Influenced by her sister, Gilli began to write in childhood – a hobby pursued throughout her teenage. Writing was only abandoned when she left home and real life took over from the fiction. She did not go to Oxford or Cambridge, but at sixteen – with the minimum qualifications necessary – went to Croydon (its art college). Gilli did not work on any of the broadsheets, in TV, or in publishing. Instead she did a variety of jobs – shop assistant, beauty-consultant, barmaid and picking up American tourists in London, in order to sell them real estate in Florida. She worked longest and most happily as an artist in advertising.
Gilli married Geoffrey, and when their son, Tom, was a toddler she resumed writing. The first full-length novel she ever completed, Just Before Dawn, was quickly picked up by a small independent publisher. Her second, Desires & Dreams, was published within a year of the first. Sadly the publisher failed to achieve the marketing push and wide distribution necessary to ensure success for itself or its writers. It ceased to trade. Gilli is now independently published.
Gilli’s novels are unconventional, surprising and subversive. Although she writes under the banner of contemporary women’s fiction, she is incapable of following a bandwagon. There will always be a love story at the heart of every story, but it will never be one of those join-the-dots plots. Her novel, TORN, first came out as an ebook in 2011. LIFE CLASS came out in 2012. FLY or FALL in 2013. All are now available in paperback.
Welcome back to the blog Gilli. So, tell us about your new release…
Just launched in paperback, my most recent book, FLY OR FALL, is about a woman, Nell, who fears change. When there’s a surprise improvement in the family’s fortunes after the death of her mother, and her husband urges a move away from London, Nell struggles to justify her resistance to these changes. How to explain her presentiment of some unknowable disaster?
After the move, Nell feels cast adrift, far from home, friends and everything familiar. Trevor is unrecognisable as the man she married; their young teenage twins, Jonathan and Juliet, are grumpy and difficult. The new house is a building site and she’s unsettled by Patrick, one of the builders, who’s notorious as a womaniser. But he makes no pass at her.
New friends, Kate and Fliss, are preoccupied with appearances and with extra-marital adventures. The health club, where Nell takes a bar job, is a hotbed of flirtation and gossip. Though Nell distances herself at first, she’s flattered by the attentions of a beautiful and enigmatic young man called Angel. When the romantic fantasy becomes fact, she feels guilty and triumphant. She wants to unburden to another friend, the quirky, new-age Elizabeth, but…..
The foreshadowed disaster – felt as a tremor at the start of the story – rumbles into a full blown earth-quake. When the dust settles, nothing is as it previously seemed. Disturbing truths about the new men in her life, her friends, her husband, both her teenage twins and even herself, are exposed. And the love which blossoms unexpectedly from the wreckage has no future.
Fly or Fall follows the dismantling of all Nell’s certainties, her preconceptions and her moral code, and the future for the woman who feared change, is irrevocably altered. But has she been broken or has she transformed herself?
Wow! Sounds intriguing. Tell us a bit about your writing process – where and when do you write, what was the inspiration for this book and did it take long to complete? Any plans for a follow up?
Although I’d called Fly or Fall a recent book, I was talking about its publication date. It would be hard to calculate how long it took me because it’s been written in fits and starts over many years. I have no plans for a follow-up. Who knows when I’d finish it?
I’m a seat of the pants style of writer, and I write whenever I feel like it, so, when I can persuade myself to begin a new book I don’t have a skeleton plot. I will have developed a scenario and a few of the major characters, plus a partial back-story for them. I’ll also have a starting point where my characters meet, but that is all. Inspiration only kicks in, in small flashes of revelation, as I write.
The initial concept for Fly or Fall came to me a long time ago. At the time I was living in Surrey and my life was hunky-dory. I was a published author and I needed to get on with my third novel. As I had with my two previous books I began by reflecting on my own life. Was there any life event I had experience of which I could employ to conjure my story out of nothing?
I knew about moving house – I’d done so several times, the last occasion only four years previously. Although I’d never moved unwillingly, I began to wonder how I would feel if it had all been my husband’s idea and I didn’t want to go. So I began to think about a woman who dislikes change but after her invalid mother’s death, she is persuaded against her instincts, to move house from Battersea in London, to an area where she knows no one. To further disrupt and depress her I could make the new house a bit dilapidated and in need of modernisation.
We’d had work done on our various houses but I’d never been propositioned by one of the builders. Maybe I didn’t give out the right signals. I understood, from women I knew that this was a commonplace and, for some, welcome element of home improvements! In truth, there’d never been a roofer, or a decorator, or a window replacer that I’d found remotely attractive. I could have written a ‘housewife has it off with randy builder’ story, but wasn’t that a bit of a cliché? What if the workman with the ‘reputation’ doesn’t make a pass at my heroine?
At the time of writing I was doing a part-time job in the bar of my local squash club. Although I’m fairly sure I still wasn’t giving out encouraging signals, barmaids are fair game, and I received my fair share of propositions there. It occurred to me that my heroine could take a similar job which would expose her to an entirely different world to the one she’d left behind in right-on, politically correct Battersea.
I was still only halfway through a very rough first draft when my mother died, and my husband was head-hunted. Suddenly I was faced with exactly the same dilemma I’d given my heroine. The new job was in Gloucestershire, a county I had to look up in the atlas to locate! But it was a good opportunity, I had a portable career and I’d always dreamt of living in the ‘real’ country one day.
I supported our move, but I found myself living through life events (which included a lot more in the way of building work as well as the demise of my publisher) and emotions of loss, bereavement, loneliness and dislocation that I’d only ever imagined for my heroine. Though I tinkered with the book over the years, investing it with a more profound understanding of what my heroine was going through, the story became bogged down and was eventually shelved.
It was only last year that I decided to have another look at it. I was immediately hooked. Not only did the title jump out at me, I could see a way to bring the story up-to-date. As I re-wrote the book inspiration began to play into the mix again and I was able to alter and elaborate on some of the threads, re-plait them and give the whole a very satisfactory conclusion.
So – to answer the question, what inspired Fly or Fall ? I cannot give a single answer. All I can offer is personal experience, stories told to me, imagination, emotional intelligence and continually asking the What if…? question.
Woah – truth is often stranger than fiction, right? 🙂 Thanks for stopping by Gilli – I wish you all the best with Fly or Fall.
If you want to buy this book you can find it at:
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FB author page: http://www.facebook.com/GilliAllan.AUTHOR?bookmark_t=page
Happy reading, Nikki x