Featuring State of Grace, the powerful final novel by award-winning author Sandra Moran
Sandra Moran’s State of Grace is a taut suspense tale that explores the dark spaces between imagination and reality.
“State of Grace is, sadly, the last beautiful, moving achievement from a woman whose wit, intelligence, and loving humanity can be felt on every page of all her books.”—George Hodgman, author of Bettyville
“The detailed and concentrated exploration of a young woman’s mind reveals both the penetration of an imaginative intellect, and the skill of an exemplary writer, pulling us in and keeping us pinned to the page as the story unfolds.” —Velvet Lounger, The Lesbian Reading Room
“She was a wonderful writer and when we read how she was able to get into Birdie’s mind, we see her sharp mind and imagination. Her writing is crisp and fresh and her descriptions are vivid. I understand that this was the first book that she wrote, and it is the last to be published. Realizing that there would be no more Moran after this, I slowed down my reading so that I could savor every word, every sentence and every description. As I neared the end, it really hit me that we have lost quite a writer, especially a writer who knew how to treat her readers with a good story that is filled with intense suspense.”—Amos Lassen, Amos Lassen Reviews
Sandra Moran was an author and assistant adjunct professor of anthropology. Her debut novel, Letters Never Sent, was a finalist for the 2013 Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction. Revisions on State of Grace, her final novel, were completed in September 2015. Less than a month later, she was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. She passed away on November 7, 2015. Her spouse, Cheryl Pletcher, has been kind enough to join us for this month’s Author Spotlight.
Cheryl, if you were to stand up in front of a room full of strangers and tell them about Sandra Moran’s State of Grace, what would that be, and why is it so important?
State of Grace was the first book that Sandra penned. She wrote it to prove to herself that she had the skills to write fiction. The importance of the book is that it gave Sandra the confidence to continue to write fiction. As readers of Sandra’s work, we are very grateful that she found that confidence.
You recently attended your first Golden Crown Literary Society (GCLS) Conference in part, to help launch State of Grace. What stood out for you about that experience? What did you take away?
Well, of course, it was a difficult conference for many since it was the first since Sandra’s passing. The thing that stood out most significantly for me and for Sandra’s mother, Cherie, was the incredible love people had for Sandra. Cherie and I knew how special Sandra was, but to see her impact and how she influenced so many others was indescribable. My takeaway was that Sandra’s impact on the GCLS community was about much more than offering excellent books to read. She inspired people to believe in themselves and to love unconditionally.
You are also working with the Legacies of Lesbian Literature Project, why is that so important to you?
Sandra and I had very different interests and, when I lost her, I feared that I would not be able to advance some of her dreams and goals. When Marianne K. Martin approached me about helping her with the Legacies of Lesbian Literature Project my first reaction was, “I’d love to, but what knowledge or talents do I have to offer this project?” Sandra’s author friends tease me often about my love for nonfiction. The only lesbian fiction I had ever read was Letters Never Sent and All We Lack. Marianne quickly told me that she could manage that end of the project if I could help with the business aspects of it. THAT, I said, I could do. It is allowing me to carry Sandra’s dream forward—and that feels very good.
Sandra only had the opportunity to write for a few years, yet she was able to release four very different novels. Was writing a job, or a vocation for Sandra? What do you believe her legacy will be within both the lesbian fiction genre, and the mainstream market?
Sandra was an adjunct professor of anthropology at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas. She was a magnificent teacher and her students just adored her. She started writing about 5 years ago. It was always her goal to write full time and she was just a few months away from making that a reality. I believe her legacy is different than what she envisioned it would be. She wanted to “raise the bar on lesbian fiction writing.” What Sandra truly left behind for so many writers, readers, friends, and acquaintances is the drive to make a difference in the world. She inspired us all to treat everyone with kindness and respect, and to make the world a better place, one person at a time.
What was the most important thing to you about getting State of Grace published for Sandra? What is your favorite thing about putting her final novel into the hands of her readers?
Sandra spent years working on this book. Early editing changed the book to something she barely recognized. In the end, Sandra reworked State of Grace in order to tell the story as she envisioned it. When you read the book you will see it is a very complex story. Sandra was brilliant. And, honestly, I did not have confidence that anyone could truly understand the intricacy of the story and edit it correctly without her input. So I would not let it be published unless it was accepted as Sandra left it.
I received such great pleasure and satisfaction when I saw the first printed copy, knowing that the readers were going to read the story as Sandra intended for it to be read. I am so grateful to Bywater Books for foregoing the traditional editing process on this book. It was a gutsy move on their part. It was simply an act of love for Sandra.
When you hear from Sandra’s readers, what do they most often say about Sandra? What one thing has surprised you the most? What about the least?
Sandra’s followers know that I was a bit of an anomaly. I was not a Facebook frequent flyer, and Sandra rarely shared anything with readers about our personal life. So, after losing her, I was a bit “pushed” out into her Facebook/public world. My greatest surprise was the number of people who talked so highly about her on Facebook. In almost every instance, their last comment would be something like, “I never met her in person. I only knew her through Facebook, but she made me feel like we had been friends forever.” I witnessed Sandra making people feel this way many, many times in person, but the volumes of people on Facebook sharing this sentiment was astounding.
What surprised me the least: The number of people who loved Sandra. I knew the entire ten years we were together that I lived with, and loved, someone who was exceptional and who had a unique purpose in life.
One of the most challenging things any author faces is getting their books into the hands of readers. If a potential reader asks you, “Why should I read State of Grace?” What would you tell them?
Sandra Moran wrote it. Her writing will always surprise you. State of Grace is no different. It’s a story that isn’t what it seems. And it will hold your interest until the very last page.
What one question do you wish someone would ask about State of Grace, but no one has? What would your answer be?
Question: Did Sandra always call this book, State of Grace?
Answer: No! It was originally titled Reckoning of the Sums, then And We Two Alone Shall Sing, then Broken, then Saving Grace and, finally, State of Grace.
. . . and another little secret—Grace was originally named Margaret.
Sandra had signed her next book, The Harvey Girls, with Bywater Books, but was only able to write about 5,000 words before she got sick. Tell us a little more about this book, her research, and why it was so important to her.
Sandra was so excited about this book. She truly believed it was going to be her next Letters Never Sent. (Letters Never Sent was her favorite book). She had completed all of her main research, developed the main characters, and had outlined the chapters. Her illness only allowed her to write for five days on the story. When it became clear to her that she would not be able to complete it, she made sure I knew how important it was that I find someone to take her material and write the story. I have done that. I am honored to say that our dear, dear friend, Ann McMan, has agreed to write the story based on Sandra’s characters and outline. I know with confidence that Sandra could not be happier.