Joanne Phillips

A Writers Journey



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.



Linda Gillard on Facebook:

Linda’s books on Amazon:

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.

Is Stress Good For Writers?

We moved house last Friday. It was … interesting. This is what I keep telling myself – that all experiences are good experiences, because as a writer I can use them to imbue my characters with more life, more authenticity. I keep telling myself this no matter what I go through in life, and I hope that one day I will start to believe it.

But seriously, it was a pretty stressful move. From the countryside to a town; from a quiet rural idyll to a new-build estate (with another 18 months of building noise to look forward to); from big rooms to small rooms; from normal and familiar to strange and uncomfortable. We all wanted this move – we all decided it was for the best – but the reality is always harder than the dream.

And so it begins. Soon I’ll need to sit back down at my desk (once I can find my desk under a pile of boxes) and start writing again. I’m hoping I can use all these intense feelings and channel them into my writing. Right now I feel anxious, sad, excited, homesick, exhausted, confused, daunted, flat, sick, nervous, guilty, panicky, and a little depressed. And that’s without delving very deep! But it’ll pass, right? Meantime, I’ll just go on telling myself that stress is good for writers, and that there’s no such thing as a bad experience. Just an experience you can use.

Self-Publishing Course – Fab Feedback

So the first presentation of the Writers’ Workshop self-publishing course has now come to a close, and it was so much fun I can’t wait to do it all over again in April! We had four ‘students’ sign up, which wasn’t bad for the first innings, and each of them contributed some stellar work and really got into the nitty gritty of the course materials.

One of the participants, author J.A. Ironside, has written a blog post about her experience on the course here – I’m so proud that she had such a positive time and learned so much. Like most tutors, I learned a lot while I was teaching the course too!


As I said in my comment on the above blog post, there is  so much information for self-publishing authors out there on the internet that what we wanted to do with this course was to bring together a really in-depth and targeted, properly tutored course that actually teaches people how to publish and sell their books. It’s not about just giving them some information to read in brief and then apply, or the resources to go away and skim over and then grapple with alone. This course uses the techniques of teaching and tutoring – setting homework tasks to test understanding; peer review and feedback; group discussion; marked assignments – to measure and cement understanding.

Best of all it’s all run under the comforting umbrella of Writers’ Workshop, who have been running online courses for years and years and totally know what they’re doing when it comes to the mechanics of the online classroom thing 🙂 The next presentation is in April, and if you fancy it pop over here to sign up. I’m going to leave the lovely J.A.Ironside to sum up who might be interested in this course before I sign off today:

If you’re just starting out Self-publishing or you’ve been doing it for a while but not seen much in the way of results, this course is for you. In fact if you think you know enough about self publishing, this course is for you. I can’t recommend it highly enough. J.A.Ironside

Why Every Story Needs A Touch Of Romance


Thrilled to be part of the indieBRAG bloghop this week – there’s a list of the other blog stops at the end – and if you haven’t heard of indieBRAG before, now is the time to get better acquainted. The team over at bragmedallion work super-hard for indie authors, and they’ve just unveiled a gorgeous new website, as well as a new rating system for books. But now, on with my special post …

Brag BlogHop

Why Every Story Needs A Touch Of Romance

It’s funny how the romance genre is one of the biggest selling genres in the world, and yet romantic novels are often looked down upon. They’re rarely taken seriously as literature – despite the fact that many of the classics were romances – and romance readers are frequently derided, often in quite subtle ways. But if you take another look, romance is actually EVERYWHERE in fiction. There is no such thing as a genre that does not have a romantic element.

No Such Thing As No Romance

You don’t believe me? It’s true. Take any popular genre and you’ll find romance running through it. Crime fiction? Absolutely. The sub-plot of most crime novels focuses on the love life (or lack of) of the crime-solving hero. Thrillers? Often the romance takes centre stage, with the thriller action revolving around saving the love interest of the hero, or connected in some way to, or affected by, an emotional entanglement. Science fiction … would be meaningless without a good romance to act as a counterpoint to the action. Mysteries, westerns, young adult, fantasy, military, etc – each and every type of novel is improved by having some kind of romantic element.

Does It Have To Be Love?

Of course, the type of romance – and the development of the romance itself – will change depending upon the type of story. It doesn’t have to be love. It can be desire, or unrequited love, or passion, or friendship, or deep mutual regard. It can be fireworks, sizzling hot, or it can be relegated to the sidelines of sub-plot, something to tick over in the background, keeping us interested, wondering what if …? It can be lost love, a maybe-love, forbidden love, marital disharmony, wishing-for-love, never-to-be-found-love. Quiet love over a cup of tea, or the kind of pairing that makes planets collide and saves worlds from destruction. It doesn’t matter what kind of love it is – it just has to be there.

Pure Romance

So do ‘pure romance novelists’ have it easy? I’ve read that the definition of a romance novel is that it is a novel where the plot is driven purely by the romance – by the hero and heroine pursuing their love-relationship – and not by any other plot line. This, of course, is debatable, but most pure romances do follow this fairly loosely. In other genres, even most women’s fiction, the romance is secondary – albeit a close second – to the main plot action. The Romantic Novelists’ Association (of which I am now a proud Independent Member) says: “The trouble with trying to define a romantic novel is that there are so many sub-genres. The words romantic novel cover an amazing variety.” I agree 100%.

So if love makes the world go round, do romance novelists have it easy? Well, it’s not easy – but we sure do have a lot of fun!


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

Prize & Giveaway

To win a copy of Can’t Live Without simply leave a comment below and I’ll pick a winner on February 29th and email you to arrange posting out your prize.

Can't Live Without cover final

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, so be sure to visit their websites and comment on their post to enter a chance to win a copy of their book.


  • 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.





Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: