomed, I was nearing the end of the book’s last renewal period. That put me in a quandary: Should I return the book to start the renewal periods over again? If I did so, would I risk being unable to borrow it a second time, if libraries shut down?  

When area libraries announced indefinite closures, I called the director of my local library and explained my predicament. He understood my situation since over the years he had helped me obtain research books for other projects. He allowed me to keep the book for as long as I needed it. He also stated that he would clear our arrangement with the neighboring library. I was so grateful.

Finally, the day came when I hauled that oversized, weighty volume back to my local library and returned it personally to the director. I had had the book for two years. To show my thanks and appreciation, I included in Gone With the Wind: 1939 Day by Day acknowledgements to both libraries. They each received a donation check, an inscribed copy of my published book and my heart-felt thanks for their support of a local writer during extraordinary circumstances.

Any favorite chapter(s) and/or section(s)? If so, which one(s) and why?

In my essay “Slap Happy Scarlett,” I detail four instances of an angry Scarlett losing her temper and slapping others across the face and one instance of a provoked Scarlett dealing with a Yankee deserter.

In my essay “The Gossips of Gone With the Wind,” I contrast one scene portraying women characters dishing dirt with five scenes portraying men characters divulging secrets, which I show as much worse offenses.  

These essays rank as my favorites because of the humorous, in-the-know observations I share. I hope those reflections spur casual fans to see the movie again and cause devoted fans – who understand the details – to laugh out loud.

How has your affiliation with Gotham Ghostwriters (GG) helped inform your writing life?

Gotham Ghostwriters has informed my writing life by providing a community of professionals from whom I can learn. Throughout the years, I’ve found value in an array of GG offerings. Those include the weekly newsletter with information about topics of interest such as hybrid publishing plus media updates and spotlights of members and their new books. I’ve also enjoyed webinars and brown bag lunches that connected me to industry experts.  I view Gotham Ghostwriters as an excellent source of continuing professional development for me as an independent writer doing business in today’s gig economy.

Where may readers obtain a copy of your book?

Readers can obtain copies of my book from their local, independent bookstores. Gone With the Wind: 1939 Day by Day is also available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and IndieBound. Readers visiting my author page on Amazon can request personally inscribed bookplates.

Anything else I haven’t asked you that you think is important for GG readers to know about your new book?

In 2023, readers wishing to follow the daily events of Gone With the Wind’s1939 production year can rely on my book and find extended coverage in my blog. As for me, I’ll raise a glass in toast to each of Gone With the Wind’s high points on the exact days and dates they occurred. Cheers!


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