Words in search of a meaning.Roman Jakobson, The Newest Russian Poetry (1919: revised 1921)
Welcome to my guest page. Here, each week, I’ll be share a conversation, over tea and cakes, or maybe a glass of something, if they are not driving, with a friend about their work in progress, or latest new release. I’ll be talking to all sort of writers and authors at different levels of their writing careers.
It’s lovely to have you here, Gill. I hope the tea is to your liking. First may I ask you when you first begun your writing journey and what drew you to chosen your genre?
I started off writing for children. We were on holiday in Spain, some pretty odd things started happening and my children aged then six and eight ran out of reading material. So, I started writing a story for them, getting a chapter done each day ready to read to them at night. I gradually drifted over to YA – that made sense as I’d been teaching secondary children for over twenty years so I was quite familiar with the target reader. I then realised that although my Schellberg Cycle novels and some of the later ones in the Peace Child series contain young adults they are more for an adult readership. The Schellberg Cycle contains a lot of very strong women, so I realise I’m now moving over to feisty women.
Do you write a synopsis first or write the first chapter? (If you only write short stories, do you plan your story or let the characters lead you.)
I’m a bit of a planner. I think on that line between planner and panster I’m about half way along. Right in the middle. I plan the whole lot out and then plan each chapter before I start to write. I don’t write a synopsis as such. I leave that until I’m ready to start sending the book out. But I’m always surprised at how at both whole book and individual chapter level the characters take on a mind of their own and led me in all sorts of unexpected directions. I’m very much a believer in getting the first draft down and not editing too much on the way but I do find that my first edit involves dealing with plot holes. I use Scrivener and find that really helps with planning thought I’ll often do the very first plan in a notebook, often sitting in a café. Ah. Those were the days.
When reading back through your work do you ever find that you daily mood swings are reflected in your writing?
Very much so but also in quite an odd way. When I’ve been in a buoyant mood and thought that everything was going swimmingly, I’ve often looked back and found the writing on that day terrible. At other times when it’s been a real struggle and I may have even doubted my ability to write I‘ve produced my best work. I’ve actually come to recognise these moods and monitor the writing accordingly.
I also think though that writing is a bit like method acting; you have to almost become your characters. So, you have to force yourself into certain moods.
Were any of your characters inspired by real people?
Indeed, in my Schellberg Cycle. The House on Schellberg Street is very much the story of my late mother-in-law. She actually started writing the book herself but only completed half of the opening chapter. Several other real people appear in the “cast”. This includes her grandmother who became so fascinating that she deserved a book of her own, hence Clara’s Story. Clara never escaped Nazi Germany because she wouldn’t accept that the law still saw her as Jewish even though she’d changed religion, that she was convinced that the German people would come to their sense and she just would not abandon the disabled children she looked after. There was a lot we didn’t know, so method acting came in again. How would such and such a person behave in these circumstances?
Is there anything about you your readers might be surprised to find out?
That I sing tenor with a choir? I do find belonging to a choir such a nice contrast with writing. I was also an academic in the day job and that means being the expert in something and working on your own. When you’re with a choir your ego has to get out of the way and you have to work cooperatively with other people. It is so good for your mood and mental health, too. Also, you make a lot of friends. The “tenor” bit is interesting too: I always thought some of the alto parts were dull but I could never sing soprano. One day the choir director asked if I’d try tenor. I gave it a go and was delighted; the range suited my very well and the tenor parts are often really interesting.
What is you work schedule like when you’re writing?
Writing is my most important activity. I write in the mornings. On a good day that will mean working from about ten past eight through until twelve thirty. Ten thirty until one thirty at weekends That means writing about 2,000 words or editing between 6,000 and 20,000 words. The rest of the day I’ll be keeping up with social media, emails, marketing and my various publishing and editing duties. But I punctuate all of this with the odd U3A or NWR meeting, choir practice or performance, or visits to author or literature events.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I did for a short while use a pseudonym for my children’s novels – Lian Childs. That’s the other half of my full first name and my maiden name, which after all is rather a good one for a children’s writer. The trouble was, I kept forgetting who I was especially when I went on school visits. So, I’ve stopped doing that, it can be useful though if you write in completely different genres. I have one writing friend who writes under six different names!
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
I tend to have several projects on the go at the same time, so the first draft of a novel will take about two months, perhaps spread over six months. I then churn it through my fourteen stages of editing which takes another eighteen months or so. But I’m also writing blog posts, short stories, flash fiction and other bits of copy as well. At the moment I have one novel, one non-fiction book and a course for writers in progress.I also pause occasionally to write a short story or a piece of flash fiction.
WRITER / PUBLISHER / CREATIVE WRITING LECTURER
Girl in a Smart Uniform, the third book in Schellberg Cycle (Stories of Holocaust survival) Available on Amazon/