I’m Gillian, I’m from Dublin, I’m currently studying for a BA in Humanities (English and History) and my debut novel, The L.A. Commandments, has just been published by Book Republic, an imprint of Maverick House. Writing this piece for writing.ie is particularly special for me because this website and its founder, Vanessa O’Loughlin, were instrumental in converting my writing wishes into reality. Here’s how…
My writing story began in 2008 after a family holiday to Los Angeles. I’d always had a head full of potential plots and characters, but not until I returned from that trip did I really begin to start writing. An aunt of mine calls California my ‘spiritual home’ because it was during my time there that I let go of my writing worries – could I really do it? I’m not good enough. How could I ever compete with all the fantastic authors out there? – and instead of being gripped with doubt I grabbed a hold of my dreams and haven’t let go since. All I could do was my best, so that’s what I did. I wouldn’t know if I could do it, or not, until I started and once I did I realised that writing is just like everything else – you can improve with practice. And perhaps the most important thing I learnt is that it’s not a competition, even though it can feel like that sometimes. I’m not competing with other writers; every author will bring their own unique story, and method of telling it, to the table. So, with the majority of my misgivings suffocating beneath creative enthusiasm (some never completely left but most writers will doubt their work and ability at times) I was fixed on unleashing my mounting imaginings onto the page.
Working on my first novel, The L.A. Commandments, was probably the most excited I’ve ever been when writing. It was all new to me – a novel adventure! – and the fact that I was now going to bring the figments of my imagination to life, in a sense, was like nothing I’d experienced before; it’s a type of creative freedom that’s liberating. Once the story began, the development of characters and their interactions was something that gave me great satisfaction. Choosing settings, fine-tuning the plot, and sub-plots, and working towards the denouement furnished me with a sense of fulfilment that assured me that I was finally doing what I really wanted to. I realised that I didn’t want writing to be just a hobby anymore; it was so much more than that. Writing was now the focus and everything else became the pastime.
There’s no doubt that novel writing can be taxing on the mind, and body, and you certainly need to be eating your three square ‘zeals’ a day to oversee it from concept to completion. But once you do, there’s no better feeling. Once I had the taste for form and content I was hooked; I soon started my second novel, then my third, then a screenplay, and I’ve written a couple of short stories too.
Writing soon became a major part of my life, fitting it in after work and at the weekends, but I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything; instead, I’d added a rewarding and meaningful new component to my life. My close family and friends (who knew about my relatively private pursuit) were over the moon for me. They’ve all been on the exciting ride with me since.
As I worked on my novels I’d always dreamed that one day I’d see my words in print, as every writer does, but because I was extremely busy in my former job, I’d never seriously set about trying to make that leap from aspiring author to author. When redundancy raised its head in December 2009 I found myself in a whole new world. Sure, I was anxious and a little fearful of the future when it first happened but, through conversations with friends and family, I realised that this was my chance to take that leap; studying English Literature had always been an unrealised dream but when I received my letter of acceptance from St. Patrick’s College to study on their BA Programme it felt like things were falling into place for the first time. Studying English Lit, I hoped, would move me a step closer to my goal and if it wasn’t for redundancy I may never have taken that chance. It really was a blessing in disguise.
I kept busy with my studies and my writing, until earlier this year when I decided that it was time to ‘get myself out there’ to try to promote my novels. I saw an advertisement about an Inkwell Writing Seminar on the Internet, which was taking place on 14th May, run by Vanessa O’Loughlin of writing.ie. I didn’t hesitate in booking a place on the course and I’m sure glad I did. I met some great people that day, also taking their fledging steps towards publication, and thanks to Vanessa’s wise words regarding the significance of social media networking I soon logged onto Twitter and made contact with Book Republic. As if the stars were aligning, I noticed that they were hosting a writers’ evening the following Thursday, 19th May, in the Irish Writers’ Centre. I wasn’t entirely sure what the evening would involve – I’d never been to a writers’ night before – but I soon realised that it was a unique opportunity for aspiring authors to meet with the Book Republic team to discuss their work. It didn’t take long to see that they were a professional, yet personable, publishing house devoted to promoting new Irish writing – exactly what I needed. I submitted my manuscripts to them the following week and about three weeks later I signed a three-book deal.
Believing in yourself (I know it can be tough sometimes), not giving up, and networking, be it physical or digital, have been protagonists in my writing story – without them I’d never have made it from avid dreamer to avid writer. And without Vanessa’s advice I may never have known what road to take to get me there.
Having been made redundant in 2009, Gillian went back to third level education and is currently studying a BA in Humanities (English and History) in St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra. Film is another of Gillian’s interests and she has recently completed her first feature-length screenplay. She was inspired to start writing her novels after a trip to Los Angeles in 2008, and hasn’t looked back since. The LA Commandments is her first book, due to be published in August 2011. Her second and third books will be published by Book Republic early next year. Gillian currently lives in Dublin.