For Gabriella Saab, writing is as much about process as inspiration

Posted On December 12, 2022

One might think of writers as creatures of impulse who work in fits of inspiration, waiting for the muse to lead them.

Our guest in a recent episode of “What’s Working with Cam Marston” flies against that image. Gabriella Saab writes historical fiction, a genre that requires a copious amount of research, and she has become very deliberate in how she goes about it.

Saab’s first novel, “The Last Checkmate,” was quite successful and is now available in 15 countries. But as she began to work on her next novel, “Daughters of Victory,” she decided she needed a new approach.

“I definitely think I’ve gotten a lot stricter about my process,” she said. “With The Last Checkmate, I had the idea and I’d done some general research, but I was sort of writing and researching at the same time. I realized I need kind of a more solid foundation. For this book, I did all the heavy research up front, all the plotting, all the outline, all the character development, all on the front end. That still leaves me room for the story to grow, to change and develop as I write, but I have a more solid foundation.”

She actually traveled to Poland to get a feel for the setting for her first novel, and leaned heavily on a critique partner who is of Russian descent for the second. “Daughters of Victory,” spanning the Russian revolution of 1917 to the Nazis’ invasion of the Soviet Union in World War II, is set to come out in January.

Saab’s decision to jump from one era to another in the book is part inspiration, part calculation, as she consciously thought of ways to make her book stand out in a market inundated with World War II stories. “I like to do that through structure,” she said, “because not every book is going to be non-linear and if it is non-linear, there’s so many ways to do that.”

The demands of the marketplace and the expectations of publishers are factors with which a writer must contend. But Saab said she enjoys great freedom to create. She’s met a supportive community of fellow writers through Twitter and is already at work on a third novel based on her family history.

The constant throughout her work so far: Female protagonists. It’s a feature she says is partly a personal relation and partly a desire to tell stories that haven’t been shared as widely as they should have.

“There’s a lot of catching up to do as far as the female stories,” Saab said. “There were plenty of women throughout history doing extraordinary things. We didn’t just start showing up in the picture in recent years.”

You can order “The Last Checkmate” or pre-order “Daughters of Victory” at Saab’s website:


Categories: Blog, Podcast, What's Working with Cam Marston, Women, Work