Introducing Gill Stewart, author of Lily’s Just Fine, book 1 in the Galloway Girls series, out 11th July.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m something of a mixture: writer and accountant, English and Scottish. I was born in the north of England but my family moved to South Africa when I was fifteen. I stayed there till I was 21, then decided I wanted to travel. As well as southern Africa, I lived in London and Paris before deciding that Scotland was the perfect place to settle. I worked as an accountant in the NHS for more years than I care to remember, and managed to combine that with writing once my children were old enough not to demand all my spare energy.
When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. At age six or seven I was jotting down ‘stories’ and insisting that any nearby adult read them. I moved on to trying YA fiction when I was in my teens and finished a series of 3 teenagers-turned-detectives book that I still have somewhere, written out in old school exercise books. At university I started writing books about politically-motivated people in their twenties, clearly drawing heavily on my own life. Then came a ‘proper’ career and marriage and children and I didn’t really return to writing for 20 years or more.
How did you get into writing?
I’ve always had ideas for characters and books, but not always had the time to put my thoughts down on paper. I started writing seriously again once my children were at primary school. Somehow I heard about the Romantic Novelists’ Association and their brilliant New Writers Scheme, which I joined. The advice and encouragement I found there allowed me to find an agent which lead to the publication of my first romance novels. After a few years I realised that what I really, really wanted to write was YA – almost back where I’d started when I was in my own teens. So that’s what I write now.
Tell us something about yourself that not many people know?
I love languages and have studied French, Russian, German, Italian and Latin. I’m now trying (unsuccessfully) to learn Scots Gaelic.
What drew you to YA fiction?
I’ve always loved reading it, except for a time in my twenties when I thought (mistakenly!) that I was too old. It covers a time in our lives when we are changing rapidly, discovering ourselves and trying to make sense of the world, so it’s a source of really interesting characters and situations.
What’s your favourite YA book that you’ve read and why?
Am I allowed two? My all-time favourite would have to be ‘I Capture The Castle’ by Dodie Smith which has the most amazing, mad-cap heroine. My contemporary favourite is ‘Adorkable’ by Sarra Manning, which combines a gorgeous hero with a clever, awkward heroine – and a very realistic attitude to the difficulties of teenage relationships and sex.
Any advice for aspiring writers?
First and foremost, keep trying. Successful writers are the ones who persevere. You can only learn from doing – both reading and writing lots.