Interview with Circ author Giselle Thompson

We at Pigeon Park Press are very excited about the upcoming novel, Circ, written by ten different authors as part of the Ten To One project. Between now and the launch on 28th November, we will be blogging interviews with all the authors plus some additional guest blogs and bonus material from the novel.

This week, we speak to Ten To One author, Giselle Thompson…

Who are you?
Maybelle Wallis, a consultant paediatrician in Sandwell and West Birmingham.  I write under the name Giselle Thompson. I work part time, four days a week, so have a day per week for writing.

 

 
Tell us about your writing.
Around 2010 the urge to scribble could no longer be resisted, and after a failed attempt at  ‘novelling’ (as my husband calls it), I studied Creative Writing with the Open University (A174 A215, and A363). I have written 32 short stories; some are on my blog, and I’m self-publishing my favourites as an anthology, ‘A Receiver of Stolen Words’.
I write mostly for an online writing group, the Telegraph Creative Writing Group, which has a monthly short story competition. The prize is just to be asked to set the next topic, but the excitement of winning is unparalleled.
I use an Apple Mac Mini, on a roll-top oak bureau I inherited from my Dad. I drilled two big, sacrilegious holes at the back of the work surface, for the cabling. I use Scrivener, Dropbox, and Freedom (an app that cuts off email and Internet for 45 minutes or more). I also tend to scribble in notebooks, or whatever paper comes to hand. I sync Scrivener with IndexCard on an iPad to write in other places. The Library of Birmingham is a favourite haven.
I want to get a novel accepted by a publisher, and I dream of winning a literary competition with a short story. Also filed under ‘dreams’ is getting a radio drama script accepted by the BBC.
 
And your current writing project?
Right – I’m going to finish this novel. ‘Doughty’ is about a Victorian coroner, an evil vicar, a housekeeper with a secret past, and a series of deaths in the workhouse. It’s set in 1840’s Birmingham, with a Gothic flavour.
 
What first drew you to the Ten To One project and what have you gained from it?
I saw it via Writing West Midlands and it looked like something I would learn from. I felt I would learn about structuring a novel and how to keep it going.
When I started out, I felt the hardest challenge would be adapting my genre to fit in with others. In fact the most difficult thing was working with characters that other people had invented, seeing them and hearing their voices.
As a part-time writer it’s good to have others to keep the project going. The option of putting the novel away in a drawer for a while is simply not there; one has deadlines. I’ve also learned how to use shared folders in Dropbox, and as the release date for the novel approaches I’m learning about publicity.
 
How much of your Ten To One protagonist is a reflection of you?
Flic is a bit like me in that she works with children. I knew about her working world without having to do any research. She’s more masculine in nature than me; I tend to write male protagonists, (which is an awful thing for an aspiring historical fiction author, in a genre where the ‘feisty female’ seems to be compulsory). And I don’t go jogging.
 
As the first one voted out, we barely got to know Flic. Where would you have taken her? What would have happened if she’d stayed in the story?
 I’d have liked her to demonstrate some character flaws and internal conflicts. The part I wrote for her made her a passive observer; I’d have made her an investigator, finding out more about McNair, Tim and Bobby, and using her contacts in the police.
 
You spent most of the project as a judge of Ten To One. Did the results of the voting always go the way you expected?
I wasn’t surprised that Mungo and Nell were the ones to get to the end; they were strongly written and really held the story together.
 
And are you happy with the resultant novel?
Circ has turned into an exciting thriller, topical in that it looks at Eastern European migrants and the dark past that went on behind the Iron Curtain. The themes of lost childhood and people coming to terms with the past are universal. Perhaps a failing may be that there are too many blind endings in the plot that don’t relate to the central strand.
 
What is your favourite book?
I have new favourites all the time. Currently it’s ‘Oscar and Lucinda’ by Peter Carey, because it’s beautifully written, original to the point of eccentricity, and set in the 19th century.
 
Who are your writing heroes?
Steinbeck, Hemingway, Faulkner, Dos Passos, Greene, le Carre, Isabel Allende, Louis de Bernieres, Jane Austen, Annie Proulx, Peter Carey. Of these Hemingway is my favourite, for his short stories at least, which encapsulate such complexity in a few words. He creates scenes that stay in the mind long after I have finished reading them.
 
Would these form part of your collaborative writing ‘dream team’?
For a thriller like Circ, I think John le Carre and Graham Greene would be good for complex plots with a literary flavour, with Tom Sharpe to lighten the atmosphere, and Patricia Highsmith for nasty plot twists and thinking outside the box.
 
If you had any advice to give to an aspiring writer, what would it be?
I’d say, keep going and work to a deadline. Join a writing group, so you aren’t working in a vacuum. As well as the Telegraph Group, I have a small trusted group of fellow OU creative writers – there are 6 of us – who provide constructive critique on drafts. If you have the time and money for taught courses in creative writing, then sign up. If stuck, free-write in a notebook, go for a walk, get drunk with your other half, and write down whatever crazy idea makes you laugh. When you think your work is finished, redraft, re-order, ‘blue-pencil’ edit. Leave it for a while and re-read it; if it’s still bad, start again with a blank page.
 
Are you on social media?
I’m on Facebook as myself, and Twitter @GiselleThompsn . My blog is chateauxenespagne.com
 
 
The Ten To One launch event is on 28th November 2014 (7pm – 8:30pm) at the Library of Birmingham. Tickets will soon be available from their website: http://www.libraryofbirmingham.com/Events . Keep up to date with Ten To One by liking the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TenToOneNovel
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