Today I'm delighted to welcome June Gadsby into the hot seat. I discovered that June is a great fan of Christmas so it seems appropriate to be interviewing her today.
Born on the high banks overlooking the Tyne Valley in the small mining town of Felling, June Gadsby decided at the age of eight that she would one day be a published author. It seemed an impossible dream for a shy, working class child of a single
parent living with grandparents who were barely literate - the grandmother overly strict, the mother neurotic and possessive. Always passionate about books, June started writing at the age of eight, but it was to be half a century later when her dream finally
became reality. She is a prime example of why we should never give up the dream, whatever it is. However, it takes more than a simple desire to be successful; it takes talent, dedication, a lot of hard work and - oh, yes - luck. "I was told I would never be
a writer and should stick to painting," June recalls. Since 2001 she has had more than twenty titles published, 7 full-length novels, the rest being pocket novels for The Peopole's Friend and My Weekly ( all published in Large Print). For June, the dream hasn't
ended; after a spell of health problems, she is now getting back on track. She lives by a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm".
About her work
June is currently
working on two books; one is a cosy crime set in the twenties called A Lady in the House. The other is a very long saga which was inspired by a true story. It's called The Last Monsoon and is set in Ceylon [as it still was at the beginning of the 20th century]
and England covering 100 years of the life of a mixed-race woman who is eventually wrongly accused of a horrific murder and lives out her later life as an anonymous resident of a retirement home. [Don't want to say any more than that.]
Welcome June, now here goes with the first question.
Can you tell us what prompted you to first start writing? What was the first thing you wrote?
My mother used to read to me when I was very young and I made up my mind then that I would like to be an author. I believe I was about eight when I wrote my first story about chickens being menaced by a marauding fox and the main hen character had
to outwit him. Even then I had to have suspense.
Can you summarise your latest work in just a few words?
“The Raging Spirit” was my latest publication.
It’s an adventurous, romantic-suspense story set at the turn of the last century when a group of naturalists go on an expedition to the wild archipelagos of St. Kilda off the coast of north-west Scotland. One young woman accompanies them and she is the
character around whom the story is woven. Mystery, murder and repressed passion abound.
What was the inspiration for this book?
My naturalist husband visited these islands some years
ago and the stories and the photographs he brought back with him fired my imagination.
Did you do any research for the book?
I do a lot of research for every book I write
– especially the historics. In this case I had a book on the history St. Kilda, which gave me as much information as I needed. After that there were some searches on Internet.
What does a typical writing day for you
I used to write 12 hours a day every day, but I wouldn’t recommend that to anyone. It destroys you physically. Now, I tend to write in the afternoons only, but this will probably be extended now that I’m getting
back on form after a long period of annoying health problems.
How do you decide on the names for your characters?
It varies. Sometimes names will just jump
out at me; other times I have great difficulty choosing, which often ends up with several name changes as I get into the story. I hate it when that happens. It can be so confusing. And I try to avoid names beginning with the same first letter or names which
sound similar. If I get confused over these characters think what will happen to the poor reader.
Do you have a favourite book by another writer?
I have to say ‘no’ to that. I like any author who keeps me on the edge of my seat from the first page and keeps the pages turning, whatever the genre.
Which writers have influenced your own writing?
When I was a child, I was an Enid Blyton fan. Later on it was Catherine Cookson, but a more modern writer who really impressed me with his style is Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. His prose is simple,
yet so beautiful.
What are you working on next? Do you have a WIP?
I have two books on the go at the moment. A short cosy crime novel – A Lady in the House. And a long saga of
mystery, murder and intrigue covering about 100 years called The Last Monsoon. I’ve been working on the latter for a long time, trying to sort out the best way to treat it. Although it’s pure fiction it was inspired by a true story and is the most
difficult work I’ve ever attempted.
What has been the best part of the writing process…and the worst?
For me, the best part of writing is putting flesh on the bones of both
plot and characters, and then letting the whole thing flow. The worst part is coming up with a synopsis. I always leave this to the end, because I don’t always know how things will work out. Even then, I find it difficult to condense a full-length novel
into just a few words.
Tell us about your travels.
I don’t travel any more, but in the past I travelled to the usual European countries and later I was lucky enough to go with my
husband, Brian, who led natural history tours for Swan Hellenic. We visited places such as Sri Lanka, Kenya, Patagonia, Argentina, Chile and The Galapagos Islands. These countries have given me some wonderful memories and often form backgrounds in which I
set my novels.
Tell us about your childhood.
I’m a war baby, the only child of a single parent. For the first ten years of my life I lived with my grandparents in their miner’s
cottage high up on the banks of the River Tyne in a small town called Felling. My grandfather was a miner, my grandmother was barely literate. From the age of 21 months I started to draw recognizable images and by the time I was eight I was already becoming
proficient. However, I surprised everybody at that time by saying that I wanted to become an author. I started writing stories. I went to the local school and did well, though because of exam nerves, I didn’t get beyond Secondary Modern education and
left school at the age of 15.
Most writers have some quirks – what are yours?
I don’t know whether this can be considered a quirk, but I firmly believe in omens that give
me ideas and inspiration. Also, I can never start a new book without tidying up my office. I like starting with a clean palette.
Do you plot your novels or do you allow them to develop as you write?
bit of both, really. I need to have a clear beginning and a positive ending, with a middle that’s like a cauldron into which I throw all sorts of ingredients and mix well. I’ve just thrown aside a novel I was trying to write without plotting. It
just didn’t work for me. However, if I plot too comprehensively it can tend to wander from the mapped out track and that leads to complications. So, my advice to anybody would be to plot the storyline loosely and see where it goes.
Have you taken any creative writing courses and would you recommend them?
Not courses as such, but I did win a place on a Northern Arts Summer School many years ago and I enjoyed writing weekends at Beamish Museum
in County Durham. I was a member of a writer’s group for a good number of years and found this both useful and inspiring. I would certainly recommend any would-be writer to mix with other writers on a regular basis. There’s nothing like being with
like-minded people to spur you on.
What book[s] are you reading at the moment?
I've just discovered a wonderful writer called Dorothy Koomson and I'm reading her "Flavours of Love!",
which is quite different from anything I've ever read and I'm loving it. She really knows how to write page-turning prose and I'm looking forward to reading more of her work.
Do you have any advice
for new writers?
Well, first of all I would say find out whether or not you have what it takes to become a writer. Simply wanting to write isn’t enough. You need to be passionate about it. This isn’t something you can learn
from a course. It’s already inside you. You need stories in your head crying out to be written and you need to write them with a fluidity of words and spirit. Don’t create flat, cardboard cut-out characters. Give them a sparkle so that they come
alive on the page and in the reader’s mind. Do your research well and, finally, most important of all, don’t hold back on the editing. Once is not enough. Don’t end up with egg on your chin because of badly edited text. Finally, never give
up. I didn’t and the years of work and waiting were worth it in the end.
Thank you so much June.