FIONA turns the tables on our author interviewer JAMES GAULT
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Hi Fiona, Nice to meet you.My name is James Gault and I’m a (hopefully)young 71.
Fiona: Where are you from?
Originally I’m from the west of Scotland, where I went to University in Glasgow, studying Maths and Computer Science. It seems like an odd education for someone who now writes novels, but if you think about it, it involves the same kind of logical planning process as creating the plot of a story. Now I live and work now in the South of France except when I go back the UK to visit my children and grandchildren.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
My 3rd novel ‘The Redemption of Ann Petrovna’ is just out on Amazon. Currently, I’m writing my fourth novel and I’m also in the process of launching an on-line magazine about books and writing called ‘Vox Lit’.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Well everyone begins to write at school, but for me writing is something that has been building up all my life from a small beginning. I started with letters to magazines, moved on to writing English Language Teaching Textbooks, short stories and articles, and then it was novels. I have always written because I have something I want to say.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
That’s a tough question. What is the right criterion for claiming you are a writer? The first time someone publishes your work? I can tick that one off. The first time someone hands over money for what you’ve written? I’ve had that too. Seeing one of your books on the bookshop shelves? Yes, I’ve been lucky enough to pass that milestone. Getting a public prize for something you’ve written? Another lucky break I’ve had. Every little achievement is encouraging, but until I get to the top of the best seller list or sell a novel to a film producer, I’ll always think of myself as just working towards being a writer.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My first book was an ELT book which I wanted to write because I had some strong ideas about how to teach English to foreigners that I wanted people to try. I was lucky enough to get a commission to do it.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The title for this one was decided by the publisher.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I try to be able to vary my style to the needs of the book, but I am governed by the belief that writers you show readers the world form a point of view that others don’t have. And also, I try to make my fiction at least amusing if not funny.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I see fiction as exaggerated reality. So people and events in my life are the starting point, but then the imagination has to extend them. I wouldn’t say any of my novels are ‘romans à clef’.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I’ve travelled a lot and I’ve worked in Scotland, The Czech Republic and France. I don’t travel in order to write, but my travel experiences influence my writing. I always set my novels in places I have spent a lot of time.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
In another life I was a marketing manager, so I have been designing the covers of my indie novels myself. But maybe that isn’t a great idea. I’ll probably write a brief and get a professional designer the next time.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I hope there are messages in all my novels. In my latest, the messages are about corruption and reconciling goals and ambitions with moral principles in such an environment.
I wouldn’t be able to write if I didn’t have something to say. I always hope that my readers will see things just a tiny bit differently after reading my work.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
This is the kind of question I am no good at answering. There are so many new writers and so many great writers I wouldn’t presume to pick out one as a favourite. I love Charles Dickens, for instance, because I was brought up on TV adaptations of his work, but when you get into his books themselves they are wonderfully witty and insightful, which is something that the adaptations have never managed to capture.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Many of my friends, my first publisher, the publisher who read but rejected one of my books but then wrote a very encouraging and helpful analysis of it. But I think that it is an author’s personal drive and ambition which counts most.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Not at my age – my books might be a legacy for my grandchildren. But I see writing as a way to point out things that they may not have noticed to others
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Yes yes yes!! But I know of some writers who have never published because they keep going back to change things. I’m 99% satisfied, and on to the next book now.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
You learn something new every time you do anything. This last novel was the longest and most intricate I have written, and it brought home to me how valuable an editor can be in pointing out what you may not noticed yourself.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I’m a fan of Gwyneth Paltrow, but she may be a bit too old now.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Keep at it! Especially for a novel, it’s a lot of work and easy to give up. I have about 10 false starts of novels still sitting in my computer.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Apart from ‘Buy my books’, I would just like to tell them to be open-minded about everything.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Right at this moment, I’m reading an interesting non-fiction book about world history called ‘After Tamerlane’ by a British academic called John Darwin. It’s a long and difficult read, but the interesting thing is that he explores modern history (from 1400) not just from a UK, European or Western point of view, but from Musim and Asian viewpoints also. It fulfils my need to see the world though more than my own eyes.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
No, can anyone really? I remember reading ‘Biggles’ books when I was young.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I don’t cry very much and laugh at almost anything. I am very lucky.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
This is another ‘favorite’ question which is hard to answer. There are a lot of politicians I would like to meet just to ask them what they think they are doing.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Writing.Family. I also still write computer programs.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Above all, history documentaries on TV and spy films. The ultimate joy is a TV documentary on cold war spies
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
No favorites, but I do like Opera.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Read?? But I think I will always be writing something.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
‘Reserved for an occupant who is not quite ready yet!’