I’m delighted to be hosting Dorset based author, Gail Aldwin, in my hot seat today.
Gail is chatting to us about the inspiration for her debut novel The String Games, her tips for aspiring writers and more.
The String Games explores the dynamics of a fractured family coping with the abduction and murder of a small boy. It explores the legacy of guilt shouldered by a child and examines the repercussions as she moves into the teenage years and then adulthood. There are questions about what makes a good mother and whether it is possible to forgive.
We’ll be sharing Laura’s thoughts next week, don’t miss it!
When four-year-old Josh is abducted and murdered during a family holiday in France, Nim, aged ten, becomes an only child. To cope with the tragedy, Nim reinvents herself but continues to carry a burden of unresolved grief. As an adult, she returns to France determined to find out more about the circumstances of Josh’s death. How will she deal with this new information and what are the implications for her future?
The String Games by Gail Aldwin is published by Victorina Press (28th May 2019).
Hi Gail, welcome to Jera’s Jamboree.
What was the idea/inspiration for your novel?
The String Games was inspired by an incident that happened when I was on holiday at San Jean de Luz. We were on the beach, I was rubbing sunscreen onto my daughter and when I looked up my three-year-old son was gone. I walked in one direction and couldn’t see him, there was an announcement for a lost child, but no one found him. I started walking along the beach in the other direction and eventually found him jumping the waves, totally unaware that he had been missing for forty minutes and the panic he had caused. I’ll never forget the sheer horror of that day. Losing a child or the fear of losing a child is such a universal experience, that I thought this would provide a good hook for readers.
Can you share with us anything about your characters Gail?
I’d like to introduce you to the protagonist of The String Games. There are, of course, other colourful and engaging characters but it is through Nim’s eyes that the story unfolds.
In this three-part novel, Nim first appears as a ten-year-old at the time of her brother’s abduction and murder, in the middle section she is fifteen years old when the repercussion of losing her brother, Josh, causes her to be a vulnerable teenager and subject to peer manipulation. In the final part of the novel we find the twenty-three-year-old adult who is able to address issues of unresolved grief when she returns to the place in France where she last saw Josh.
Do you have a theme for your book covers? Who designs them?
My publisher appointed illustrator Fiona Zechmeister to design the cover of The String Games. I am absolutely thrilled with the result but it was a lot of work and negotiation to agree images that we were both happy with.
I love the title shaped with string and the profile at the bottom of the page, which at first glance, appears as a landscape. A line of string links the front cover, across the spine, to a ball of string on the back.
Because there are characters in the book who are strung along, others who are puppets on string and yet more who need to cut the apron strings, the image of string is very appropriate to the novel.
Do you make use of local resources for promoting your book?
I am delighted to have been invited to speak at libraries in Dorset.
On World Book Night, 23 April 2019, I was answering questions about my reading history at Wareham library. I was particularly interested in sharing my experiences as a non-reading child who grew to love books later in life both as a reader and writer.
I will also be offering a talk at Dorchester library on 20 July 2019 from 11–12:30pm about the inspiration behind my short fiction, poetry and novels. These talks build on my earlier experience of presenting Paisley Shirt my short story collection to an audience of readers at Sturminster Newton Library last year. Indeed, I’ll be back in north Dorset this summer to support the first ever Sturminster Newton Literary Festival on 15 June 2019.
(I’ve made a note on the calendar Gail. Sounds good.)
What has been the best part of your writing journey so far?
As much as I love writing, I also enjoy supporting others in their creative writing journey.
I am Chair of the Dorset Writers Network and our mission is to inspire writers and connect creative communities. We do this through workshops and open house sessions where writers can receive support for their work.
I am also a member of several writing groups and attend spoken word nights which are utterly inspiring. I love to see writers develop their skills and confidence across a range of writing projects. Standing in front of an audience and reading my work is one of the greatest pleasures.
What are currently working on Gail?
I really enjoyed developing the voice of four-year-old Josh in The String Games, so I decided to use what I had learnt to write a new novel with a six-year-old narrator called Mikey. Suspicion that a paedophile has moved into the south London community fuel This Much I Know and tangled relationships between Mikey’s parents and friends deteriorate when Leonard makes friendly approaches. Adults rightly want to protect children but it is Mikey’s clear-eyed view of Leonard as a lonely and disabled man, that allow the two to connect in spite of the mistrust of others.
Finally, what tips do you have for aspiring writers?
Rejection is an occupational hazard for any writer. You have to put your work out there in order for it to reach an audience. Try not to get downhearted when the inevitable rejections occur. Take pleasure in celebrating your own successes and the successes of others. Be generous in sharing opportunities that are presented.
Thank you for being my guest today. Wishing you success with all your writing projects.
Gail Aldwin is an award-winning writer based in Dorset. Her work includes Paisley Shirt, which was longlisted in the best short story category of the Saboteur Awards 2018, and adversaries/comrades a debut poetry pamphlet. Gail’s writing has been performed at fringe festivals in the South-West.
Connect with Gail Aldwin