About Gayle

Many people ask me what goes on in my head and not always with the intonation you’re thinking – what on earth goes on in your head? Although, this has been asked!

The best way I can answer this question is that the inside of my head looks quite like the interior of Heffer’s book store. Large galleries run around the edges and there are staircases everywhere. There are shelves upon shelves of pictures, words, sentences, stories and people. I spend quite a bit of time in there, I like it, especially since I have installed some very nice tatty, brown leather sofas and chairs. There’s even a fancy kitchen where you can help yourself to hot drinks and cakes…although I’m having some trouble finding a member of staff to run it…

When I’m not rifling through the shelves searching for information, I occasionally sit with one of my visitors, whoever’s milling around at the time…usually one of my psychopaths. Being complex characters, I need time to sit with them and get to know them properly, understand their psychopathy.

If I’m not in there, so to speak, then I’m writing. That’s a completely different section of my head altogether. It’s like the inside of a cinema but without the seating. The movie runs, I write the story, occasionally pausing to pull a character forward for a quick brief on what we both expect and away we go again.

When I write a book, I have a rough idea what the story is about but I never plot or plan because for me, it ties me to something rigid and it causes the story to hit the rugged wall either side of the path. Sometimes, I’m just as surprised as anyone at an unexpected twist, a hidden character I wasn’t expecting or a particular fact they were hiding from me. This is why it’s important for me to get to know them, gain their trust. I know they’re fictional but during their time with me they have to be real otherwise it doesn’t work. A character in one of my books was like a magpie, collecting small items from people, stashing them away. What she failed to tell me was she had a conviction for theft. A defensive conversation ensued and she lived up to my portrayal of her. I guess because she had a small part in my story and lived quite a distance from my mental film set, I probably wasn’t paying her the attention I should have. I usually have one keen eye on the psychopath…

The next question I’m often asked is, where do your stories come from and did I have a difficult childhood, do I draw on my own experiences. The answer is firstly, I don’t know where the stories come from and secondly, I had the best childhood anyone can have, I’m very lucky to have a wonderful family. That said, I was a difficult child, to say the least. I craved the sea constantly, we lived an hour away from it. I never understood where I was and constantly felt as though I belonged somewhere else with another family. We were brought up in a beautiful house and had everything we ever wanted and yet, I couldn’t settle. I regularly packed my little red suitcase, stomped downstairs and announced to my parents I was leaving. They never took any notice, just rolled their eyes at one another, knowing full well that at the age of four, I couldn’t possibly reach the door lock…

Plagued by nightmares, I cried a lot, some of these I can still recall now, the people in them completely unfamiliar. As I grew older this caused a panic to build before bed and I would stand in the garden, in the dark where I felt safer. A strange anecdote when you’d think I’d feel perfectly safe in our modern extremely secure home. In fact, I spent vast amounts of time outside, I was obsessed with caravans, sheds and tree houses. In the winter, my dad would join me in the garden and we would study the stars and planets. All in all, I was like a small vagrant who couldn’t switch off, usually covered in mud, shoeless because I liked the feel of the ground beneath my feet, constantly asking questions that so often couldn’t be answered. My poor mother was exasperated a lot of the time, everyday was a battle to get me to wear shoes, a dress, something pretty, please just wear something pretty, other than the dungarees I lived and breathed. Having two sisters before me, I can understand why my parents didn’t have any more children, an experience they didn’t want to repeat even though they were desperate for a boy. A male version of me could quite possibly have caused them to emigrate without us…

I’m not dissimilar to this now, although I do take a bit more time over my appearance and have trouble passing a shiny surface without looking at my reflection! But I can’t be shut in, I can’t settle and love nothing more than sitting outside in the dark. We move house almost every year and sometimes I wonder if I would be happier in a shepherd’s hut. Luckily, I’m married to a very relaxed free spirited man and, I am very settled, calm and at peace within myself, it’s my physical surroundings I shuffle like cards. So, even though my family and I don’t understand why I was like this as a child, these experiences have taught me a lot.

My parents inform me that when I first began to talk, I would tell the most wonderful stories but sadly, school seemed to crush this and it stopped, for a while anyway. I think this was the period where I learnt to, read, listen and collect. People are always eager to pass on a story when they know you’re a writer but it’s never the obvious that I hear, it’ll be the flippant comment as we part, the little gem I grab and mould into a story until it resembles nothing of its conception, it’s a thread entwined with another. The most poignant sentences are always unassuming, there are too many to mention here but I’ve so often been unexpectedly moved.  That is the only way I can describe how I write. I form and develop characters in my head and they tell me their story. I’m always asking myself questions, what would it be like to experience this, what would it feel like to have that problem, what if, what if, what if… and I am so incredibly lucky that I’m able to explore these stories and return to a quiet life…

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