Wednesday 13 August 2014

Getting to know … Gill James

What genre would you say your novels fall into, or do they defy classification?
I write mainly for young adults. However, at the moment I’m writing an adult book. I’m writing a “cycle” of stories set in Nazi Germany- three young adult –one is already out and two adult. They’re really all crossover and can be read in any order. So, I suppose also one could call them historical fiction.

I’ve also written science fiction and fantasy. They actually have a lot in common with historical fiction: you have to control the settings in all of them and they both explore another way of being.         

What made you choose that genre?
I think they actually they chose me. However, my writing was kick-started when some strange things started happening whilst we were on holiday in the south of Spain and our children aged six and eight ran out of reading matter. I gradually moved to young adult as after all, I taught them for 23 years.   

How long does it take you to write a book?
Of course it depends on the length – mine are coming in at about 100,000 at the moment. 60,000 would take a couple of months to actually write but then I’d spend another six editing and redrafting. 

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I’m always writing. I aim for two hours a day and / or 2000 words but I don’t always achieve that. I write most bank holidays (but not on my birthday or Christmas Day) and at weekends. I often don’t manage my two hours in the teaching weeks at the university where I work.  

Where do you get your ideas for your books?
They sort of fall from the sky – a chance remark, something that happens, a funny name. My latest novel, The House on Schellberg Street is based on something that really happened but about which we only know a very little. I’ve had to use the imagination muscle a lot there to work out how it all happened.  

When did you write your first book and how old were you?
Nine. A pastiche of a Famous Five Book because I’d read them all.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I love reading, good drama on TV or at the theatre and I sing with a choir. The latter is such a good contrast to the isolation of the writer and academic. For similar reasons I adore Twitter and Facebook is growing on me. 

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
People actually do read them and some of them enjoy them.

How many books have you written?
Lots. But many of them are educational. I have seven novels, one of which is self-published because it is a writing experiment. I have self-published a second because it went out of print. It was a little out of date so I edited it quite a bit.  

Which is your favourite and why?
It’s always the latest one because you learn from each one you write. So currently it’s The House on Schellberg Street.  

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
A teacher or a writer. I’ve actually managed both now.

What are you working on now?
Clara’s Story. The second in the Schellberg cycle. It’s possibly the darkest and is a fictionalised biography of Clara Lehrs, a remarkable German Jewess, who, persecuted herself, kept many disabled children hidden and thereby saved their lives.    

Gill James writes fiction for children, young adults and adults. She lectures in English and Creative Writing at the University of Salford, where she is Programme Leader for the English and Creative Practice programmes. She is the founder of the Creative Café Project. She is a partner in Bridge House Publishing which publishes mainly anthologies of short stories, and its sister imprint which publishes young adult novels.    

Find out about her and her books here:

Twitter @gilljames

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