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Interview With Gail Aldwin

Gail Aldwin is a novelist, poet and scriptwriter. Her debut coming-of-age novel The String Games was written as part of PhD studies. Following a stint as a university lecturer, Gail’s children’s picture book Pandemonium was published. Her second contemporary novel This Much Huxley Knows was published in 2021. When Gail’s not gallivanting around, she writes from her home overlooking water meadows in Dorset.

You can find Gail on the following social media links:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/gailaldwin

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gailaldwinwriter/

Blog:   www.gailaldwin.com

The Interview:

How long have you been writing novels?

I started my first novel over a decade ago.


Do you consider yourself a writer or an author?

I tend to refer to myself as a novelist.


Are any of your novels taken from real life situations?

I use anecdotes from my personal history in my writing. As the characters are very different to me, the outcome is never the same.


Do you have a work in progress at the moment?

I’m working on a dual timeline crime novel called Extra Lessons. It tells the story of a menopausal redundant journalist who recovers her mojo by developing a cold case podcast which investigates the disappearance of a West Country teenager.


Do you also work as well as writing novels? If so, what is your day job, and which jobs have you done in the past?

I started writing for publication when I was made redundant from teaching in 2013. Since then, I’ve accepted other jobs in addition to writing. My last role was as a volunteer at an Early Childhood Care and Education Centre at Bidibidi, a refugee settlement in Uganda. I was repatriated early due to Covid-19 but continued to work remotely for a further six months.


Do you self-publish, or do you prefer to use a small publisher? If the latter, do they help to market your books?

I’m published by four independent presses which specialise in different genres. One has a marketing assistant who has been invaluable in promoting my work. The others are supportive but the main responsibility for marketing and promotion is mine.


Amazon's 'About the Author' says that you like to appear at literary festivals. How does an Indie author get a foot in the door at these festivals?

The short answer is networking. I was sitting next to the director of the Bridport Literary Festival during a Society of Authors lunch and seized the opportunity to pitch an idea. I followed-up with an email and was invited to appear on a panel session. I attended the Stockholm Writers Festival as a participant, and the following year when my debut novel The String Games was published, I joined a panel with other debut novelists. When festivals request expressions of interest, I offer to deliver workshops and talks. In October, I’ll be at the Mani Lit Fest in Greece.


What is your latest book about?

This Much Huxley Knows uses a young narrator to shine a light on the follies of adults. It’s set in the months following the Brexit referendum and the plot is fuelled by community tensions in the South London setting. When Leonard, an elderly newcomer chats with Huxley, his parents are suspicious. But Huxley is lonely and thinks Leonard is too. Can they become friends?


Your novel 'The String Games' was an International Book Awards Finalist for its cover design. Did you find that this award produced more sales? 

It’s hard to say as my publisher sees the sales figures where I simply receive a royalty statement. The String Games was also a finalist in The People’s Book Prize and the Dorchester Literary Festival Writing Prize 2020. I’m proud the novel has done so well in international, national and regional competitions.


What do you think is the best writing competition for Indie authors to take part in?

Look out for competitions run by The Society of Authors -  there are some interesting opportunities.


Have your novels ever been on sale in physical bookstores?

I curried favour with independent bookshops in Dorset and have had Paisley Shirt a collection of short fiction, adversaries/comrades a poetry pamphlet and The String Games stocked locally and in Waterstones.


Who is your favourite author?

Arundhati Roy.


Which social media do you find is the best for promoting your books?

I love meeting readers and writers on Twitter. I also take a turn in managing the Twitter account for two groups I volunteer with, the Women Writers Network, and Pens Around the World, a group for writers who live or have lived overseas. In terms of promotion, I’ve enjoyed the support of many book bloggers on Twitter so the word about This Much Huxley Knows is spreading.


Where do you find inspiration for your stories?

Ideas are like dandelion seeds floating in the air. I just reach out and grab one. Now I’m more experienced as a writer, I usually know how to develop an idea. If it’s a fleeting moment or thought, that works for poetry. Where I can develop a story arc, it might be right for short fiction. Sometimes, ideas prompt questions and considerable thought. These provide the inspiration for a new novel.


Do you find it is easier to write alone, or do you prefer to collaborate with other authors?

I co-write short plays and comedy sketches with two other Dorset writers. I’ve learnt such a lot from them about how to include humour in my novels. We laugh all the time when we’re developing new material. But, I also enjoy the challenge of writing independently.


Where in the world would you like to sit and write if you had the time and the opportunity?

I don’t yearn to be anywhere apart from at a desk when I’m writing. Stories enable me to visit other places and that’s enough for me.


Do you think a cover is as important as a book's content?

The cover is like an appetizer on a menu. It stimulates appetite for the novel. The content of the book is the main course.


Have you found that you have written more during Lockdown, or less?

It took me a while to get back into writing when I returned from Uganda at the beginning of lockdown. I thought I would be writing loads while I was away, but the experience of working with refugee families was so intense, I didn’t develop any new work. I found my way back into writing by drafting short fiction and then I began to work intensively on This Much Huxley Knows. When I get my teeth into a project, I dedicate as much time as needed.


If you could only save one object in a fire, what would it be?

My laptop is an obvious answer but as everything I write and all my photos are backed up in the clouds, this isn’t the wisest choice. Perhaps I’d take the memory boxes containing items that were important to my son and daughter when they were young. The only trouble is, I’d have to find them first!


Do you believe in ghosts/an afterlife?

I’m too busy planning my next novel to give much thought to either. 

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Thanks to Gail for such interesting answers to my questions.

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