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Introducing Linda Gillard:

Linda Gillard now lives in Glasgow, but has spent the last seven years living on the Isle of Skye.  Having been through three careers, as an actor, journalist and teacher, she wrote her first novel, EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY, which was published by Transita in 2005.  Linda’s second novel A LIFETIME BURNING was published in 2006, also by Transita.  Her third novel, STAR GAZING, set on the Isle of Skye and in Edinburgh, was published by Piatkus in 2008.  STAR GAZING has been short-listed for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Novel of the Year. (We find out the result on February 10th).

More about Linda and her books can be found here.

I met Linda through my work bringing Transita and BookCrossing together, which got Transita’s books well-known and BookCrossed (and purchased!) all over the world.  Linda is a generous author – generous with contact with her readers and with connecting with the wider public.  She has given talks and run hugely popular writers’ workshops at BookCrossing Conventions, as well as appearing at local meetings and maintaining contact with her fans.  I was privileged to read STAR GAZING in manuscript form and am looking forward to a long and happy association with Linda and her novels.

When I suggested to Linda that I run an interview with her on my blog, she agreed then turned the tables and suggested that she also interview me, as a reader!  The first article will be me interviewing Linda; watch this space for Linda interviewing me

Liz Interviews Linda:

LIZ: Why did you start writing? Why do you continue?

LINDA: I’ve always written and my work has always been about words. As a child I wrote stories and made my own comics and as I grew up I became a great letter-writer. I wrote a short time-travel romance in my teens and I did literary A-levels and a Drama and German degree, so I was writing essays about plot, character and style for years. My first career was as an actress but then I took up journalism, so that was my first professional writing. I did that for 12 years and I also started writing unpublished novels. (I completed my first when my kids were 4 and 2, so I tend to give people a Paddington hard stare when they come out with the old chestnut, “I’d love to write a novel, if only I had the time.”)

When I was 40 I trained as a teacher. I only taught for a few years before cracking up with overwork and stress and when I was recovering, I did a lot of reading. I wasn’t too impressed with what was on offer in the way of contemporary women’s fiction, so I decided I’d write what I wanted to read and couldn’t find in bookshops. I never intended it for publication but that book was published as EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY, my first novel.

Why do I keep writing? Well, it certainly isn’t for the money! (The vast majority of authors earn very little from their books.) I’m addicted to writing fiction. I was addicted even before I’d finished EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY and I started writing my second novel two weeks after I’d finished my first. I love creating other people, other worlds, and I always fall madly in love with my heroes. I love the intellectual demands of writing, the moral, intellectual and artistic challenges.

One of the things that keeps me at it is the wonderful feedback I get from readers, especially BookCrossers, many of whom are fans of my books. It’s very gratifying to be able to talk about your characters with readers and find out how they felt about them. I think some of the happiest moments of my life have been spent talking to my readers. People care so much about books and stories. It’s wonderful!

LIZ: Who is your favourite character out of all of the characters in your published books?

LINDA: Hmmm, very hard to choose… It’s like asking a mother which of her children she loves most! The character who has haunted me the most is Rory Dunbar, the anti-hero of my second novel, A LIFETIME BURNING. He really got under my skin and I missed him dreadfully when I finished writing the book.

I’m very fond of Garth the Goth in my third novel, STAR GAZING. Garth was meant to be just a minor character but he practically stole the book. He was a treat to write and made me laugh out loud.

The romantic hero I lusted after the most was Calum, the teacher-poet in EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY. He seems to have ticked a lot of boxes for female readers. 😉

LIZ: And your least favourite?

LINDA: I don’t think I’ve ever created a character I didn’t like. It’s a case of “Love the sinner, not the sin.” A LIFETIME BURNING’s Rory was in some ways a monster, but as their creator, you even love the characters who do awful things. I think my least successful character might be Megan in EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY. She was a bit sketchy. If I could re-write that book I’d develop her a bit more, tell more of her story.

LIZ: Who is your favourite character in literature?

LINDA: Hamlet. I’m a huge fan of Shakespeare, especially HAMLET. (And yes, I did see David Tennant play it last year!)

LIZ: Which character from literature do you wish you could have had in your novels?

LINDA: The delectable Francis Crawford, hero of Dorothy Dunnett’s six-book series, THE LYMOND CHRONICLES. He wouldn’t fit in at all! He’s a swashbuckling 16th-century Scots adventurer. But for Francis, I’d re-write. 😉

LIZ: Would you change anything in any of your books? A character, a scene, a plot device?

LINDA: No, I don’t think so, apart from amplifying Megan as I mentioned above. I agonised about some things at the time – the manner of Flora’s death for example in A LIFETIME BURNING – but I’m happy with the artistic decisions I made.

I might remove some of the swearing in EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY. (Climbers can be foul-mouthed at times!) It’s not excessive, but what little there is upset some people. It was nothing compared to what you get in a crime novel or adult movie, but much to my surprise, there were adverse comments about it from some readers. I now think very carefully before I use words that will offend some people but I’d still use them if I thought the character would. Evidently some readers get really put off or just distracted by so-called “bad language”. That surprised me when you consider what you can hear these days, standing at a bus stop.

LIZ: What do you think about book blogs? Some newspapers and commentators have been a bit "sniffy" about the credentials of book bloggers as opposed to "professional" reviewers. What do you think?

LINDA: I love book blogs, even though they make me buy far more books than I shall live long enough to read. Book blogs are the best thing to have happened in the book world since BookCrossing.

Book bloggers have been very good to me, giving all my books positive reviews – some of them raves. Since the literary press have completely ignored me, I don’t know how readers would have found out about me without the kind offices of BookCrossers and book bloggers. But I’m not a fan just because they like me. I love blogs because the reviews are for the most part intelligent, entertaining and fair. Bloggers judge a book for what it is and are mercifully unimpressed by hype and the cult of celebrity. 

What I want from a book review is some idea of what happens (but no spoilers) and a clear idea of what a book is like – its intended readership, style, length, whether it’s easy to read or demanding. Many’s the time I’ve read a newspaper review of a book and I’ve got to the end and still didn’t know whether the reviewer thought the book was good. Useless! Bloggers give you all the information you need and the fact they’ve chosen to review a book tells you it’s probably worth reading.

I know bloggers have been slated for giving only positive reviews but this doesn’t bother me. There’s enough negativity in the world without anyone needing to add to the sum. If a book is bad, ignore it and praise a better one. Anyway, if you get to know a blogger’s style you can tell which books are the real winners. The passion for a great book comes across. It’s a wonderful thing: to share your enthusiasm for books with other book lovers, perhaps even make the career of an unknown writer who might otherwise have sunk without trace.

I’m sure there must be some rubbish blogs out there (though I‘ve never actually found one), but the standard of reviewing is generally high. I think they do a brilliant job of writing about books without spoilers. (My books are tricky to review for that reason. It’s hard to say anything at all about the plot of A LIFETIME BURNING without giving something away – but the bloggers managed!) I don’t think you need credentials to review books, you just need to love books and have a talent for communicating your enthusiasm. That’s what sells books – personal recommendation – so I don’t know why publishers have been slow to wake up to the marketing potential of blogs. My publisher wouldn’t send review copies to bloggers, so I sent them out myself. I was confident of my product and I knew blog reviews would sell copies and spread the word. Now my publishers have seen all my good reviews, I think they might be more willing to send copies to bloggers in future.

LIZ: Thank you Linda for sharing your thoughts and insights with us!