Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for the blog.
Can you tell us how you first decided to be a writer?
Like many of us, I read and wrote copiously as a child – everything from rambling sagas to poetry, to keeping a diary while on holiday. I was always scribbling. I remember swinging off the monkey bars in the playground at primary school and telling my best friend, ‘I’m going to be a writer!’ Later I felt I’d made myself a hostage to fortune because, even then, I had a vague idea it was both a precarious and difficult path to follow.
After I did an English degree, I went through a phase of never wanting to write another word again! (thank you, F R Leavis!). Plus, having bills to pay, I trained as a PA. But gradually the ‘decision’ to write crept up on me again. I started staying late at work to write short stories, as I didn’t have a computer at home, sending them to magazines and gaining enough success to inspire me to continue. I was living in Holland by then so I also began to research and write articles on my life abroad, selling them to expat magazines and supplements. Still unsure I was a bona fide ‘creative’ writer, I returned to the UK to train as a journalist and started working on women’s magazines. The two kinds of writing continued to exist side by side and even complement each other.
You are well known as a short story writer. Why did you decide to start with short fiction rather than dive straight into novel writing?
Having stopped writing for a while after my degree, I wanted to feel my way back into written expression. I also think that my journalistic training gave me a natural bent towards telling a story in a succinct form. Over time, and as I wrote some ‘long’ short stories, I became more comfortable with experimentation and expansion. A lot of writing (as I understand it from my interest in its therapeutic benefits) is about giving yourself permission to push beyond boundaries, however subconsciously self-imposed.
At what point in your writing life was your first novel published?
I had sold several hundred short stories and a similar number of articles, when I began to consider challenging myself with a longer form. I finished Hush Hush with no clear idea of what to do with it – part of my writing process was probably cathartic – but found a publisher quite quickly. Luckily I’ve always been a realist, so I didn’t assume I’d ‘cracked’ it and could now look forward to fame, fortune and M&M riders all the way – but having the novel published gave me the confidence to continue with the form.
What gave you the inspiration for the novel?
Facing personal upheaval in my life, I began to pour onto the page how a fictional character might cope with a big challenge: in Angela’s case, being widowed and needing to reboot her life, all the while unaware of secret undercurrents affecting events – hence the book title, Hush Hush. Writing her story was liberating because Angela wasn’t bound by the restrictions of my own circumstances; she could develop in any way I allowed her to. At the same time, the richness of her life and its growing possibilities opened my eyes to a way of thinking differently about my own life.
You’ve worked as a journalist. Would you advise anyone wishing to write for a living to encompass various forms of publishing when considering a career as a writer?
Definitely. You learn so much. For example, part of my journalistic training was in sub-editing, which has been invaluable in prepping and researching my creative writing. Also, through learning to shape a human interest story with a ‘hook’ to draw a reader into a feature, I saw the overlap with fictional writing. Now, with social media, blogging is a good way to hone your writing skills – we’ve all read about bloggers who end up with publishing deals.
Tell us about your latest work?
The short stories continue apace – I love writing them. I’m also working on a new novel. As with my previous two, it will be a contemporary story with plot twists and secrets aplenty. This one will have a darker psychological edge, and opens with an intriguing mystery. As with my previous two novels, I write from both male and female points of view, and there’s a healthy scattering of dry wit.
I’m also very keen on continuing to workshop on creative writing for personal development, and having fun while doing it!
Gabrielle is a novelist, short story writer and freelance journalist, with a keen interest in the mental health benefits of creative writing. Her contemporary romance Hush Hush, originally published in 1999, has been reissued as an e-book by Corazon Books, with A Tale of Two Sisters, originally published in 2001, to be reissued later in 2015. She loves cats, chocolate, Star Trek and Manchester Utd.
What a varied and interesting career you have had, Gabrielle. Thank you for sharing with us.
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