Jackie Gay

Jackie Gay

Jackie Gay was born in Birmingham in 1962. She has published one novel, Scapegrace, and has co-edited three anthologies of short stories including Hard Shoulder, which won the Raymond Williams Community Publishing Prize. She is currently working as an artist in healthcare and community settings.

Please tell us something about your background and how you started writing.
I started writing after a serious accident which curtailed my wandering around the world. I suppose it was an imaginative substitute for actual travelling and the places I visited are still a great inspiration to me – as is my home town of Birmingham.

Can you describe a typical day?
In principle – write in the morning and earn a living in the afternoon. This plan works much better now I lecture part-time at UCE, although it is still subject to the influence of chaos.

Which experiences have had most influence on your writing?
Travelling definitely. The excitement of reading by torchlight under my bedcovers as a child – those first experiences of disappearing into other worlds. People I’ve met, places I’ve been, the conjunction between the two.

Do you have a muse?
Nancy in Swallows and Amazons. But that’s more to do with sailing than writing!

For you, does plot dictate character, or character dictate plot?
The plot generally comes out of the character’s dilemmas for me, but it’s never quite as simple as that as I like to juxtapose different characters’ situations to build up a bigger picture. I know where I want to end up but don’t quite know how I’m going to get there – like all the best journeys.

Which writer has been an inspiration for you?
I like Annie Proulx a lot – the subjects she tackles, the characters and landscapes, the wonderful detail and texture of her work. Success came late in life for her which also appeals!

What is the most challenging aspect of your writer’s life?
Embarking on a new book knowing that for the next few years I’ll be dedicating half of my life to something which has no guarantee of ever seeing daylight.

What is your favourite book/author?
Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck. This book was recommended to me during an email discussion with a friend about favourite dogs in literature. Charley (an aristocratic standard poodle ‘diplomat and watchdog’) wins hands down. At age 58 in 1960 Steinbeck took off around America with his dog, unable to cure his lifelong itchy feet. ‘Nothing has worked,’ he says. ‘Four hoarse blasts of a ship’s whistle still raise the hair on my neck and set my feet to tapping… In other words, I don’t improve, once a bum always a bum.’ What a man.

Does your writing reflects your reading?
Yes. Or rather everything I’ve ever read – from We Didn’t Mean to Go To Sea to Moby Dick – affects my writing.

Do you ever get writer’s block and how do you deal with it?
Novels take so long that by the time I’ve finished one another idea will be bubbling around under the surface. Then I just have to catch the darned thing and pin it down to the page…

Related Books

  1. Going the Distance

View All