One of the coolest things about the #writerscommunity is that friendships come from everywhere. Like a random post? Start commenting on a thread? Retweet someone else? You’ll find it’s easy to connect with so many amazing people. That, for example, is how I’ve connected with this writer. I’m excited to get to know her, and hope you all will too! Please welcome, Gertrude Kitty.
Hi Gertrude! First question: where are you at in your writing journey, and how did you get there? My writing emerged from finding myself at 44 with no direction and no identity. Unknown to me, I was born with discs fused in my neck and a narrow spinal canal. I was a teacher but struggling with my health so I took a break. One day I found myself sprawled on the pavement, in the High Street, unable to walk. Spinal cord damage disabled me.
I was bed bound for a considerable amount of time, too ill even to read, but my daughters would sit at the end of my bed and we would invent characters and scenarios that we thought would make the perfect romantic thriller. After my first op I felt well enough to write The Rebirth of Henry Whittle, a YA/NA /adult crossover. I was represented by Catherine Pellegrino of Marjacq Scripts. She worked with me for a year, editing the novel to make it more palatable for a younger audience.
In the editing process it lost its voice and edge. All the major publishers passed. They liked the writing style, the premise, the characters but felt it was either too edgy or not dark enough. My agent and I amicably parted. I put Henry to one side and started Random Attachment. I decided to self publish because I don’t have energy to spare to sell myself to an agent. I had two further spine operations and my periods of wellness are sporadic so I want to give my time to my novels and not publishing. So Random Attachment is listed on Amazon and I’m editing The Rebirth of Henry Whittle. Hope to upload it before Summer.
WOW. That’s quite a journey! Would you mind pitching this newest project?
A YA noir Mean Girls meets Dexter.
Phoenix Whittle, a bullied teen, in and out of care, is offered a home with her estranged uncle. An imposter, an ex special forces turned hitman has murdered Henry Whittle and stolen his identity. The two come together and a cat and mouse game ensues. Meanwhile Phoenix’s adversaries are being taken down one by one.
Again, WOW. Keeping so many concepts cohesively together makes me wonder about your writing style first and foremost--how would you describe it? Easy going.
That wasn’t what I’d have guessed, but I’ll take it! I’m even more curious about your writing process as you balance intricate plots with an easy going style. What are your favorite/least favorite parts of the writing process?
Well, I sit at my computer with a seed of an idea or character and I go on a journey.
It’s impromptu, there is no planning. I sit every day and type whatever comes to mind until the novel is complete. That is totally my favourite part of the process. One day I’m in love, the next I’m being dragged down by haters, it’s an emotional ride but the high when the first draft is complete is the best.
Then I turn to my next idea and roll with it. So I work on books in tandem, that way I’m always busy but I never get overwhelmed by how much editing needs to be done.
I actually enjoy every aspect of the writing process.
The bit I struggle with is promoting my book. Being disabled my income is small so I can’t afford to buy a campaign and I’m rubbish at social media. So I’m an undiscovered talent. Well, that’s what I tell myself. LOL. But it’s fine because I’m all about the writing.
I hope this interview helps in your discovery--at some point, every author was undiscovered! So tell me, Gertrude, where do you find inspiration for your stories?
THE REBIRTH OF HENRY WHITTLE began with Henry. At the time, my daughters and I loved Vampire Diaries, particularly Damon. We wanted a gorgeous man who walked the line between right and wrong, good and evil, who wasn’t a vampire or a wolf…just a charismatic man who draws you in and you don’t see it coming. How could we test his moral compass, who could he come across that might tug at his conscious? Phoenix, a girl who’s been knocked around all her life, who craves a family.
Ooh, that is intriguing. Like you, I was a big fan of the Vampire Diaries and love stories of moral ambiguity. Now you’ve spoken about your disability, and thinking about stories with your daughters. This makes me think about write-life balance; how do you manage life and other responsibilities alongside your writing?
I was a busy, working mum of 4, teaching, dropping kids at clubs, swimming, cooking, latin dancing. In the blink of an eye, I was in hospital for two months.
When I came home, I was a shadow of myself. My arms and legs didn’t work. My husband had to give up working to look after me. My kids suddenly became pop up tents. So I had this expanse of time, but was limited physically. My daughter said why not write a novel about the assassin? Us three girls had a giggle coming up with names and I did that ‘what’s the first name that comes to mind?’ one said Henry, the other Whittle and I said Phoenix. We had this mad dream that I’d be a huge success and so I decided I wanted a pen name and I went with my daughters’ nicknames because they were instrumental in my writing; Gertrude and Kitty so I became Gertrude T. Kitty in my dream.
Aw, I love that--what a creative way to approach pseudonyms! Alright, to discuss your writing experience a little more, can you tell me how you’ve combatted writer’s block and/or tough critiques of your writing?
I haven’t experienced writer’s block yet. It’s the reverse. I have so many ideas that I overcomplicate or overfill my first draft. I cut a lot out during the second draft.
Regarding critiques bring it on, I want to get better and better.
In fact, out of the 52 RANDOM ATTACHMENT sales, I’ve only received 4 reviews. Even a bad review is better than no review. It’s hard to progress without critique. I appreciate views are subjective; I won’t please everyone. During the query period of HENRY WHITTLE, I received a lot of ‘it’s not one for us’. Then I went through the editing process with my agent and had to take critique on board. What have I learnt from critique? Write my way, doing my thing. I need to please myself before I please others.
I love your mentality! Okay, a fun question Gertrude: would you rather have the power to be invisible or fly?
Invisible. Well I don’t like heights. Invisibility is a key. I can listen in on any conversation…even a killer’s.
I like the way you think!
I can observe war, famine, gang culture, you name it. There wouldn’t be anything I couldn’t write about…I’d feel every emotion. My novel might be the ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ of 2020.
Hey, there’s an idea! Okay Gertrude, so one of my aims in these interviews is to offer advice to fellow writers—what advice do you have for aspiring writers, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds?
Write what you love. If you find representation, don’t compromise too much. The mistake I made was thinking the agent always knows best. I learnt so much from my [former] agent, but I did her a disservice by not going with my gut instinct. It was unfair to put the onus on her to make my book a success. It should be teamwork. I would do things very differently if I found representation a second time.
That is great advice! Querying writers, take note! Okay, another fun one for you: What’s your “anthem,” the song that would play if your life was a music video?
Gosh, that is such a hard question. Music is instrumental in my writing; I have different playlists for each book. My life? That would be Be Myself by The Parcels. I have always been me; I don’t know how to flirt, how to lie, how to connect with people. Maybe that’s what’s so attractive about writing; I can be anyone, do anything, go anywhere. I often wonder how many writers are loners?
I think many of us are, honestly. But it’s discussions like these that help us find each other! And, a bonus question! You have an all-expenses paid trip where you want with one of your characters--where do you go and who do you bring and why, why, why?
I travel first class on The Orient Express with Henry Whittle. He reveals his history before Phoenix. I drink coffee, have gateaux, later a glass of wine taking it all in for ‘RIP Henry Whittle’; the last instalment of the Henry Whittle trilogy. Henry Whittle’s Revenge is the second novel in the series.
That sounds like the makings of a great story in and of itself! Thank you so much for sharing your incredible journey, Gertrude, and wishing you the absolute best this summer! Want to know more about Gertrude? Follow her on Twitter and visit her website!