In this column I’m asking subscribers to share their knowledge about writing, publishing, and marketing their books. I’m calling it “Ten Questions.” Thank you, Gail Aldwin, for sharing your insights about what it takes to get a book into print. – Marylee MacDonald
Author Tip: “I follow a three-act structure to avoid narrative dead ends and plot holes.”
If you’re on Goodreads, here’s where you can ask Gail Aldwin questions about her writing process and learn more about her books.
Gail Aldwin is an award-winning novelist, poet, and scriptwriter. This Much Huxley Knows is her second novel, told from child’s point of view. “Read this and feel young again,” says Joe Siple, author of The Five Wishes of Mr. Murray McBride.
MM: A book begins as an idea in the writer’s imagination. Eventually, this grain of sand turns into a pearl. What was the grain of sand that fired your imagination?
GA: I was in the park with a friend when a football crossed our path. He liked messing around with kids and started asking questions about their game. None of the children answered, and as soon as they had possession of the ball, the group ran off to play on the other side of the field. It occurred to me how difficult it is for adults to talk to children without arousing suspicion. This led me to begin plotting a novel where a lonely boy enjoys friendly approaches from a newcomer to the community. I wanted to answer the question, can they become friends?
MM: How did you approach turning this idea into a manuscript, and eventually a book? Did you take classes, read books, or just plunge in?
GA: This Much Huxley Knows is my second novel for adults, so I had a good idea about the level of work needed to develop a manuscript. My first was The String Games, so I had learned important lessons during the writing and editing of that book.
I now plot to the nth degree and stick to the plan. In previous writing projects, I’ve wasted far too much time letting the story take possession of me. I follow a three-act structure to avoid narrative dead ends and plot holes.
MM: Authors today have many options when it comes to publication. Did you work with an agent, find a publisher through other means, or self-publish your book?
GA: My journey to publication has been very circuitous. I received literary representation early in my writing career as a result of having entered a literary competition. Although I didn’t win and wasn’t shortlisted, one of the judges was an agent who liked my writing and wanted to work with me. Three drafts later, my novel was ready to pitch to publishers, but by that time, my agent was heavily pregnant and decided to become a full-time mum. My debut novel The String Games eventually found a home with an independent press and, likewise, This Much Huxley Knows is with a small publisher, this time in the USA.
MM: What is the biggest single lesson you learned during the writing process?
GA: Even when you think your manuscript is finished, it isn’t. Keep working on it until you can literally recite every sentence.
MM: What would you advise others who are still at the idea stage?
GA: Plot and start writing. Write and keep writing. It is only when an idea is committed to paper that a novel will (eventually) emerge.
MM: Were there any writing tools you’d recommend? Did you use apps like Grammarly, Scrivener, or another outliner to help you structure your book?
GA: I don’t use any apps for novel writing. However, I’m also part of a collaborative writing trio. The three of us develop comedy scripts for the stage. To do this, we log into WriterDuet which allows us to work on the same script, and we discuss ideas using WhatsApp.
MM: Was it hard to decide on a cover, or did you or your publisher hire a professional designer?
GA: I chose an image for This Much Huxley Knows, and the publisher’s designer developed the cover. I wanted the cover to represent a young boy’s exuberance. The picture of Huxley jumping for joy does just that. When it came to the title, it was important that the words could be read at a postage-stamp’s size, so the designer used a black font. I’m happy with the cover and have received lots of compliments on it.
MM: Who is your ideal reader? Who would particularly enjoy your book/s?
GA: Anyone who enjoys British humour will connect with This Much Huxley Knows. In these difficult times, an uplifting novel like This Much Huxley Knows has broad appeal. It may also be of special interest to parents and grandparents.
MM: How do you connect with readers? Do you like to do live events, such as book fairs or library talks, or have you found readers through social media, Goodreads, or Amazon?
GA: I’m a great supporter of the library service in my home county of Dorset. I have offered many events from “meet the author” events to writing workshops. I’m also active on social media and enjoy networking, particularly on Twitter. (https://twitter.com/gailaldwin)
MM: What has been your greatest reward in undertaking this publishing journey? (This doesn’t have to be a financial reward.)
GA: I’ve always been of a quiet disposition. I enjoy social contact, but often prefer my own company. Writing has given me the opportunity to share my ideas and develop a voice that would have been difficult to achieve in any other way.
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Marylee MacDonald is the author of MONTPELIER TOMORROW, a novel, BONDS OF LOVE & BLOOD, a short story collection, and THE RUG BAZAAR, a chapbook. Her books and stories have won the Barry Hannah Prize, the Jeanne M. Leiby Memorial Chapbook Award, a Readers’ Favorites Gold Medal for Drama, the American Literary Review Fiction Prize, and many others. She holds an M.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State, and when not reading or writing books, she loves to walk on the beach and explore National Parks.