Over the next few months I’ll be chatting with authors who, like me, write Family Sagas, (#familysaga) a genre that can cover many countries, years and cultures.I am thrilled that so many excellent writers have agreed to meet here with me. I’m sure you’ll find them as fascinating as I do. All I can say is watch this space. Your TBR list of books will be toppling over!!
Today I’m chatting with Janet Gogerty. Janet has been writing for nearly 10 years and still enjoys being part of two writing groups. She’s inspired by anything and everything and enjoys writing about ordinary people; but usually they find themselves experiencing strange events!
When she was encouraged to tackle a novel her daughter suggested she used her short story ‘Brief Encounters of the Third Kind’ as she wanted to know what happened to Emma, whose fate had been left in the air at the end of the story. The novel became a trilogy, Three Ages of Man and finally Lives of Anna Alsop, published in March 2015. Janet still enjoy writing short stories and these have been published online, on paper and in audio. She’s just published her third collection of short stories and also writes a regular blog .
Welcome, Janet, it’s lovely to see you here today.
Thank you, Judith. glad to be here.
First, please tell us, where your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. came from?
Noddy is the first book I can remember having read to me. Apparently I wanted ‘Noddy Goes To The Seaside’ over and over again, so maybe that is also where my love of the sea comes from. Every year at Christmas I was given a Rupert annual; my mother always tried to get away with reading the abridged rhymes under each picture, but I always wanted to hear the full story in the long paragraph.
As for writing, perhaps it started in scripture lessons in junior school. At each lesson we had to write a Bible story in our own words on one page and draw a picture on the other page. I loved doing this, but always felt there was something missing. Reading the gospels as an adult I discovered what was missing, not enough character development, I wanted to know more about the lives of all these people; disciples, Jesus’ family, locals having miracles performed on them…
How long have you been writing?
Seriously for nine years.
What kind(s) of writing do you do?
Novels, short stories, blogs, book reviews and poetry when pushed.
What are some of the references that you used while researching your first two books?
‘Brief Encounters of the Third Kind’ is pure fiction, but with its mixture of music and medicine I used my own appreciation of music and my GP sister’s medical knowledge. As for the science fiction aspect, the newspapers, television and the internet are full of news about what is happening in the world of science and what could happen.
‘Brief Encounters of the Third Kind’ started as a short story with Emma’s fate left literally hanging in the air. It became my longest novel and evolved into a trilogy. At its heart is my favourite theme, what happens to ordinary people when the extraordinary happens to them? The Dexter family are as ordinary as you can get, but Emma is different. To have a genius in the family is difficult, even without the strange events that her mother has kept secret for so many years.
‘Quarter Acre Block’ was inspired by my family’s experience as Ten Pound Pommies and is written from the point of view of mother and daughter. I used my mother’s memories to imagine what it would have been like for the adults.
‘Quarter Acre Block’ is about a family emigrating to Perth, Western Australia in 1964. Will it be a dream come true or will they be stranded in a strange country knowing they can never return?
In both novels I used real life experiences to create the fictional families.
What do you think most characterises your writing?
Keeping it grounded in everyday life, even when the most extraordinary things happen to my characters. Liberal doses of dark humour.
What did you enjoy most about writing these books?
My characters taking charge of their lives. Writing without being sure what was going to happen next.
I know that feeling! So, tell us, what inspires you?
Anything, anybody and everywhere. Initially I started writing seriously when I went to a writing group for the first time; we had a given title each week and that triggered ideas as well as the impetus to put words down.
What did you find most useful in learning to write?
Going to the writing group and reading out aloud; getting the immediate reaction of others and then the following week a written appraisal by our tutor.
Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing?
Full time in that I don’t have a paid job. I’m sure I would not have found the time or the mental focus to write when I was working and busy with the family.
What are some day jobs that you have held? Have any of them impacted your writing?
I have done many different jobs; career disasters, ordinary jobs, full time mother, voluntary work. The many different people I’ve met are as important as the varied places, but all my experiences are a great resource for ideas.
How do you feel about eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
As a reader I love both. My Kindle was a birthday present a few years ago and I wouldn’t part with it. I did not fill it with free old classics, but made a point of reading other independent writers. But it is also great when you hear about a well known book, look it up and download it in seconds. I still love beautiful new hardbacks from a bookshop or paperbacks from the charity shop to take on the bus or to the beach hut.
As a writer, digital publishing changed my whole approach; from hardly having used a computer, or learned to type when I first started writing, it has been a steep learning curve that I am still on.
What do you think is the future of reading and writing?
They’re here to stay, they have not been beaten by radio, cinema, television or computers.
What is your role in the writing community?
Locally I am part of and help run writing groups. On line I enjoy exchanging ideas in writers’ forums, reviewing other writers’ books and having stories and articles published.
What projects are you working on at the present?
I am hoping to finish my current novel this year. ‘At The Seaside Nobody Hears You Scream’ will be different again from my other novels. The lead character is a young private detective who lives in a camper van and specialises in missing persons because his girlfriend Anna is missing. Each case for him is a complete short story, but of course his search for Anna and the strain it puts on his relationship with his own family is threaded through. He also features in a novella which should be finished soon.
I am planning to publish another short story collection.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
Yes; writing comes in so many styles I think someone could write with no feeling at all, but it would come across to the reader as cold and remote. Most readers like to feel engaged.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I write what I want to write, but my second novel ‘Quarter Acre Block’ lent itself to a genre, a family drama in recent history.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
One novel, one novella and a collection of short stories waiting to be put between the covers, or behind one digital cover!
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Do I know how men really think? I don’t want my male characters to be composites of my father, brother, husband and sons, nor do I want heroes to be the perfect unattainable men of my dreams!
How do you select the names of your characters?
I borrow shamelessly from my mother’s friends, aunts and uncles, my school class mates and my children’s friends to get the names right for generations. But unusual names are good for characters who are outsiders.
Does writing energise or exhaust you?
Energise me; staying up too late editing or trying to finish doing something on line is tiring, but aren’t writers supposed to stay up late?
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
If someone ‘gets’ my book I love it; if they have enjoyed a novel as a good story I am delighted. If you read a bad review it should make you feel like a ‘real writer’, of course you just feel depressed, but consoled by the thought of readers who did like it.
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