Interview with author @KayLangdale about The Comfort of Others #BlogTour @HodderBooks

 

Today I’m thrilled to be kicking off the blog tour for Kay Landale’s The Comfort of Others and am very excited to be sharing an interview I’ve done with Kay.

Please tell my readers a little bit about yourself and your novel

The Comfort Of Others is my sixth novel. It tells the story of the friendship between an elderly woman, Minnie, and an eleven year old boy, Max. Both have issues that they need to come to terms with, and the novel is about how they approach that.

I live in Oxfordshire, am married and have four fledged children between the ages of nineteen and twenty four. When I’m not writing or reading I’m mostly walking or running, and my labradoodle Rocco is with me for all of the above – his favourite spot is beneath my writing desk.

I’m reading The Comfort of Others at the moment and am finding it very moving – in particular the way you show the loneliness of Max and Minnie, and the way it’s possible to find friends in the places you’d least expect. What inspired you to write it?

I’m so pleased that you are finding it moving – thank you.

Minnie was the character I started with. I was interested in portraying someone who has not lived the life she wanted to life, and who has been stigmatised by shame and secrecy. I wanted to explore how someone who was basically vulnerable and sinned against can manoeuvre themselves into a position where they see themselves as wholly at fault. I also wanted to think about how time can change the perspective by which something is viewed, and Rosemount was a means of ‘fastening’ Minnie into the period in which it all happened.

I was very conscious that Minnie wouldn’t open up to an adult and so I wanted to explore how a child – with a child’s unerring accuracy for truth – might be able to win her trust. Max is watchful; he is frequently just on the outside of things, and it was this shared quality which became the premise for their friendship.

I’m finding myself getting quite emotional at some of the things Max says but clearly doesn’t understand yet, but as an adult I see the bigger picture. I’m getting similar emotions coming up whilst reading Minnie’s story – from the way she’s looking back on her life and seeing things anew. Both characters feel like real people to me and I know I’m going to miss them when I finish reading. How did you find writing from the perspective of a young boy, and of an older lady?

I loved writing Max and Minnie.

Minnie came to me almost fully formed. I had such a strong sense of her girlhood – her exuberance, her zest for life – and of how her mother found that so very difficult. The emotional truth of her adult life also felt very immediate to me; her total withdrawal, her bruised reflections and her sadness that she has been so effectively snuffed out by her experiences.

I really enjoy writing from a child’s perspective. Most of my books contain this as a feature. What I loved about Max from the start was his desire to please; whether it’s his mother with her startling hair colours, the old man who gives him the dahlias, or Mrs Philips with her budgie and her buttered brazils. He is constantly trying to piece together the implications of his mother’s actions – which is the same as Minnie when she was a girl – and that kind of watchfulness was a very immersive writing experience.

How did you first come to be a writer?

When I was a child I always wanted to be a writer, and upon leaving university, I refined that into working with words, which I thought made a bit more (necessary) financial sense. I worked as a copywriter for a brand development consultancy, and then began having my children (four of them in five years).

I was totally rubbish at anything resembling controlled crying, and so when my children woke in the night, I would go and sit with them and just pat their backs or stroke their hair but not talk, as we all know how quickly that becomes a game of  i-spy. Sitting beside them in the darkness I began to think about the central character of my first novel – Martha – and basically began telling myself a story. I was working part-time at this point and realised that Martha was developing a hold on me when I would drive to work and be thinking about the plot rather than the meeting I was headed to. When my youngest child started nursery school, we realised we could just about make the numbers work as I could write without the cost of childcare, and so I resigned and began writing the book that became Redemption. For years I fitted my writing around school hours and term times, with lapses for example when they all got chicken pox in perfect sequence. Now that they have all fledged, my timetable is much more flexible. It was very disciplined in the early years!

It depends what stage of a book I’m at. If I’m mulling on the beginnings of an idea I don’t spend much time at my desk. I walk miles and I think, and have my notepad with me, and I tidy cupboards and wardrobes. I’m a big believer that if the mechanical, logical part of your brain is engaged, your creative thinking somehow is liberated.

When I’m writing a first draft, I’m very disciplined. I work most days and aim to have about three to four thousand useful words. That’s not always the case, especially if the plot takes a different turn and I need to pause to recalibrate. I’m very fond of a French phrase – Reculer per mieux sauter – which basically means to pause in order to jump better. I think it’s important to know when to do that.

When I reach the end of a book – the last 20,000 words – I get really obsessive and work much longer days and find it hard to think about anything else.

When I have a complete draft, I put it aside for a couple of weeks and catch up on everything I’ve neglected, and then return to it with fresh eyes and start editing and refining.

It never feels finished – I mostly get to a point where I can’t bear to look at it anymore!

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What has your journey to publication been like?

I’ve been hugely lucky. My first book was published by a small indie publisher, Transita. My second book – which was very dark – did not get an English publisher but went to a three way auction in Germany and then Poland, which was pleasing. I learned some lessons from why that hadn’t worked for a UK audience, and then my third book was signed by Hodder and Stoughton, and they have remained my publishers ever since. I’m working on my eight book now and am hugely proud and thrilled to be part of Hodder’s team of writers. They have a wonderful mural at Carmelite House called the River of Authors which streams around the lifts at each floor. My name is next to John Lennon’s, which is when a school register alphabetised strategy really pays off!

What are you reading at the moment?

I’ve just finished Sebastian Barry’s Days Without End, Polly Clark’s Larchfield, and George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo. I re-read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and now I’m reading Sarah Dunnant’s In the Name of the Family. I’ve got the new Elizabeth Strout on pre-order on Amazon and can’t wait for it to arrive!

If you were to be stranded on a desert island and could choose just one author’s books to read, who would you pick and why?

Virginia Woolf, no question. To The Lighthouse and Mrs Dalloway are two of my favourite books ever. Every sentence she is writes it so beautifully balanced, so loaded with psychological insight and with such an awareness of what it is to be alive; she would be sustaining company on a desert island.

Is there a question that you wish an interviewer would ask that you’ve never been asked? What’s your answer to that question?

That’s a very clever, very tricky question! I think it would probably need some analysis to answer correctly! I write obsessively about mothers, about mothering, about the ties that bind us. To be totally truthful I don’t know why this is such a preoccupation. I have the objective, lit-crit ability to see how much it features in my work – I found Minnie’s account of her mother’s death very moving to write and I hope it holds a truth about what we need to feel and hear as adult children – but I can’t subjectively tell you why that is the case.

How can people connect with you on social media?

Twitter @kaylangdale. I’m constantly vowing to be become better at it although am also mindful how it can suck up time. I always answer back, and really enjoy hearing from readers.

 


 

The Comfort of Others is out now and available from all good bookshops or online at BookDepository.

The blog tour continues all this week and you can find the other stops here:

Blog Tour Poster

#Interview with Jennifer Gilmour, author of Isolation Junction! @JenLGilmour #IsolationJunction

I’m thrilled to welcome author Jennifer Gilmour to my blog today and to share a fascinating interview that I got to do with her.

Please tell my readers a little bit about yourself.

Born in the North East, I am a young, married mum with three children.  I am an entrepreneur, running a family business from my home-base and I have a large readership of other young mums in business for my blog posts.

From an early age I have had a passion for writing and have been gathering ideas and plot lines from my teenage years. As a passionate advocate for women in abusive relationships, I have amalgamated and fictionalised other survivors experiences alongside my own to write my first novel Isolation Junction detailing the journey of a young woman from the despair of an emotionally abusive and unhappy marriage to develop the confidence to challenge and change her life and to love again. I hope that in reading my book, I will raise awareness of this often hidden and unseen behaviour and empower women in abusive relationships to seek help for themselves and find the confidence to change their lives.

 

What is your book about?

I wrote my debut novel based on true events from my own and others experiences.  My book follows the story of Rose who is stuck in an abusive and coercive relationship referred to as Isolation Junction. After years of emotional abuse, the self doubt about her future and the erosion of her confidence, Rose takes a stand. Finding herself alone, penniless and frightened Rose wonders how she will ever escape from the situation to provide a better life for herself and her children. With 100 reasons to leave and 1000 reasons why she perceives she can’t – will she have the courage to do it? And will she find the support to regain control and confidence?

 

How did you first come to be a writer?

I was on an awareness course about Domestic Abuse. Alongside me were about 8 other women who had been in abusive relationships. As the day progressed, I found that I simply couldn’t believe that some of the things that other women were saying were exactly what I had gone through but just in a different format. Domestic Abuse tends to go in a cycle and whichever way it begins, the behaviour spirals again and again. At first it could be months between incidents but for me, as time went on, there were many instances within one day. It is quite normal to try to prevent the cycle from starting again by changing your behaviour as much as possible. By the end of the course I had come to understand that we were all subjected to the same behaviour and that no one knew before that this could even happen to someone ie that a relationship can be so unhealthy and soul destroying. I realised that others simply needed to know more about this unacceptable behaviour; they need to see the warning signs before the relationship goes further or the behaviour gets even more serious.  On the other hand, I needed others to see the behaviour for what it is. If people are in a relationship and the behaviour within it is not acceptable and is not their fault, it can’t simply be changed by changing yourself.

I absolutely knew that I had a story to tell and with my previous unfinished written work I realised my first novel had to be more than a book. It had to be a message – a way for others to be able to pass on the story to help victims and to get the penny to drop and bring about realisation of what is happening sooner. This means that when the relationship ends victims and survivors realise they are not the only ones out there and its ok to talk about the abuse.

 

Where does your inspiration come from?

My passion for being an advocate drives my inspiration to write. Ultimately my own experiences and the want to change develop knowledge in those who don’t know what it is like to be subjected to emotional abuse and coercive control; as well as reassure other survivors that they are not alone because surviving is hard http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/jennifer-gilmour/surviving-is-hard_1_b_13011174.html.

 

What is your writing routine?

I didn’t have a specific writing routine but to write my first book I had lots and lots of notes and even diary entries to aid my writing. I felt so passionately about why I was writing it came naturally and I only needed to sit down and make time to write. Towards the end of the journey my editor was part of this process. Writing book number two, I am more careful when I write and it will take naturally longer as I find that going back and writing about domestic abuse sometimes affects my emotional state. It is very important to me that I remain positive throughout my writing process and this is why I have brought out a series of stories you can read for free on my blog ‘The Fox Stories’; these have been more lighthearted and enjoyable for me to write. www.jennifergilmour.com/blog

 

What has your journey to publication been like?

As a self published author the road to publication was interesting and challenging and not perhaps as stressful as I had imagined it would be. There was a lot of flexibility with my debut novel and the choices I made like the cover for example, I was very excited seeing my work and vision come to life because of this. I was pleased to be a part of Team Author UK who help self published authors publish their manuscripts, and provide support through understanding how Amazon works and getting the book printed.

I am yet to approach publishers as I am self published. I decided to self publish because I wanted to start to get the message out there immediately. I have had interest but it is finding the right publishers for the novel and more specifically to find a publisher where my work fits into their portfolio as it is a work of fiction. The novel does include sensitive material which could be emotional for some people but I have, however, woven through the story romance and some comedic moments in the book to try and make it a more entertaining read despite its serious message.

 

What are you reading at the moment?

I have just finished Emotional Aid by Hayley Wheeler. Hayley is someone I have connected with due to the nature of both of our books. I am now reading ‘The Happy Woman: What can you learn from Kids, Dogs and Men’ by Jealeith Leigh-Brown who I have recently connected with as authors from the North-East. It is clearly emotionally beneficial for authors to support one another.

 

If you were to be stranded on a desert island and could choose just one author’s books to read, who would you pick and why?

It would be J.K.Rowling’s books simply because she provided me with escapism in my childhood, teens and early adult years . Every time I read over the Harry Potter series I pick up some ‘newisms’ I like to call them. Basically these are things I hadn’t noticed before. The detail J.K.Rowling has gone to that makes this happen in her books makes this possible, I never get bored of the plot line.

 

Is there a question that you wish an interviewer would ask that you’ve never been asked? What’s your answer to that question?

How do you cope with ‘trolls’ or people that question your work?

I have had a couple of cases when I have had negative feedback about my writing on domestic abuse. Often this stems from individual self guilt. I don’t reply to those negative, personal trolling posts and I focus on those who have read the message behind my work. Usually a perpetrator is blind to what they are doing to the victim and so they feel frustrated in reading social media posts because it is normal behaviour for them and they like to defend their way of life. I have had messages of concern regarding my feelings where comments have been of a personal nature and have felt appreciative of the positive support offered which I feel is very endearing.  At the end of the day, positive debate regarding these issues is important and  I am thankful that it doesn’t hinder my career as I am able now to discuss the issues and to draw strength from this. Ultimately, I am lucky to have a supportive network around me.

 

How can people connect with you on social media?

Like me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/isolationjunctionbook

Follow me on Twitter at @JenLGilmour

Check out my website and subscribe to my blog and newsletter at www.jennifergilmour.com

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Isolation Junction is out now and available from Amazon