Her answers are as concise as her writing, and she likes to show her readers another perspective of the world, through a child’s eyes. Aldwin has the luxury of being a full-time author and thus has many people talking in her head all at once; thankfully she took time to answer my infamous 20 questions which I found illuminating.
Now I can’t wait to read her next book.
Until then please enjoy her answers to my 20 Questions.
Twenty Questions With Gail Aldwin
- Every writer has that one book that made him or her want to be a writer, what’s yours?
There are so many books I admire, but I’m not sure any of them made me want to be a writer. I always thought there were stories in me that needed to find a way into the wider world but as I’m not an extrovert, writing seemed to be the obvious way to share the stories I wanted to tell.
- How old were you when you started writing?
I wrote letters when I lived overseas in my twenties. That was the start of my writing journey. Then I dabbled with short stories and monologues. When I had children, all my creative energy went into raising them and writing was left on the back burner. Later, when I went back to work, I realized I was investing too much into my teaching career and that I needed to rekindle my interest in writing to create a healthy work/life balance. I haven’t looked back since.
- Name four authors that you’d love to have lunch with.
I’m interested in writing from a child’s perspective for the adult market. It’s a curious skill to write with the limited and frequently naïve outlook of a child, so I’d like to learn from those who have done this successfully. Chatting over lunch with Emman Donoghue author of Room, Stephen Kelman author of Pidgeon English, Kate Hamer, author of The Girl in the Red Coat and Kit de Waal author of My Name is Leon would be ideal.
- What would you eat?
I don’t know about my guests, but I enjoy a good salad.
- How do you plot out your work?
I use a three-act structure marked out on a sheet of paper. I number the points along the arc to indicate different chapters. By this means, I have a visual guide to move between the plot and subplot and can see where points of tension need to arise.
- Do you write in the morning or evening?
I used to write before paid employment in the morning. Now that I have the luxury of being a full-time writer, I write at any time of the day.
- Is there music on?
Writing in a silent room is my habit. There’s actually so much talking going on inside my head and between my characters that I need a bit of quiet to make out what they’re saying.
- What inspired your last story?
My debut novel The String Games draws upon the experience of losing my three-year-old son on the beach at Saint Jean de Luz in France for forty minutes. Writing the novel helped me integrate feelings of being an inadequate parent by realizing such an event could happen to anyone.
- Name three books so good you wish you wrote them.
- The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
- A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
- The Sea by John Banville
10. What television shows, movies, or albums do you believe are written well?
I’ve just watched the UK Channel Four series The Virtues, written by Shane Meadows and co-writer Jack Thorne. It is based upon Meadows’ own experience of repressed childhood memories and stars the incomparable actor Stephen Graham. It tells the story of Joseph a fragile alcoholic who loses grip of his life when his son emigrates with his mother and new partner to Australia. Memories from Joseph’s early years are revealed when he tracks down the sister he was separated from as a child after their parents’ death.
11. Which actor would you cast in the protagonist role of your most recent piece?
That’s tricky because I’d need three actors to play the role of Nim in The String Games: a girl at ten years, fifteen years and at twenty-three. The book is rather like the film Moonlight which focuses on three different times in the protagonist’s life. Saoirse Ronan would make an excellent actor for the third part of the novel when my protagonist is an adult.
12. Which of your pieces was the hardest to write?
Writing a novel is a creative endurance test, so I guess this is the hardest to complete.
13. Which was the easiest?
Not necessarily the easiest but certainly quicker to complete is a piece of short fiction.
14. Which of your pieces did readers ‘get’ when they told you their thoughts on it?I’ve been delighted by reviews of The String Games where readers have identified the themes of the novel. The String Games involves a tragedy but it is all about fresh starts and coming to terms with the past.
15. What are you working on now?
I’m writing a new novel for adults which is entirely narrated by six-year-old Mikey Griffiths. He is an only child who sees in Leonard, a disabled new arrival at his local church, similar challenges around fitting in. Isolated at school, Mikey is disliked by staff for his precocious behaviour. Leonard is unkempt and socially awkward but he gets Mikey’s sense of humour and this brings the two close. Rumours that a paedophile has moved into the south London community fuel This Much I Knowand relationships between Mikey’s parents and their neighbours deteriorate as suspicions are aroused. When vigilantes mistakenly believe Leonard is the paedophile and attack him, everything in Mikey’s world changes.
- What story do you have to write before you die?
I think that’s got to be my current work in progress. It took me five years to complete The String Games and at the current rate it’s going to take a similar amount of time to finish This Much I Know.
- What’s your best fan story?
A new neighbor moved into my street and I didn’t have to introduce myself because she’d read my collection of short fiction Paisley Shirt and recognized me from my author photo.
- What sentence have you written that you feel encapsulates your style?
Where the path narrows, Imogen lingers watching the Thames.
I love this sentence which starts the third part of The String Gamesbecause it gives the idea of trouble ahead both literally, in navigating the path and metaphorically, in managing life.
- Have you ever based characters off of real people?
I need to have a clear idea of what a character looks like before I can start to populate their personality. One of the characters in The String Games has the same appearance as my friend’s sister-in-law.
- Who’s your favorite character?
In The String Games, it has to be the character of Dee, the old friend of Nim’s mother Jenny. She is jolly and warm and fun. When Nim considers what her own mother is like, she wishes Jenny was more like Dee, who becomes an idealized mother to the young Nim.
You can find out more about Gail Aldwin on her blog: https://gailaldwin.com
You can find her on Twitter @gailaldwin
Her debut novel The String Games can be purchased worldwide from the publisher, Victorina Press.