I was given the opportunity to interview an author who has been a published writer for more than 30 years and has written more than 40 books. Amazing. Her name is Elizabeth Gill and she has a new book out on the 20th April, The Guardian Angel. I have had the pleasure of being sent a copy to review, which will be published next week.
Elizabeth Gill tells me what The Guardian Angel is all about, “The Guardian Angel is about a middle aged woman who runs a sweetshop in Stanhope, the little dales town I know so well. She begins writing to a young man who committed murder and is serving a long sentence in Durham gaol. When he comes out she fells obliged to take him in and that leads to a good many problems The book is very long, at least it felt so when I was working on it and has several sub plots. The book begins with a series of letters. I wasn’t convinced it would work but my agent really liked it and she always tells the truth! She once told me one of my books as not only the worst book she had ever read but also the longest. I rewrote it and actually it is being reprinted in November as a paperback with a gorgeous cover on it. It’s called Snow Angels and by hell it took some work.”
It sounds like a fascinating read and as I am currently reading it I can verify that it is in fact a page turner, if I could read and type I would continue to read it now.
Elizabeth Gill has inspiration all around her, “I get inspiration from where I live. I have a static caravan in the Durham dales close to where my mother was born. Where my caravan stands she rode her horse when she was very young. The farm I remember from my childhood where my family lived is only half a mile away. My father’s family owned pubs up there and although I lived in a little pit village when I was a child I feel very much as though I belong in the dale. My father owned a steelworks up there on the tops and I write a great deal about men and industry which I love doing. Also I went to school and live in Durham City which is so beautiful and many of my books have been set there too.”
When asked about how she comes up with ideas for her books she replies “How do I come up with ideas? I wish I knew.” Elizabeth goes on to say, “I write about what matters to me and hopefully what matters to other people, like problems and griefs and also good things. My agent once said that I write about people marrying the wrong people. I’m not sure that’s true but perhaps. I do read and I go to lectures and talks. I once went to a talk on hat making and made my next heroine (Snow Hall ) a milliner. Also I love old buildings and churches. Just put me in a churchyard and watch me go!!”
I asked Elizabeth what had inspired her to become a writer? “I’ve always been a writer. I became a journalist as I had no money and no way of making any money and I’ve never become rich but I feel very happy with what I’ve done and I have had a great many different jobs and lived in a number of different ways which makes me lucky, a huge background for what I do. Even now I love the smell of books and paper and I love stories.”
I love the fact that we both love the smell of books, old or new they just have that special smell that you can’t find anywhere else.
Elizabeth told me about her writing process, “Writing process. Oh dear. A great big mess, over and over. They say Hemingway wrote each word forty times. I’m sure I’m heading in that direction. I write in notebooks but also on an Apple Mac Air. I make lots of notes from research which I rarely read back and the book alters shape every day.”
I asked Elizabeth if she has a favourite place to write in? “A favourite place to write. I do write in bed sometimes but I like writing in the little back room which overlooks my garden. Last year I bought a summer house and had electricity put into it and so on but I tend to watch the birds taking a bath and I listen to music, Radio 3 and I read. Also I have my caravan all summer and I do lots of writing up there because early in the mornings I go for long walks and it’s so beautiful that I come back and write.”
What happens in a typical day for author Elizabeth Gill?, “A typical day. There is no such thing really. My life has changed so much over the years that I have adapted my work to suit. When my daughter was small I worked during the mornings and after she went to school all day but when she left home for university I began writing in the evenings. During the day I walk and read and shop and plan dinner and see friends. I do sometimes go out in the evenings because I love ballet and opera and classical concerts, theatre and cinema. Also I do like lovely meals and good wine. At home I drink wine, make the dinner and write at the same time. I know, nuts, isn’t it?
I can only imagine what that would look like. I wondered if Elizabeth had ever suffered from what some writers call writers block?
“Writers’ block. I don’t believe in this, I think it’s just another name for being idle. Besides, I’ve always had my bank account to consider and when the bills are needed to be paid I just get on with it. It’s a job like any other.”
I myself have never read a book by Elizabeth Gill, up till now, so I asked her what new readers could gain from reading her books?
“New readers. I do hope to have some. I hope they like what I’m doing and believe in the characters as I do. It’s having a second private life. I love them all dearly, even the rotters. I hope that readers will feel how much I love the places I write about. I once wrote a book about a fictional place in Durham City ( the book was called Swan Island which is an old name for an area in Durham ) and it was meant to be the name of a house. One friend spent a whole weekend looking for the house. That’s what I want people to think. Also I’m a big feminist and the women in my books are often very strong but also I’m told that the men in my books are very real. They seem so to me. I want people to want to read on and then be content when the book ends but not so that they don’t want to read another of my books.”
I asked Elizabeth if she had any tips she could share for people like myself who are writers and want to be published.
“Top tips. Don’t let anybody tell you can’t write. Join a writing group. Read.”
Elizabeth also went on to say, “I think very many people want to publish a book, want it to be a full time job for life and although it’s been very hard in lots of ways I wouldn’t have wanted to spend my professional life in any other way. I can remember being a little girl and my mother taking me to Woolworth’s to buy a toy and I always wanted a notebook and pen. Reading and writing have always been a huge part of my life, I can’t imagine being without them.”
“If you want to write then go ahead and do it, even if you have only half an hour a day. I love buying notebooks and there are some gorgeous ones about now. Yes, it’s a dodgy business, there is no security. I have a friend who once described publishing as ‘a shark pool’ but all business is difficult and I’m grateful to have been able to work at home most of my life and as a single working mother ( my husband died when our little girl was seven) I’ve been able to go to sports days and so on and see my friends when I chose. Also I haven’t had to retire so I’m having a non retiring old age!!”
I hope you have enjoyed reading this interview as much as I have. It has been a pleasure to be able to talk with such an amazing author who has been writing and published for such a long time. I hope The Guardian Angel is a great success.
The Guardian Angel can be pre ordered now as an eBook for £2.49 and comes out on April 20th as hardback. Click on the link below.