Interview by Nicole Melanson ~
Carolyn Gilpin recently self-published her first young adult novel, Facing Up. A dabbler in writing since the early 90s, she has completed a Professional Writing & Editing Diploma and had travel stories, book reviews and non-fiction published in magazine and newspapers. She also enjoys working on short stories and picture book manuscripts.
Prior to publication, Carolyn fumbled her way through various careers, from working with horses, making candles and door-to-door sales to experiencing wild envy and inspiration working in bookshops and publishing customer service. An abrupt left-turn (redundancy) led to becoming info/admin officer for BrainLink, a not-for-profit for people with ABI (Acquired Brain Injury). Now working full time in reception for an attendant care agency, she is still inspired by people who have been hit sideways by life, but struggle on with amazing humour and grit.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
I was good at English at school but never felt the urge to write for either a hobby or a living. Instead I wanted to work with horses, so skipped off to agricultural college, a naive city girl just out of school. A lecturer suggested I try to sell an essay I’d written on basic horse genetics. I suspect he knew I’d be better at writing than horses. Eventually I offered it to Hoofs and Horns magazine. They kindly accepted it but neglected to notify me, so I was startled when the cheque arrived. I rushed down to the newsagent to discover my byline in the latest copy, and I still have it framed as my first published piece. Just don’t ask me to explain horse-breeding. I’ve forgotten most of what I learnt in the early 90s!
WHAT IS YOUR LATEST BOOK OR CURRENT PROJECT?
Facing Up blurb:
Since the car accident, Carly hasn’t changed that much. She’s still yelling at her family, rebelling, alienating most people. Only now she has reasons to be angry.
The guy she liked is heading to jail for causing the accident. His mate was killed. Carly’s best friend, Suzie, is now wheelchair-bound. And a complete stranger is dead.
Life sucks, and Carly’s coping the only way she can.
If she can’t pull herself together, everything will fall apart. But what can you do when your face is half full of tiny glass pieces?
I’d been working on Facing Up for over a decade. It had various rejections from publishers and agents and I’d put it aside, sometimes for a year. But I kept returning to my character, Carly, a moody, sarcastic teenager whom I’d want to slap in real life – maybe I wanted her out of my head! Finally last year I got the manuscript to the point where I hired an editor, Vanessa Lanaway, who did a wonderful job. I decided on self-publishing as it’s much easier these days, and it takes so long to hear back from traditional publishers – I had nothing to lose. A friend did the technical formatting and cover work, thank goodness! So now it’s marketing: I’m busy on various social media sites, something I’d have never imagined a year ago.
WHAT IS YOUR WORK ENVIRONMENT LIKE?
On the couch in our loungeroom. Rather, on the cat/dog hairs on the couch. With the laptop and very bad posture. And my husband needing to use the laptop. We really need another!
WHEN DO YOU WORK? WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE?
My best writing/creative energy seems to be late afternoon. As this coincides with the end of my day job, and falls just before animal-/human-feeding time, it’s usually interrupted before it gets started. I try to do more on weekends, or have occasional days off work.
WHAT IS YOUR WRITING PROCESS?
It starts loosely with a line of prose, and I mull on it – would it make a good short story, full novel, or non-fiction? I always write down ideas, otherwise they float off like dandelion seeds. Facing Up started as a single idea, became jumbled scenes written as they came to mind, and eventually somehow knitted into a coherent story. Not having Scrivener back then, I used post-it notes on butcher paper to map the plotline.
WHY DO YOU DO WHAT YOU DO?
To communicate. I’m sure I’m like many people in having a head swirling with thoughts and images, sometimes frightening, sometimes sweet and moving. To have a way to communicate these to others, especially if you can open someone’s mind to new ideas, is wonderful. I’d love to have the artistic or musical abilities to do the same thing, but writing will have to suffice!
WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Usually some words pop into my head, prompted by anything – conversations, reading, a trail of ants tracking a line in the dirt… anything can start the “what if” or “why” thoughts. With Facing Up, it was narrowly avoiding an accident while driving to work, and being reminded of my two car accidents. I’ll never forget the feeling of the car’s wheels sliding out from beneath me.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF WHAT YOU DO?
Balancing work, family, pets, friends, trying to relax – there’s not always the time and energy to spend on writing something that may never be seen by others. I have NO idea how parents do it!
WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU HAD KNOWN WHEN YOU STARTED?
That it’s worth the hard work when you find that someone has been touched by your writing. And that being envious of other writers can only hold up your own writing – it’s far more useful to be moved and motivated by them.
WHAT IS YOUR ARTISTIC OR PROFESSIONAL VISION?
Yes, it would be nice to get a publishing deal and have everything done for you. What, they don’t do that? Just joking – I know traditionally published authors have to market themselves, but expert advice would be great!
But I love doing my own thing and just seeing what happens. It’s the communication again, via my work but also finding an amazing network of authors on social media. And I love writing for kids and teenagers because I still feel like that child wondering at the world, or the teenager wondering where they fit into the world.
I hope the publishing industry will manage a balance between traditional publishing and ebooks/self-publishing. And that female authors will get equal share of the raves and reviews, and that their words will have more meaning than their appearance!
WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE FEMALE AUTHORS?
Enid Blyton, Elyne Mitchell, Susan Cooper, Harper Lee, Melina Marchetta, Jessie Cole (read Jessie’s WordMothers interview here).
WHICH FEMALE AUTHORS WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE INTERVIEWED ON WORDMOTHERS NEXT?
Thank you, Carolyn Gilpin!
— Nicole Melanson
* Author photo by Vicki Jaremenko
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