A Pankhearst Interview
Who are you?
My name is Gary Lines, but I write as G. T. Lines.
Where are you?
I live in the United Kingdom in a small town called Cheltenham. It is in the heart of the Coteswolds and is very picturesque; it is part of the rural landscape that inspired J.R.R. Tolkien to create, ‘The Shire’. I am currently at my desk looking out the window at an oak tree.
And how the hell are you doing?
I am very well, thank you for asking.
Tell us about your book.
A Woman Scarred is a Fantasy-Genre story about a young woman who is forced to participate in a Noblewoman’s vendetta against the men who brutalized her, killed her family and invaded her homeland. I wanted to do something on an epic scale, so it has huge armies and battles, love and hate, betrayal and jealousy, friendship and sacrifice, but at its core it is simply a tale of how vengeance is not, and can never be, a redemptive experience. It does have a few laughs too
Why are you publishing independently?
I decided initially to publish independently to get feedback for the book from a wider audience, whilst following the traditional publishing route. The feedback has been so good though, and the experience so rewarding, I may just stick with independent publishing.
How is publishing independently working for you?
It’s fantastic. Creating the book did, at first, seem a bit daunting, beyond the actual writing, and I was worried about producing a publication that met professional standards (I would settle for nothing less). I am not a computer programmer or anything like that and my Html knowledge is limited, but I used I number of tools to create the book: Scrivener, Calibre e-book manager, Kompozer, and it was fairly straightforward. I also decided to use Amazon’s Createspace and KDP Platforms to create the Paperback and Kindle versions respectively and found the entire experience quite simple; I would recommend it to any budding author. My only real problem -and this is one where I simply don’t have the knowledge- is I don’t know anything about marketing. It is something I am working on as we speak.
What are you working on now? Can we get a peek, an excerpt?
Indeed, this is first draft and very rough: the start of Daughters of the Hag:
That was what they called her, and other names besides. Devil, demon, harpy, whore. Destroyer of villages, killer of children. Soul-taker. Widow-maker. Hell’s harlot.
And they would not, could never, suffer her to live.
They pursued her now, these men -it was always men- chasing her through the Western forests, not far from the town where she had been born, for, contrary to even the most deeply held belief, she had not emerged fully formed, flung howling from the gates of hell, but had instead been born gurgling and mewling like every other infant, with nothing to distinguish her from her playmates for the future evils she would commit; no sign of the devil-given talent that would set her so very far apart.
She had killed men, she admitted that, but not entire villages. She had never murdered a child or stolen a soul, as far as she knew. But then her memory was a fickle thing these days.
She was a ragged creature, monstrous to gaze upon not least because of what she had endured. Her body had been bent by torture; her skin blistered by flame. In an effort to get her to confess to the magic she possessed -her so-called demonic heritage- pious priests had broken her fingers, then her toes, before removing her nails and prizing out her teeth. They had smashed most of her bones and twisted each of her limbs.
If she was a monster, it was because men had made her that way. So a monster she had become, and now men were made to pay.
She scrabbled up a tree-lined hillside, shifting the bundle she carried until it rested under one arm. The Hag (even she now thought of herself as a hag) cocked her head to one side and listened to the wind. She could hear the men calling, their hounds baying. They were still distant but they had her scent, and would not stop until she -or they- were dead.
She grinned a toothless grin, her once pretty face now lumpy and misshapen, her hair -what remained- hanging thin and lank across her bony shoulders.
Are your stories plot or character driven?
My stories are character driven. I like to take a set of characters and put them in a situation and see what happens, but -and I believe this with all my soul- more often than not the reader is not so much interested in the situation as in how the characters change and grow in response to that situation. All the great stories are about character change, character growth . . . and a certain amount of schadenfreude when the bad guys have to face the results of that growth. Many fantasy stories (all stories probably) are about making the heroine struggle before she can overcome. What keeps the reader hooked is leaving just enough room to doubt the possibility of a happy ending. (And I am not obverse to an unhappy ending – it depends on the story)
Where do you get your ideas? Your inspiration?
It can be anywhere. A Woman Scarred was inspired by an article in a newspaper. Daughters of the Hag (the follow-up) was inspired by a nightmare I had as a child after being told the story of the Baba-Yaga, in her chicken-leg hut and mortar and pestle thingy, scared the living beejeezoos out of me. Then one day I was dozing, and the question just came: well, what makes a Hag? And it snowballed from there.
Favorite author, and why?
Fritz Leiber, because he really is the father of modern fantasy (more so than Tolkien in my opinion) and you see so many of the authors that have come after paying homage to his style. The guy is credited with coining the term ‘Sword and Sorcery’ to define his sub-genre of Fantasy, and you can see his influences everywhere, from Terry Pratchett, to the original D&D, whose worlds were largely derived from his work (and almost all fantasy writers of my generation grew up with D&D). I have a copy of his masterworks and return to it often; it is like an old friend.
Do you outline or sketch the entire book before you begin writing or do you prefer to fly by the seat of your pants?
I have an idea of the ending, and a detailed knowledge of the fantasy world where the story takes place, but other than that I like to see where it takes me . . . often in completely unexpected directions. It’s great fun!
Do you work alone or collaborate? Do you belong to any writers groups – online or local. How do you find the experience?
I was always quite happy to go my own way, plod on, doing my daily word-count and not really looking beyond the scope of writing the book. It was only when I got added to Fiction Writers Group on Facebook did I realize how isolated I had been. Being part of a group has really opened my eyes; I have made so many friends that have helped me with my work, it has got me used to criticism in a safe environment as well as the all-important networking. I wouldn’t be here now, in this interview, if it were not for my Writers group. I recommend it to anyone. That said, I still write alone; I have never tried writing collaboratively; maybe one day . . . if I can find someone willing to put up with me.
What advice would you give to a new author?
Do the work, more than anything else. It’s so easy to talk about writing, plan the writing, think about the writing, read books about writing, join groups that discuss the writing, but ultimately you must DO the writing. Set yourself a goal, however small, of writing so many words a day, and stick to it. I always wanted to be a writer and to be a novelist; it took me a long time to really get to grips with the fact that the words would only get on the page if I put them there. Dreams may come from heaven, but you have to graft to make ’em real.
What’s the best advice ever given to you, and by whom?
Omit needless words, from The Elements of Style. Wordy paragraphs are the quicksand that can kill a good tale.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
I think about writing, often guiltily. This is going to sound trite, but unless I am writing I don’t sleep well, I am irritable and ‘out of sorts’; you could say I am addicted to writing.
Define a great book.
A great book is one where you forget you are involved in the process of reading.
How long did it take you to write your book? What was the process?
Once I had finally gotten my act together (a process that took a few years of umming and ahhing) the first draft of A Woman Scarred was completed over a four month period, writing about one thousand to two thousand words a day, back in 2006. I then put it to one side, in preparation to write a second draft, but then I got sick and things went off the rails for a while (I was diagnosed much later with a brain tumor) and it wasn’t until I had had an operation and was recovering in 2010 that I returned to the manuscript. Given my condition at the time, progress was slow, and it wasn’t until 2012 and four drafts later that I was ready to publish. Every time I read a book now I come to it with a different insight; writing a novel is a voyage. A Woman Scarred will always be bound to that six year period of my life; in many ways the worst times I have ever endured- and also the best. It is without a doubt my proudest achievement, and I am not worried if it sells, or makes a million or gets turned into a film: I ran a marathon with lead weights round my ankles; no one can take that away from me. I urge you, if you have the time and the inclination, do the same, write a book; undertake a journey.
Do you currently make a living out of writing?
Not yet; at the moment I write purely for the joy of it. The other great passion in my life, and one I am fortunate to have been able to make a career out of, is my dogs. I have recently qualified as a dog trainer and I am doing a degree in Canine Behavior. I love it and being around dogs is a constantly joyful experience (apart from the picking up of poo . . . of which I do a lot. Oh, what a glamorous life, eh?) I have a dog of my own, I named her after the lead character in my book; she is called, Ellie.