Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Sitting Round my Pool - Gilli Allan

I have the lovely Gilli Allan sitting round my pool talking about, the seasons in storytelling. We don’t have much in the way of seasons down here, so thanks Gilli for joining me for a glass or three of bubbly whilst I remember those cool, sultry, rainy, snowy, windy days…..

Every season has its attractions, even winter, which can be hauntingly beautiful. So it’s difficult to pick a favourite. But the last season of the year has a nostalgic and sentimental power over me which I guess, at its core, is something to do with my very happy and secure childhood. Everything about it - the changing colours of the trees, that earthy, peaty smell of decaying leaves, the first nose-tingling frost, everywhere webbed by dew-beaded gossamer - touches my emotions very profoundly. The extra frisson for me as a child was that my birthday is in the autumn. Then there’s firework night and best of all ... what comes at the end of the autumn? Yay! Christmas!

But in 2012, in England, we didn’t have seasons. We just had rain. And this winter the west has been unfairly singled out for more than its fair share of the wet stuff, causing widespread flooding. Recently the rain was followed by heavy snow. I’m lucky, I live in Gloucestershire, high up in the Cotswold Hills, so we avoided the floods, but for over a week we have been effectively snowed-in. And it’s not only the weather that has been a ‘downer’. My Christmas was a wash-out. Apart from my midstream costume change from Christmas Fairy to Florence Nightingale, the fact we had illness in the house prevented my son and daughter-in-law from holidaying with us. Add in the annual ‘January blues’ that has afflicted me since and it’s no wonder I’ve been feeling sorry for myself. So when Pauline Barclay invited me to throw my towel on a lounger by her pool and sip (personally I prefer to glug) champagne, I didn’t take much persuading.

But it wasn’t until I’d accepted Pauline’s invite to a sun-drenched poolside chat that I began to think more deeply about the seasons in relation to my writing. I realised that my last two books - TORN and LIFE CLASS - both begin at the turn of the year. I began to wonder if there is a subconscious reason why I chose to do this. It has to have more significance than the simple fact that I like Christmas, doesn’t it? Maybe it’s the fact that December is a pivotal point between one year and the next; a time when the darkest time is reached and from now on, even if the weather takes its time to improve, the days lengthen and the light increases. But perhaps it goes deeper than that. A story begins at a pivotal moment in the characters’ lives - at a moment of physical and/or emotional change. So maybe the turn of the year acts as a metaphor for what they are going through.

In TORN, single-mother Jess has, in effect, run away from her old life. She wants to make a fresh start, to live life more responsibly and to put her child first. They’ve been in their new home since the end of the summer, but it’s not until the dying days of the year that her good intentions are put to any kind of test. Her ex-partner tracks her down and assaults her in the street. And within a few weeks Jess finds herself in bed with a man she’s only just met. Is she fooling herself that making a fresh start is even a possibility?

In LIFE CLASS the story proper starts in September at the beginning of the autumn term. But the book opens a few months later, on Christmas Eve, a time when the STD clinic where Dory works is under-staffed but thankfully quiet. Two men from the class she’s been attending turn up at her clinic, apparently together. Dory has just emerged from the break-up of her relationship - business and personal. She wants to forge a new and independent life, to do what she wants to do, without the interference of anyone - family, friends and especially not lovers! She definitely does not intend to get involved with men any time soon. It’s only after the implication of the men’s visit to the clinic has sunk in, and begun to have an impact on her mood, that she begins to realise her resolution is shaky.

Despite my apparent autumn / winter bias, I love the sun and I have very much enjoyed sitting beside your pool, Pauline, and wittering on about the whys and wherefores of setting the start of a story at the turn of the year. But I must try to break the habit.

And please remember, everything I have just said could well be rubbish and it’s all just a meaninglesh coincidence. Wheresh that bottle?

For more about Gilli and her writing, here are her links....   Twitter: @gilliallan   Blog:         If you'd like to be a guest on my Blog, sitting round my pool, please email me.


Writer Pat Newcombe said...

Living out here, I do miss the seasons in Uk but then again I do visit often enough to satisfy my longings. And then it's back to the sunshine!!!

Paula Martin said...

Interesting thoughts, Gilli, which has made me realise I set most of my novels in May or June. Maybe that's because they are usually the best months, weather-wise, in the UK - except for last year, of course!

Pauline Barclay said...

Hello Pat, great to see you and yes it is always back to the sunshine!

Pauline Barclay said...

Hi Paula, thanks for stopping by and fingers crossed this summer will be a great one for the UK!

Liz Ringrose said...

Very interesting and entertaining post, Gilli. One of the novels I remember from years ago used the weather/time of year as a metaphor. The blistering affair involving the main characters began at the Olympics in Berlin during a raging hot summer. Many years later they meet up at the Olympic stadium in the depth of winter, the heat totally gone from their relationship and echoed by the freezing German winter. I've never forgotten that novel simply because of this.

Deborah Carr (Debs) said...

Great post. I love the different seasons, but prefer writing about the summer. I'm probably willing it to hurry up and get here.

Yesterday I was wearing layers of clothes, including fingerless gloves, and writing a scene based on a beach during a 29 degree August day. Thank heavens for imagination.

Gilli Allan said...

Thanks everyone for your lovely comments. Sorry, I've been away and so I'm late in following up on this lovely interlude, spent in the sun. It's trying to snow again here in Gloucestershire. Brrrrrrrr
I'd never really thought about the seasonal coincidence in my two current books before chatting to Pauline. I've come to the conclusion that my subconscious brain is a lot brighter than my conscious brain.

Pauline Barclay said...

Thanks Liz & Debs thanks for stopping by and I hope one day, you'll stay long enough for a chat.

Pauline Barclay said...

Gilli, thanks for taking time out of your busy day to sit round my pool. It's been fabby having you here. x