Name Victoria Gemmell
Age 30-something (I like to keep people guessing J )
Where are you from I was born in Inverclyde, Scotland, then lived in a little village on the outskirts of Renfrewshire. I now live in Paisley.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I studied an undergraduate degree in Communication and Mass Media at Glasgow Caledonian University. A lot of my studies in Pop Culture during this time have influenced the ideas in my novel Follow Me. After graduating and working for a while I returned to University to study a Post Graduate qualification in Careers Guidance. I’ve been a careers adviser now for about nine years and work with teenagers on a daily basis.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My debut Young Adult mystery novel, Follow Me, is released on Wednesday 30th September 2015 by Strident Publishing Ltd. My launch is going to be on Friday 9th October at the Argyle Street branch of Waterstones in Glasgow at 6.30pm so if any locals are reading, come along!
You can read a blurb on my publisher’s website here: http://www.stridentpublishing.co.uk/coming-soon/
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing stories when I was in Primary School. I always loved to read, and my Mum writes, so it was something I was naturally drawn to. I had a bit of an over-active imagination when I was younger and have always been creative, so some of my earlier writing came complete with illustrations in old school jotters. My brother likes to remind me from time to time of one of my finer stories, Ye Olde Castle, (which had a bit too much Point Horror influence.)
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I didn’t really start believing I could be a writer until my early twenties. That’s when I began to let other writers, (apart from my Mum), read and crit my work, and also started to slowly submit short stories for publication.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
A couple of things sparked off the ideas for Follow Me. After reading a lot about the Pop Artist Andy Warhol, and his infamous artist studio, The Factory, I began to think how appealing an underground creative hangout might be for teenagers in a town where not a lot is happening – this fed into the creation of The Barn within my book. Newspaper stories from years ago had stayed in my head, about a large number of teenage suicides in a small town and the writer in me kept thinking, What if something more sinister was happening there and no one bothered to figure it out? That’s what sparked off the idea for the mystery element in my book; my protagonist, Kat, is trying to figure out what has really happened to her twin, Abby, refusing to believe she would take her own life.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
The psychology of people interests me so I like to write character driven stories, delving into their emotions and motivations. My style is quite minimalistic – I like writing a lot of flash fiction which I think has had a knock-on effect with my longer pieces.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I was listening to a random mix of songs when I was writing one day, and one of the lines was something like, ‘Please follow me…’ The words Follow Me gave me goosebumps and I knew I’d found the title.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I don’t want to spell out all the messages as I think it will be more fun for readers to figure it all out… It explores a few themes: society’s fascination with celebrities, the sense of isolation and loneliness you can feel as a teenager, the allure of wanting to be part of something new and different…
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
The characters, the town, and the situation Kat finds herself in, are all from my imagination, but I hope the story is realistic and that readers can relate to a lot of the themes.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Apart from the influences I previously mentioned, no, the story and characters are a construct of my imagination, and that is the fun part of writing for me!
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
So many books and writers have had an influence on me it’s hard to narrow it down – ones that stick out at certain moments of my life are The Worst Witch series, Roald Dahl books, the Nancy Drew series, Flowers for Algernon, White Oleander, the Beat writers, The Hunger Games, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Twilight series, The Harry Potter series, Gillian Flynn books.
My Mum has to be my most influential mentor – I feel very lucky that we share a passion for words and writing as she has been my biggest champion! I’ve also been lucky enough to meet and befriend lots of other fantastic writers along the way
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m currently half way through reading a book called Birdy, by a debut YA writer called Jess Vallance. It’s very quirky and I’m enjoying it so far.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I’m going to stick to my genre here. I just read Black Eyed Boy by another new YA writer, Laura Huntley,which I also enjoyed. The setting of Whitby was particularly appealing.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I’m currently working on my second YA novel. That’s all I’m saying about it for nowJ
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My friends. They’re all a supportive bunch. Writing groups and events such as Erskine Writers, the Scottish Association of Writers and Weegie Wednesday – so important for advice, feedback and staying motivated to keep going.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I now treat it like my second job, but I’d say writing has always been, and always will be, a passion.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No, because I already went back and made most of my major changes before even subbing to my publisher.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I think I probably answered that at the start.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
At the moment it’s finding the head space to get truly lost in the ‘creative flow’
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I think this changes every year as I read so much. I have a lot of Douglas Coupland books on my shelf (I like his observational style and pop culture references). I’m also a fan of the dark psychology in Gillian Flynn books.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I love to travel, but it’s not related to my writing. It would be great if I could go on a world-wide book signing tour one day J
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The artwork/photography for Follow Me is by a young talented artist, Ida Henrich
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Settling on an ending (after some distance I went back and changed it). I actually loved writing Follow Me – I don’t think I’ll ever find such a ‘flow’ again with a story.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
That the actual writing of a book is just the start
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Read lots, experiment with your writing, and never give up!
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thanks for reading my work!
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
One of my favourite books as a child was The Tiger Who Came to Tea. I recently read it to my niece and it was nice re-visiting the story.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
People with a sharp wit make me laugh. Books and films do both.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
I guess it would be pretty cool to go back to the sixties and hang out with Andy Warhol in his Factory, and Hemingway and his friends in Paris.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
The Only Way is Up (this is a bit of joke that some of my workmates will get)
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I like creative things (art, photography) I love reading, I’m a big film fan and also love going to gigs.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I love Girls and The Mindy Project. I recently re-watched the whole of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Gilmore Girls – two of the best TV series ever. Films – I could be here a while. I like quirky independents, grunge 90s, classic 80s.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Chocolate, shades of blue, alternative rock.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
My something else just now is my day job as a careers adviser. I also used to want to be an illustrator or a film director.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
My author website is: www.victoriagemmell.com and I also have a more general blog at: http://throughthelookingglass-vikki.blogspot.co.uk/