It's not often that we have two authors feature on the same day. What makes this a special occasion is that we are able to present mother and daughter, Rosemary and Victoria Gemmell, to the RNA blog to talk about their writing life.
|Victoria and Rosemary|
Rosemary: It is hugely helpful to have a daughter who writes very well, and we share a passion for books. Although Victoria is an independent adult with her own flat and full time career, we still talk about writing every time we meet or phone. I have lots of writing friends and have belonged to a local writing group for many years but there is something unique in discussing creativity with a daughter who knows exactly what it’s like trying to produce something publishable. It’s possibly one of the most honest relationships as we both appreciate the encouragement, support and suggestions. And Victoria has always been the greatest supporter of my work.
Victoria: Without a doubt. For me, having a Mum who was, (and still is), passionate about reading and writing, was a big inspiration. Growing up in a house filled with books created the perfect environment for an aspiring author. My Mum has always been so encouraging and supportive of my writing – she let me use her old typewriter to type up a novel when I was very young and was always so patient; reading and giving me feedback on every story I wrote! (And I am sure there were a lot of right howlers in there). She introduced me to Erskine Writers, (and the Scottish Association of Writers), when I was in my late teens which gave me the confidence to start sharing my writing with a wider audience and taught me a lot about how to structure stories. It opened me up to a world where I was led to believe that it could be possible to become a published writer, which always kept me going through numerous rejections! Seeing my Mum win competitions and become widely published was exciting. She’s always the first person I want to tell if I’ve had some writing success as I know she understands how it feels. This year, during the release of my first novel, I’ve really appreciated being able to talk to my Mum during every step of the process, as parts of it can be quite daunting! My Mum has also helped to promote my novel on social media. My Dad and brother have always been very supportive too.
Do you share ideas or work together at the planning stage?
Rosemary: We’ve never worked together at the planning stage. I don’t think I could share that stage with anyone as I don’t do much planning in advance, preferring to let my characters develop and grow as I write which then feeds the story. We do ask each other’s advice now and then, especially with short stories which we both write. I was delighted to read Victoria’s debut novel in chapters during the first draft and knew it was a winner when I couldn’t wait to read the next part. However, she eventually changed the ending and I only knew about that when she asked me to check that it made sense before submitting – I really had no input into that!
Victoria was the only person to read through the first novella I put onto kindle (after I was a published author) as I knew I could trust her judgment and she would probably catch any typos, although a writing friend then read it before it was in print. She read the first few chapters of The Highland Lass ages ago. Since there’s an age difference between us, I was aware we were writing for a different market but some of her comments made me think and I did eventually change the whole beginning of it before its final (successful) submission to Crooked Cat Publishing. I’d certainly seek her advice if I tried to write a YA novel as she is in touch with teenagers every working day.
Victoria: When I start a new big project I like to tell my Mum about it, and talk over parts of the plot, and will send her parts to read. I like having reassurance from her that I’m not writing complete drivel, and I know I will always get honest and constructive feedback which is so helpful. I appreciate being able to talk to someone I trust if I’m stuck at parts of a project.
Have you ever had a disagreement over writing projects?
Rosemary: I can’t ever remember any actual disagreements, as we respect each other’s opinions and different styles too much. But not all advice is agreed with or taken in the end and that’s quite right as we’re creative individuals. That might change if we ever decided to work on a project together! On another level, we sometimes ignore each other’s advice about what to work on next. Victoria has earlier books I’d like to see out there one day, but she is quite rightly focusing on her next YA after her successful debut launch of Follow Me at Waterstones a couple of weeks ago. She is always advising me to work on one project at a time and would like me to now concentrate on a different genre that I started a while ago and never completed. I doubt there is much chance of me changing the way I work at this age and I’ll probably continue to flit between shorts stories, articles, poetry, tween fiction and novels. I greatly admire Victoria’s focus, especially when she has a full time job as well. Maybe that’s what makes her focused, since she doesn’t have a lot of time!
Victoria: Disagreement is a strong word – sometimes because our styles and genres are quite different I might suggest a change which my Mum won’t always agree on, or vice versa. I share work with other writers too, and I think that’s what you begin to learn – that you can take feedback and then it’s up to you to decide ultimately what you take on board.
Are any other members of your family planning to write a book?
Rosemary: My husband sometimes jokes about writing something one day, and it would probably be non-fiction travel-related (as he works in travel) but I don’t think it will happen. My three and a half year old granddaughter is already showing great imagination and loves her books. She started scribbling in a pretty little notebook I gave her recently, saying she was writing, quite without any prompting, so watch this space. Since Victoria started writing from about five or six years old, I’ll encourage my granddaughter and I’m sure she’ll get support from her English teacher Mum and Art teacher Dad.
Victoria: My Dad jokes from time to time about writing a book (but he is joking – I think). I wouldn’t be surprised if my niece was an author one day, as she has a brilliant imagination.
Have you thought about joining forces on a project?
Rosemary: Not seriously so far! Victoria has three early projects, which I think she should resurrect. One was a story for children that she wrote in primary school which convinced me she’d be a published writer one day. The next was a more grown-up novel which I definitely would like to see published and the third is a YA fantasy which I’m very keen for her to finish – that’s the one I’d be interested in working on with her (if allowed). Unlike me, she regards her first two novels as practice projects whereas I send mine out. Perhaps our approach to writing would be too different. I suspect I’d be more impatient to finish and submit something, whereas Victoria takes time over crafting meaningful writing.
Victoria: I know how my Mum is going to answer this…I started to write a fantasy type book years ago which I didn’t quite complete and she still nags me to this day to finish it, as she loved the idea. So perhaps we should try to write it together!
What are you both working on at present?
Rosemary: I’ve just had the third novella in my Aphrodite and Adonis series (romance and mythological fantasy set on Cyprus) accepted by Tirgearr Publishing for a spring 2016 release and I recently published a second, darker, collection of my short stories. Now it’s on with one of the three novels that I started but have never finished so far – two women’s fiction and one Victorian crime!
Victoria: I’m currently working on another Young Adult mystery – that’s all I’m saying about it for now!
Rosemary Gemmell lives in the west coast of Scotland and is a published historical and contemporary
novelist. She also writes under Romy, and tween books as Ros. Her short stories, articles and poems have been published in UK magazines, in the US, and online. She has a Post-graduate Masters in literature and history from the OU and is a member of the Society of Authors, the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and the Scottish Association of Writers. She loves to dance!
Victoria Gemmell lives in Renfrewshire, Scotland, and her debut Young Adult novel Follow Me is out now, published by Strident Publishing Ltd. Whilst studying an undergraduate degree in Communication and Mass Media, Victoria developed a fascination with pop culture and Andy Warhol, which has influenced a lot of the ideas in Follow Me. Victoria works with teenagers on a daily basis as a careers adviser.
Victoria has had shorter works published in numerous journals, writing under the name Vikki. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the Society of Authors and the Scottish Association of Writers.
Thank you both so much for finding time to answer our questions and good luck with your writing projects. Who knows, perhaps it won't be too long before another family members becomes a published author?
I wonder if any blog followers also have family members who are authors? Please add a comment below and tell us all about it.
Would you like to write for the RNA blog? Please contact us on email@example.com