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Joanne Phillips

A Writers Journey

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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.

Friday Book Spotlight – Singles and Spice

Today I’d like to wish fellow author Elaine Spires not just a very happy birthday but also a Happy Launch Day for her new e-book Singles and Spice.

Singles and Spice is the second in the ‘Singles Trilogy’ – the first book Singles’ Holiday was set in Antigua, while book 2 is set in India and has some new faces as well as a couple of familiar ones. Read on to find out more – and if you feel like joining in the celebrations, Elaine is having a Facebook Event right now – click here to visit and wish her happy birthday. Hope you have a great day Elaine!

Singles & Spice cover

Singles and Spice

A singles’ holiday to India’s Golden Triangle – Taj Mahal, the pink city of Jaipur, tiger-spotting in Ranthambore, the noisy, crowded streets of Delhi – all go to make up a trip that is hot, humid and spicy.  Eve Mitchell, Travel Together’s tour manager extraordinaire has a couple of familiar faces in her little group of travellers and others that she hasn’t met before; sexy man-eating pensioners, a compulsive over-eater, a constant whiner, a cross-dresser, and a man with a personal problem.

And there’s a big surprise awaiting someone -and Eve – early one morning. By the end of the tour, which sees our group travelling by coach, rickshaw, train and elephant, she will know rather more about some of their innermost secrets than she’d like.  But Eve deals with all the twists and turns the trip throws at her as we try to understand what makes people travel the world with a bunch of complete strangers and tourism’s latest success: the phenomenon that is a singles’ holiday.

About Elaine

Elaine

Elaine Spires is a diverse novelist as well as an award-winning playwright and actress.

Extensive travelling and a background in education and tourism perfected Elaine’s keen eye for the quirky characteristics of people, captivating the humorous observations she now affectionately shares with the readers of her novels.

She wrote her first book What’s Eating Me in 2010. It was originally a play, a one-woman show performed as a monologue with a child actor – Elena-Beth Carter playing Eileen as a child in the background and Elaine performed it on the London and Edinburgh fringes. She loved the character of loved Eileen so much that she decided to expand the story into a book.

Her second novel was Singles’ Holiday, set on her beloved Antigua… the Caribbean at its most luscious, its most beautiful… silver sand, cobalt sky, warm, turquoise sea… and a bunch of complete strangers who only have one thing in common: they’re single!

When Elaine is not writing her ideas into her next book or play, she enjoys going to the theatre, visiting the cinema, eating out with her friends and she also loves to read! Elaine spends her time between her homes in Hadleigh, Essex and FiveIslands, Antigua (W.I.).

www.elainespires.co.uk
www.facebook.com/elaine.spires
www.twitter.com/elainespires

Buy the book!
Click here to download Singles and Spice

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