I would like to introduce Linda Gillard, the winner of the BRAG Medallion.
Linda, please tell us about your book, Untying the Knot.
If the e-book had a back cover, this is what it would say…
“Everyone makes mistakes, but I sometimes think I’ve made more than most. Marrying Magnus was one of them. But the biggest mistake I ever made was divorcing him.”
A wife is meant to stand by her man. Especially an army wife. But Fay didn’t. She walked away – from Magnus, her traumatised war-hero husband and from the home he was restoring: Tullibardine Tower, a ruinous 16th century tower house on a Perthshire hillside.
Now their daughter Emily is marrying someone she shouldn’t. And so is Magnus…”
UNTYING THE KNOT was my fifth novel. I wanted to follow up the success of STAR GAZING which had been short-listed for Romantic Novel of the Year, but I didn’t want to repeat myself. My aim was to write another unusual love story that would make readers laugh and cry, but I needed a new angle.
I’d written about all kinds of love over the years but I hadn’t written much about marriage and I’d never written about divorce, so I decided my hero and heroine would be a divorced couple. The twist would be, they never should have divorced because five years later, they’re still in love with each other and can’t move on. The book asks, “Will they get back together again? And if so, how?”
What was your inspiration for writing this story?
Sometimes these things just fall into your lap. Driving through the Glasgow suburbs one day, I saw a white van parked on the drive of an ordinary house. The lettering on the side of the van said “Bomb Disposal Unit”. Questions started to form in my mind. Was this where a bomb disposal technician lived?… What sort of a man does that kind of job?… Then my novelist’s brain kicked in with more questions. What sort of boy grows up to become a man who’ll dedicate his life to the most dangerous job in the world? What sort of woman would marry a man like that? And what would that marriage be like?…
The answers to those questions became UNTYING THE KNOT. None of my novels has ever come together as a concept more quickly or easily, but strangely, none has taken longer or been more difficult to write!
Was there any research involved? If so, please explain.
I did more research for this novel than any of my others. I had to research bomb disposal – not how the job’s done now, but how it was done many years ago. My hero, Magnus had served as a very young soldier in the Falklands War in 1982 and later in Northern Irelandin the ‘90s, so that entailed historical research.
I also needed to know what it’s like to be “married to the army” and learned about the pressures of being an army wife. But my main topic of research was post-traumatic stress disorder. Magnus suffers from this illness as a consequence of his terrible experience in Northern Ireland, where his career was ended when a bomb he was disarming exploded.
On the lighter side, I had to research the architectural restoration of a 16thC tower house, a type of small castle, common in Scotland.
Very little of this research made it into the novel, but I don’t think I could have written the book unless I’d done it. I tried to keep the book free of “information dumps”, but I hope there’s a depth to the novel as a result of the research I did.
Is there a character that you relate to in your story?
I think I relate to all the characters I create. I don’t think I’d be able to write them if I didn’t. But if you mean, which character in UNTYING THE KNOT do I relate to most personally, then I think I’d say Magnus, the mentally fragile hero with his dark, at times macabre sense of humour. Magnus is also the most romantic character I’ve ever written. He’s still hopelessly in love with his ex-wife, five years after their divorce. I identify with that kind of loyalty and passion.
What is your next book project?
I don’t know. I have a lot of notes for a big family drama, but I’m also drawn to writing another paranormal. (My last book, THE GLASS GUARDIAN was a love story with a ghost hero and it’s proved popular with readers.) But, to be honest, my next book project is probably a way off. I’ve been receiving treatment for breast cancer for much of this year and my current “project” is getting well enough to start writing my next novel.
What do you think contributes to making a writer successful in self-publishing?
Without a publisher behind you, you have to be prepared to put in the hours. If you don’t like promoting yourself and your work, don’t become an indie author! Achieving online visibility is the biggest challenge and there are few short cuts to this. You need to put in time seeking out potential readers, cultivating bloggers, joining in discussion forums, etc. You also need a good website and you have to embrace social networking.
But I think the main factor that contributes to indie success is writing a very good book! When you’re dependent on word of mouth and good reviews for sales, it’s essential that you write the best book you can. Readers have more free books on their e-readers than they’ll ever find time to read and the novelty has worn off. Readers are now looking for quality books at a reasonable price.
Who designed your book cover?
A professional designer, Nicola Coffield. Nicky is also a friend and we’ve worked closely together on all five of my indie ebooks. Usually I find the stock photo we use as the basis for the cover, then I tell Nicky what I want the cover to say, what mood I want it to convey. She gets to work, then sends me several different versions. I choose one, then we tweak it till we’re both happy.
When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’d been an actress, journalist and teacher before I started writing my first novel at the age of 47. I began writing EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY when I was convalescing after illness had forced me to give up teaching. I had a lot of time on my hands and I couldn’t find the sort of book I wanted to read, so I thought I’d write one, just for myself. By the time I was halfway through writing that book, I didn’t want to do anything but write my story. I was obsessed – perhaps I should say addicted!
I started planning a second novel even before I’d finished the first, because I could see how bad the withdrawal symptoms were going to be. But I also felt I’d finally found the thing I was meant to do. With hindsight I can see that as an actress, journalist and teacher, I’d always been a wordsmith, telling other people’s stories. Writing fiction meant that I could finally tell my own.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
Getting that critic off your shoulder and believing in your ability as a writer, in the worth of your stories. That can be very hard, especially when you get months, even years of editorial rejections.
I think most writers are beset by self-doubt. I try to banish it while I’m writing by focusing on just covering the pages. (I draft longhand in pencil.) I don’t consider the quality of what I’m writing, I just try to tell the story and get all my ideas down as fast as I can. Then in another session, maybe the next day, I’ll go back to my scrawl and edit it into something much better. I’ll edit again and again until I’m happy. For me editing mostly means cutting, so that I’m convinced every remaining word is really earning its keep.
Drafting and editing are two different processes. If you try to draft and edit at the same time, you’ll cripple yourself creatively. Keep the tasks separate. When you’re drafting, believe that every idea you have is a good one. When you edit, imagine you’re editing someone else’s work.
When do your best ideas for stories come to you?
When I’m daydreaming. Travelling on long-distance buses or trains can be a fruitful time. Big plot twists tend to come when I’m in the shower, so I keep a notebook in the bedroom. I’ve been known to sit on the bed, wrapped in a damp towel, scribbling down my ideas before they disappear! You have to seize the moment.
What is your favorite quote?
Stephen King wrote: “I have never felt like I was creating anything. For me, writing is like walking through a desert and all at once, poking up through the hardpan, I see the top of a chimney. I know there’s a house under there, and I’m pretty sure that I can dig it up if I want. That’s how I feel. It’s like the stories are already there. What they pay me for is the leap of faith that says: ‘If I sit down and do this, everything will come out OK.’ ”
I like this quotation because it reflects how I write. I’ve always felt that the stories are “out there” and it’s a question of somehow discovering them. When they were younger, my kids used to ask, “Do you know how your book ends?” and I used to say, “No, the characters haven’t told me yet.” That’s what writing is for me: a process of discovery. I don’t think I’ve ever begun a book knowing how it would end. If I knew, I’m not sure I’d have the patience to write it.
UNTYING THE KNOT on Amazon
Linda Gillard lives in the Scottish Highlands and has been an actress, journalist and teacher. She is the author of six novels, including STAR GAZING, short-listed in 2009 for Romantic Novel of the Year and HOUSE OF SILENCE, which became a Kindle bestseller and was selected by Amazon UK as one of their Top Ten “Best of 2011” in the Indie Author category.
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Linda Gillard who is the author of, Untying the Knot, one of our medallion honorees at http://www.bragmedallion.com. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as Untying the Knot merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.