Monday, 16 April 2012

Linda Gillard: Hearts and Crafts and Independence

I've just finished Emotional Geology, the third of Linda Gillard's novels I've read and enjoyed - the others being House of Silence and Untying the Knot. Linda has recently been setting us a fine example as a mid-list novelist who, having been dropped by her publisher, has proved that it's perfectly possible to be a successful indie writer and publisher. Her original publisher was worried when she wanted to experiment with genre: this is a very common problem with publishers who want writers to 'brand' themselves in a limited way. So, if you write thrillers you can't write rom-coms. If you have too many genre-elements in your novel, the bookseller 'won't know where to put you on the shelves' - this was said to me once when a publisher who 'loved' my writing wouldn't buy my book unless I chose to focus on one of the elements she perceived in my story and one only, and revise the book accordingly. I refused to fillet my book in that way. I sold my novel later, all the same.

This attitude is not only galling to writers, but patronising towards readers, as if the poor dears can't cope with too many elements at once. Readers, actually, are often bored out of their minds by the same-old same-old on the tables in bookshops. Readers want to be startled, refreshed, amazed, enraptured. Readers want writers they've fallen in love with to write books which have the capacity to take them by surprise. They want to be gripped: they don't want a rushed pot-boiler written to order, following the same jaded recipe as the previous three, ten or twenty books that novelist has written.

This is not to say that writers can't happily plough the same furrow all their writing career: what this is about is giving writers the freedom to veer off that course if they choose. Linda Gillard has achieved this freedom: her next story will be a supernatural story, because that's what she feels like producing. She's already decided to pull it from submission to traditional publishers. She has a loyal fanbase of readers who will follow her because they like her writing, no matter which nominal genre it seems to fall into.

So what have I enjoyed in Linda's writing? Heart, first of all. She has a warm and vibrant interest in what makes men and women tick. Her heroines are challenged by being outcast or ill, by being middle-aged in a youth-dominated culture. They are highly individual, creative and frequently troubled. They are scarred by memory. They fear but they also risk. They have children, grown up, with whom they conduct a loving war of the generations. They love the colours and tactile joys of textiles: they express imagination and feeling through shape and texture, finding creativity soothing and affirming when life knocks them off their feet. They commune with nature, are uplifted and healed by it in a way that any Romantic poet would relate to. They have men: and I mean it, dear reader - they have men. Linda's heroines are full of passion and longing, yet they fear to trust, because the men who awake that burning lust in them are imperfect. Her men are sexy, they talk a lot, they are strong and weak, they carry baggage from the past and they don't always handle that baggage - or the baggage they fancy - all that well.

Linda writes about imperfection: her characters are always human and frequently haunted (in Untying the Knot literally so). Her writing veers from high comedy to pathos to tragedy and back again. Her stories are sustained by the beauty of the descriptions of the landscapes and by the vigour of the sparky dialogue. She is popular because women, grown-up women, are her focus - and grown-up women are looking for grown-up books which will engage them and satisfy them. Commentators on Facebook even weigh up which of her heroes, her imperfect yet chivalrous heroes, is their favourite.

Calum for me, by the way ...

So far ...

Linda's website(with gorgeous photographs) is here.

If you're a writer and you're considering going indie, The Alliance of Independent Authors is officially launching at the London Book Fair on Wednesday 18th April (check the link button on the sidebar of this blog). I'm going to be there because I'm going to republish my previously traditionally-published novel The Chase in the summer as an ebook and I'm very excited about taking control of my own publishing destiny. Watch this space!

If you want to write and sell your own work, you might also be interested in these upcoming day courses: I'd love it if you could join us!

Do you want to tell a tale? Unlock your writing potential at my upcoming series of four Fictionfire day courses at Trinity College, Oxford in May.

Write It! will cover all the elements of composing your story, from finding ideas to finishing your first draft.

Edit It! will teach you crucial techniques for polishing and presenting your work effectively.

Trinity College
Joanna Penn of and Ali Luke of will join me for Publish It!, where you'll learn to set and achieve your publishing goals, and Market It!, where we'll show you all the exciting online and offline opportunities for you to publicise your work.

Full details of these courses are on the Course Dates and Details page of my website: and there are discounts if you wish to book more than one course!


Carol McGrath said...

If I was here I would come to this course. But I won't be. I think too that I am back in Greece by the 13th April

Lorna F said...

Hi Carol, the courses mentioned here I ran last spring. I reposted this blogpost because Linda's brought out House of Silence in print form - I should have remembered to take out the course details! I will have new workshops and courses next year, plus two workshops in the next two weeks (details on the website). Where in Greece do you go? Have you been watching the series about Corfu? We were there a couple of years ago and I have a blogpost about it in the sidebar of this blog, if you're interested. xx