Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Getting to know ... Tom Gillespie

What genre would you say your novels fall into, or do they defy classification?
I hate the whole genre classification thing. Genres are some silly sort of nothing cooked up by the publishing industry to flog more books. I don't think creativity should be confined and contained and squeezed into a tight little box for the convenience of the market. I don't choose a book because it's a thriller or a chick lit or historical drama. I read it because I'm interested in the story, the characters and the fabulous and creative use of language.

I would hope that my novel Painting by Numbers defies genre categorisation, that was my intention anyway. The marketeers would probably try and cram it into the psychological thriller drawer, or perhaps they might say it's literary fiction. But for me, PBN is a human drama, a love story, a surreal road movie and a dark comic tragedy. I may have borrowed a number of conventions from different types of so-called genres, but my aim was to create a sense of the unexpected and disorientation. So Painting by Numbers is a genre buster.

What made you choose that genre?
Ha ha…

How long does it take you to write a book?
Painting by Numbers took me about five years to complete and then it took another 18 months to find a publisher. In my parallel existence, I'm a full-time English lecturer, husband father and cat owner so I had to fit my writing around the glorious mess of life, or vice versa.

It also took so long partly because I had to do  quite a bit of research into the history of Baroque and Spanish art, and the life of the great Spanish master Diego Velazquez. I also enlisted the help of a maths lecturer at the university to help me pick my way through the weird science and come up with a believable but bonkers mathematical theory. I'm also an editing geek, and I would be happy to spend eternity drafting, editing and re-editing my work. I always need people (usually my wife) to tell me when it's time to stop and confiscate all writing instruments.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I write where and when I can, but when I'm in the thick of it, I love to follow a tight schedule. I find that this helps me stay focused on the task. I'll start early, around 5.30am, then work through to around 8. I'll go to work, and then perhaps squeeze a little in over lunch if I can. Then in the evening, I like to wait until everyone has gone to bed so I can let my characters run around the house without them bumping into anyone, except me of course.

Where do you get your ideas for your books?
Ideas can come from absolutely anywhere, from tiny moments to huge emotional events. I like to keep my eyes and ears open and if I spot something that's interesting, I'll scribble it down on a wee notepad, or mumble into the voice recorder on my phone.

Painting by Numbers started life as a one page short story prompted by something I observed on a visit to El Prado Museum in Madrid. I suppose, we notice things when we want to notice them, and there is probably some deep psychological or Jungian reason why we go with one thing over another. But I am drawn to the stranger side of human behaviour, so I guess I tend to pick up on ideas, build plot lines and invent characters from that start point.

When did you write your first book and how old were you?
Painting by Numbers is my first novel and I am now closer to pushing up the daisies than when I first started it.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
That would be telling.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I discovered that I had quite a lot of stamina and determination to carry on and complete the project. I was also surprised by my fondness for structure and editing. I always had myself down as a freewheeling beatnik kind of guy, but I soon realised that I am a great deal more Presbyterian than I thought. And I discovered (through blood sweat and hard toil), a little bit more about how a novel ticks, but I've still a lot to learn and that's what makes the creative writing process so exciting, there's always that constant aspiration to achieve something better.

How many books have you written?
Painting by Numbers is my first novel, but I am a compulsive short story writer. My work is published and scattered here there and everywhere, in magazines, short story websites and anthologies including East of the Web, The Story Collective and the best-selling charity anthology, Fear, published by Crooked Cat. I'm also a regular contributor to (though I have been neglecting that wonderful group recently).

Which is your favourite and why?
Painting by Numbers is my first book and you know what they say about the first born. The book took an awful long time to complete and a huge effort to get it finished and then to print. But hopefully it won't be an only child for much longer.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I wanted to be James Herriot, the book Vet not the TV one. I loved the novels as a kid, and as I grew up on a farm, I could relate to a lot of the characters and story lines. But when I saw my dad one day with his arm up to his shoulder blade in a cow's nether regions, I soon changed my mind.

What are you working on now?
I'm working on novel Two. It is about a once successful, but now down-and-out writer who is left in a will an expensive house by one of his former fans. Sounds too good to be true...?? well.. you'll just have to wait and find out what happens next...

Painting by Numbers is in the final of the People's Book Prize. Voting is open for the public from today until the 29th May: The People's Book Prize

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1 comment:

  1. Nice questions, and great answers - good interview you two!