Monday, 24 July 2017

An evening with Patrick Gale by Tracy Alexander

Patrick Gale had a desire to be anything that didn’t make money ­– a musician, an actor, an author . . .

A friend of a friend ‘won’ him in an auction and so I heard this first hand in her living room. It’s always a treat to see inside another author’s mind, and to meet someone whose books I have enjoyed – most recently, A Place Called Winter – made it all the more interesting. Here’s some more of what the author of 16 novels and many other written works, including Man in an Orange Shirt soon to be aired on BBC TV, had to say:

Learning to write – Reading teaches you to write.

Writing is a 9 to 5 job ­– Patrick gets up and out to his office by 9, unless he’s in publicity mode.

Pens and paper still have a place ­–  He writes the whole manuscript in a notebook. The front is the story. The back is his quarry where he jots notes. He carries it around with him. There’s no copy! When the draft is finished, he types it up, editing along the way.

Structure – Chronology isn’t something he’s fond of. Many of his books play with structure – it’s something he’s interested in. Time, character, place . . . can all dictate the final shape. When he transfers the words from the notebook to the computer and can cut and paste huge swathes at will he finds the right way to tell the story. Breaking up the narrative means you can avoid the boring bits and focus on crisis points. When using time shifts, he finds the historical parts are more compelling and have more energy – maybe because they take more effort.

On research in the field –­ Write as much of the story as you can before you go so that your time is targeted and you don’t end up shoe-horning in stuff because you bothered to find it out!

His territory – Family, of which he has a rich personal source.

Titles – How refreshing to learn that he changes his mind repeatedly . . . The Lead-lined Room has become Thumb Position and now maybe The Rocks Along Our Way.

His favourite book – Most proud of the most recent. Most protective of the WIP.

His favourite writer – Colm Tóibín

Noting down snippets in wee jotters for future use – Not something he does. ‘The things you need to remember you’ll remember when you need them.’

And the future – Patrick is getting braver . . . and darker.

Tracy Alexander


Penny Dolan said...

What an interesting meeting to be at, Tracy, and thanks for your neat note-taking and for sharing here on ABBA.

Joan Lennon said...

Interesting - thanks for this!

Helen Larder said...

Thanks so much for these insights xxxx

Anne Booth said...

That's really interesting. Thank you. I like the idea of the different uses for the back and the front of the notebook. And the point about writing before you go on a research trip is good too, though in my experience that can mean a major re-write when you get home!