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Joanne Phillips

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THE TRYSTING TREE – The Untold Story by Linda Gillard

Today I’m delighted to be handing over my blog to the amazing novelist Linda Gillard, whose long awaited new book is out this week. Over to you, Linda …

My latest novel, THE TRYSTING TREE covers a century in the lives of three families, beginning in 1914. Whenever I finish a novel, I show it to a few people: my agent, husband and daughter, my 91-year old Mum (who has a sharp eye for typos) and several friends. Two of these early readers pointed out that there was a lot missing from the book. They meant scenes that were referred to, but not described. This was because much of the novel is told in the form of diaries and letters.

L in Madeira cropped

Re-reading, I was staggered to see how much important material I hadn’t written. It almost looked as if I hadn’t written any of the big scenes. Instead I’d written what comes before and what comes after. In some cases I hadn’t done more than refer to major events. I panicked. Would this be unsatisfactory for the reader? Was my approach superficial?

I was all set to think about inserting new scenes when I started to wonder why so much was missing. I realised I’d written a book where almost all the big events happen “offstage”. I’d set out to write a book about a family history, presented partly as oral history, but also as an incomplete archive that has been badly damaged by fire, a collection of letters, diaries and photographs that raise more questions than they answer, the biggest one being, why did someone try to destroy the archive?

After much discussion with my early readers, I decided not to re-write. There was so much missing, so much the characters didn’t or couldn’t know – but that, it seemed to me, was the point: the story was ultimately incomplete. The reader is left in no doubt about what happened, but the 21stC characters have to deduce a good deal from the evidence that survived the fire, filling in the blanks with imaginative guesswork.

Will this make for a satisfying read? I hope so. A family history is, after all, always incomplete. It’s random, often sketchy, biased and ultimately unsatisfactory, because we want a beginning, middle and end. But it’s the gaps that intrigue us. The mysteries. The untold story.

The Trysting Tree

All I know about my grandfather’s involvement in WWI is that when he came home, my grandmother burned all his clothes and he refused ever to speak about his experience. That’s the sum total of my knowledge – of anyone’s. Even his silence is hearsay. He died when I was two.

Years later, when I was a teenager, Wilfred Owen & the War Poets loomed large in my life. Britten’s War Requiem (a setting of Owen’s poems) became a favourite piece of music. I’ve now written two novels featuring WWI soldier heroes. (The other was THE GLASS GUARDIAN.) I wonder now, did my grandfather’s refusal to speak have a more profound effect on me than anything he might have said?

Looking back over my eight novels, I can see my obsession is writing about what is not seen, not said and not known. I’ve written about negative space and the characters’ search for something that might somehow fill it. They are looking for completion. They’re people in search of more than just Mr/Ms Right. They want a surrogate family (Gwen in HOUSE OF SILENCE) or sanity (Rose in EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY and Magnus in UNTYING THE KNOT) or religious faith (Hugh in A LIFETIME BURNING) or just a fuller life experience (blind Marianne in STAR GAZING).

When I was writing THE TRYSTING TREE, I knew it wouldn’t be a complete narrative, it would have to be an oblique book. I didn’t write about the big events, I described the fallout. For example, there isn’t a word about the Battle of the Somme. I wrote about what happened after a soldier walked away from the battlefield, leaving his memory behind as a casualty of war.

THE TRYSTING TREE could have been a much longer and more detailed book, but would that have made it a better book? That’s for readers to decide. My hope is, what you don’t know and don’t see will have as much power to affect your imagination as what you do know and see. But it’s something of a gamble!

Rozelle web 1 smaller

My grandfather died over 60 years ago. I have no memory of him, just a few photos, but over the decades, the fact that he, like many, refused to talk about what he’d experienced in the trenches has spoken volumes to me. Perhaps his silence said all there was to say.

~~~

LINKS

Linda Gillard on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LindaGillardAuthor?ref=hl

Linda’s books on Amazon: https://Author.to/AmazonLindaGillard

Note from Jo: I was one of those lucky enough to read the book in an early draft and I can say with authority it is stunning – one of Linda’s best. And reading this guest post made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up – this is such an emotional journey, and I hope you’ll join us in sharing and promoting it.

Keeping Sam is FREE this weekend only!

To mark the launch of the paperback edition of Keeping Sam I’m giving away the Kindle ebook for free all weekend – if you haven’t read my latest novel yet now is your chance to grab this for nothing! Click here to get your copy.

The paperback will be out next week and I’m currently planning a ‘proper’ launch, bouncing some ideas around the capture the summer read market in my local area. Check out the paperback cover fab designer Chris Howard came up with:

perf5.000x8.000.indd

So chuffed with this cover, especially the little hat left hanging on the fence! Please share the free promotion and do download your free book while you can.

Valentine’s Blog Hop – Win A $20 Gift Card

This week I’m taking part in the indieBRAG Valentine’s Blog Hop – 7 authors whose books have been given a coveted indieBRAG medallion are each writing a special blog post and giving away a paperback book, AND you can enter a competition to win a $20 Amazon gift card as well!

Brag BlogHop

My special blog day is Thursday, so come back then and have a read of my post: Why Every Story Needs A Touch of Romance. But first, why not pop over and visit the other participants – listed below – and check out their posts too. Each of these authors have been awarded a medallion for excellence – you can find out more about this over at indieBRAG.

February 13  VL Thurman– Delilah Dunnfield the Valentine’s Vamp

February 14  C.L. Talmadge   A Touch of Romance

February 15  Janet Leigh   -Where art thou?

February 16 Lucinda Brant – Autumn Duchess

February 17   Anna Belfrage –The Consequences of eloping with your cousin

February 18    Joanne Phillips-Why Every Story Needs A Touch Of Romance

February 19    K.J. Farnham – Be Still My Heart

I’ll be giving away a copy of Can’t Live Without – you’ll find details of how to win below.

Prize & Giveaway

Prize and book giveaways Starts February 13 and end on February 26.

Click on the indieBRAG Website to enter your chance to win a $20.00 Amazon Gift Card!

Each author is providing a print copy or e-book in the book giveaways. Be sure to visit their websites and comment on their post to enter a chance to win a copy of their book.

Rules:

  • The chance to enter for the Prize and Giveaways ends February 26. The winner will be given a gift card from Amazon. The prize will be announced on the indieBRAG Website on February 29th. And each author will announce the winner for their giveaways on their sites on February 29.
  • You must be 18 years or Older to participate in the prize & Giveaway.
  • Winner has 48 hours to claim prize and giveaway or a new winner is chosen.

Couldn’t Live Without … those legs!

The eagle-eyed among you might have noticed that the cover for Can’t Live Without has undergone yet another make-over: the infamous legs are back, although this time they’re brighter and the lettering is in keeping with the new look of the rest of the covers.

Last year I made the decision to rebrand, and ‘the legs’ were amongst the casualties, along with that gorgeous wedding dress on the cover of The Family Trap, and the cute bunting on the cover of Cupid’s Way. I blogged about the decision here, and it wasn’t an easy one. I was happy with the new look, and I do think the new covers are bold and bright and resonate with the readers I’m reaching out to.

But … there was something about the new cover for Can’t Live Without that didn’t quite work. Although lovely, and wistful and full of yearning, it didn’t scream ‘fun’ the way the blurb for the novel does – and therefore didn’t actually reflect accurately enough the content of the novel. In fact, the more I thought about it, nothing did justice to the content of the novel in quite the same way as those iconic legs from the original cover. So, in a very cheerful U-turn, I revamped the cover again, this time using the original image but giving it a cleaner, brighter feel. And I love the results …

Here is the old cover:

CLW cover small snipped

And here is the new, revamped version:

Can't Live Without cover final

You can see in the header above how well it fits in next to The Family Trap and the other novels, and although I loved the original – and still do, very much – I still feel it was important to have a brighter feel to all the books.

And it’s already earning its keep! Following a little bit of promotion of both this title and The Family Trap, Can’t Live Without jumped up into the top 100 bestseller categories this weekend, hitting number 56 in top-level category Romantic Comedy, and #33 in Humour:

 

CLW bestseller humour #33

It also did really well in the smaller category of Parenting & Family Humour, hitting the #3 spot:

CLW bestseller parenting & families #3

It doesn’t matter that this book has sold tens of thousands of copies – there are still plenty of readers who have yet to meet Stella, and I can’t wait to introduce her to them. It’s all systems go with the third book in the series – Growing Pains – this spring, and the great thing is, I already have the cover for that! So that’s one box ticked and one less job to do.

Just a reminder for anyone who hasn’t yet signed up to my newsletter – I’m currently giving away a free copy of Cupid’s Way to all my subscribers. Check out the box below for more information.

Newsletter sign up and free book

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