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Author Patrick Gale joining us on for a chat on Tuesday 16th June between 1 and 2pm

(117 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 11-Jun-09 11:42:51

Patrick Gale, author of Mumsnet Best Award winner, Notes from an Exhibition will be joining us for a chat and to tell us about his new book, The Whole Day Through. If you're unable to join us on Tuesday please send your questions in advance to Patrick here.

thumbwitch Thu 11-Jun-09 23:40:01

Shouldn't this be a sticky?

I'm just reading Notes from an exhibition now - it's a fantastic book.

Blu Fri 12-Jun-09 19:01:34

Rough Music is brilliant, too.

foxinsocks Fri 12-Jun-09 19:45:41


I love Patrick Gale.

I will be at work then but if he's reading this, we try and go to Penzance every year because we love it so and when I read his books, I often feel completely transported down there, his imagery of Cornwall so vivid .

Didn't know he had a new book out! Will go and find it.

FrannyandZooey Fri 12-Jun-09 19:56:34

ooh i LOVE patrick gale
have been a fan for years
i really like his early stuff very much - so funny and i love the quirky and alternative characters
i think i like facing the tank the best - i love hagiography and i like all the confusions and misunderstandings - quite shakespearian - and just the lovely gentle wit and sympathy for humanity

oooh i am PLEASED

foxinsocks Fri 12-Jun-09 19:58:29

ooh franny, I'm glad you will be here then.

You can represent my enthusiasm I think, if you don't mind grin

FrannyandZooey Fri 12-Jun-09 20:02:00

<tries to collect self>

please do speak to me
I am unable to join you on Tuesday as will be away
I love your work very much
Who are your favourite characters, please? Firstly, from your own books, and then, favourite characters from fiction generally

I would like to go and read all your books again right now but I lent most of them to another MNer oddly!

Can I also fawn a bit more and say you have one of the nicest author photographs I have ever seen wink
As a bookish teenager I used to spend quite some time familiarising myself with the inside back cover

FrannyandZooey Fri 12-Jun-09 20:03:59

sorry fox i will be in london (10 / 10 meet)
i will have to express enthusiasm for both of us from a distance of several days

i bet 100 likes him
she can ask clever questions

InTheseShoes Fri 12-Jun-09 20:10:50


Unfortunately I won't be able to be here on Tuesday but I just wanted to say that I think that you are a fantastic author, I have loved every one of your books that I have read, they made me laugh and cry. The Whole Day Through is a wonderful book, and please keep writing.

Thank you

foxinsocks Fri 12-Jun-09 20:13:06

are you implying that ahundred isn't coming to your meet up wink?

yes rope her in Franny. She can represent us and be all swoony. You better tell Anne not to turn up.

FrannyandZooey Fri 12-Jun-09 20:47:47

yes funny that isn't it?
she claimed to think it was next month hmm

yappybluedog Fri 12-Jun-09 20:56:31

he is a very handsome talented writer

tassisssss Fri 12-Jun-09 21:03:57

well i've just finished the whole day through this minute and i don't like the ending one bit.

loved notes from an exhibition though

Concordia Fri 12-Jun-09 21:20:37

well, i have just read my first novel since conceiving my first child (he's 3 this weekend so i had a bit of time without reading any novels at all) and it was one left in our holiday cottage.
picked it up and read it until 3 in the morning a few nights till it was finished.
it was 'Notes from an Exhibition'.
I haven't relaxed so much in ages. I was still thinking about the characters when we got home. I felt as if i'd actually met them....
I don't think i'll be reading any more novels for a while as i need a bit of sleep, but i have earmarked another Patrick Gale for the next one. What do people suggest?

LaDiDaDi Fri 12-Jun-09 21:33:02

I'm very sad that I'll be at work and miss this.

I read Rough Music quite a while ago and Notes from an Exhibition this year. Great books.

sphil Fri 12-Jun-09 23:00:26

OK, so shameless name-dropping here - I can't resist it. I know Patrick Gale! Well, used to know him - we were at university togther about 300 years ago...
He was lovely then - used to lend me his Anglo-Saxon translations blush. And he was in a play wot I directed.

Blu Fri 12-Jun-09 23:59:56

Dear Patrick Gale.

I am very happy that a new book is out. HOW will I resist reading it before my holiday? Because I won't enjoy anything else as much, and I don't want to spoil my hol reading some crap from the R&J book club list, thinking 'I could be reading The Whole Day Through, now. Can you suggest some slightly inferior but nevertheless satisfying books to keep my mind off yours between now and mid August?

Thank you,


Blu Sat 13-Jun-09 00:00:50

And, P.S, was sphil any cop as a director?

Blu Sat 13-Jun-09 00:09:48

And - re the note to Rough Music, in which you take pains to point out that though there are some family co-incidences between your family and the plot. What for you marks the boundary for using personal experience in a novel? Or references to real people? (such as a possible Barbara Hepworth in NfaE?). There is such a sense of authenticity of place and character and family dynamic in your novels, that much must be based on well-observed situations, and it is delicious....but where does the Tiresome Myerson line begin? (I'm certainly not suggesting you have approached it, let alone crossed it)

Blu Sat 13-Jun-09 00:14:24

Sorry - I didn't finish the sentence at the beginning of that question. "in which you take pains to point out that though there are some family co-incidences between your family and the plot, that is where the similiarity ends".

Obviously succesful novels which rely on finished sentences are not completed 2 thirds down a bottle of cheap red wink

yappybluedog Sat 13-Jun-09 08:41:10

Blu, wasn't Notes from an Exhibition on a R&J reading book list..............

supadoula Sat 13-Jun-09 08:43:11

I have just discovered your books and I find that they just talk to me in a way that very few books do. Feelings are described with such accuracy and depth.
I was very moved by "rough music" and think of the characters often. I think you perfectly describe the complexity of human mind and interactions with others. Thank you for all the precious moments you provided me!

piscesmoon Sat 13-Jun-09 08:45:58

I loved 'Notes from an Exhibition' and am now reading 'A Sweet Obscurity', which is equally good. He is so good at drawing his characters.

IwoulddoDrWho Sat 13-Jun-09 09:59:14

I have absolutely nothing of any interest to say except I loved Notes from an Exhibition. It really stayed with me. Thank you.

Cies Sat 13-Jun-09 10:09:10

Another fan here. I've read Rough Music and Notes from an Exhibition and loved them both. Your others are on my extensive to read my list.

Randomly, the year I read Rough Music I was in my final year at university studying languages, and what should turn up in our Spanish mock finals translation paper but an extract from your book?! It was the passage where you describe the hot chocolate powder as something like "intense white powder" ?? Most of the class translated powder as "polvo", which is its first meaning, but can also mean shag! Much guffawing from the tutor.

Did you know you were helping to form the nations linguists?

foxinsocks Sat 13-Jun-09 12:12:44

ok, have just gone and bought the new book . Very much looking forward to reading it.

twofalls Sat 13-Jun-09 20:21:51

I've just read Notes from an Exhibition after reading the MN review - which ones should I read next?

Haven't got anything to ask - just wanted to say I read the last few pages of notes from an exhibition again and again and thought it was one of the most evocative endings I have read in a long time.

TotalChaos Sat 13-Jun-09 21:35:29

Did being on the R&J list change your life?

mollyroger Sun 14-Jun-09 11:15:01

I have only read Notes From an Exhibition, but I adored it. I work in Mental Health with a Quaker boss and we both visit Cornwall regularly so we have discussed the book endlessly!

I am also at work that day, and although I'm sure my boss would give me special dispensation it would mean outing myself to her as a MNetter and that would Not do

IwoulddoDrWho Sun 14-Jun-09 21:37:50

Oh I've thought of one. Would you write a sequel to Notes From An Exhibition? I just want to spend a bit more time with those people.

Hello Patrick Gale,

So glad to see you will be on MN. I really loved Notes From an Exhibition, and thought the way you used the 'notes' at the beginning of each chapter as a way in to the family history was really clever. I was wondering how you came up with that idea?

And I'd also like to know more about your life as a writer: how/ where do you write? How much per week? How many drafts/ edits? That sort of thing.


I've just read "The Whole Day Through" over one weekend - my children were very neglected that weekend!

Without revealing the plot too much, I liked the way the book was structured and that it is quite close to the end before I realised that the structure is not just what it seemed at the start!

In that book and "Notes from an Exhibition" the "mother" characters are very successful in their chosen fields and I suppose quite ruthless about putting their careers before their families - something that most mothers nowadays would still feel guilt about and must have been even more unusual in the era when these characters had young children. Is there a reason why this is a recurring theme?

teafortwo Mon 15-Jun-09 10:58:55

Hello Parick Gale,

Your book 'Rough Music' was a delicious little find of mine when I was young and used to spend several hours browsing in Ottakers day dreaming.

After finishing 'Rough Music' I left it laying around my parent's home. My Mum read the blurb and thought she would give it a little read too! She isn't a big reader but was somehow caught by the characters. She read the novel quickly loving every page, paragraph,sentence or perhaps even each word.

A few weeks later my Grandmother had to go to hospital and my Mum took her 'Rough Music' to fill the space between visits and treatments. My Grandmother who spent her life reading or teaching people to read drifted away into your book and said it was 'remarkable'. When I went to visit her we talked at great length. We didn't speak of her serious health problems. I was too inexperienced in life to be able to discuss such matters. Instead, we discovered things about each other by talking about the fine details of your writing style.

Reading 'Rough Music'had such an outcome of personal unity beyond the pages. (Even now my Mum and I still mention 'Rough Music' here and there to mean - "Something you and I will both like.")

I don't have a question, just, seeing as I had this opportunity to mention it to you I wanted to say thank you - You gave us a lovely little secret to share between generations and hold very tightly. smile

TheMysticMasseuse Mon 15-Jun-09 13:43:24

Patrick, i am another one who has nothing much to ask, but just wanted to let you know that Notes from an Exhibition is a masterpiece- it has touched me on so many levels and i shall be re-reading it again and again.

Absolutely huge fan of Patrick Gale !! Am reading Notes from an Exhibition for the second time as it is my choice for my book group - I just read the bit where Rachel & Morwenna run into GBH in the supermarket this afternoon - that whole chapter is so good.. I love all the descriptions of Rachel's work..I am an artist of sorts (well, illustrator) and her passion and drive to paint makes me envious - I can never feel that engulfed or consumed by my work,though I imagine bipolarity forces her into this.
When I first read it last year - on a beach in Suffolk, quite different from rugged Cornwall - we visited Snape and found a Barbara Hepworth sculpture which was a jolly coincidence. Patrick's books have also made me think about and investigate Quakerism.
On a frivolous notes, the book group ladies are all very taken with the author's photograph in the front cover.

pollycazalet Mon 15-Jun-09 18:59:32

hello Patrick

I have only just discovered your books - read Notes from an Exhibition which I picked up from a second hand book shop and have just read The Whole Day Through. I loved them both although the latter was too short for me! Read it in almost an afternoon in the park (my kids are Very Very Good).

My questions:

- What sort of feedback have you had re: the brother with Downs syndrome in the latest book? i thought it was brilliant that you made him 1) gay and 2) sexually active (I adored his traindriving boyfriend). Does it challenge some readers?

- have you been credited with converting many people to Quakerism? Am not particularly religious but you make it seem so attractive in Pictures FAE.

- Is Hedley too good to be true? Is he a portrait of your ideal man? (he could easily be mine.....)

- And finally (trivial) Did Rachel and Antony live in Regent Square in Penzance? Some friend of mine lived there years ago and I imagine that's where their house was

pollycazalet Mon 15-Jun-09 19:02:30

That bit in Notes FAE where the kids visit their mother in hospital is almost unbearable to read.

IwoulddoDrWho Mon 15-Jun-09 20:15:50

I like Grapefruit's question. I found that fascinating in the book, that Rachel had such self-belief or such a need, that she was able to shut herself away and work. Answer that one please!!

sophiaverloren Mon 15-Jun-09 20:25:35

I have just discovered Patrick Gale - specifically Notes from an Exhibition which I adored. Was really quite surprised with the familiar description of Quaker House Brussels - I lived and worked there many moons ago! Would like to ask how come he ended up there and when? It brought back great memories for me.

LaineyW Mon 15-Jun-09 22:14:28

Hello Patrick

I came to see you when you visited Cambridge to do readings and a Q&A session about Notes From an Exhibition.

What a great evening, it was fantastic to hear the words read aloud by the author.

Good luck with your very busy June! If any other Patrick Gale fans want more info on his schedule, go to:


He's a very busy man!

PhaseAte Mon 15-Jun-09 22:16:32

I hated that book about the woman in cornwall in the loft painting.

i have up half way through.
will you write a good book soon?

PhaseAte Mon 15-Jun-09 22:16:58

Gave up obv

NEVER trust stephen frys criticism again

PhaseAte Mon 15-Jun-09 22:17:40


it was so dull

yappybluedog Mon 15-Jun-09 23:02:09

norty wink

Saltire Tue 16-Jun-09 08:16:42

I won't be back from work in time for this. I have only read one of your books "Notes from an Exhibition" which I loved. I sat up till late every night reading it. I have since lent it to 6 work colleagues who all said the same. I am going off to buy your new book today I think. Other women covet shoes, I covet books.
I'd like to know what you read when you aren't writing? Do you have a favourite author that you read over and over, or do you try different ones

why didn't you like it PhaseAte ?

Patrick - I know Armistead Maupin is a fan of yours - he is one of my big favourites- is it reciprocated ?

FiveGoMadInDorset Tue 16-Jun-09 10:57:12

Sadly won't be able to join you but would just like to say the 'Notes on and exhibition' was the only book in our book clubs 3 year history that everyone loved.

PatrickGale Tue 16-Jun-09 12:57:23

Test9ng testing. Patrick Gale here on a very very slow laptop with a painfully slow broadband connection in a leafy hotel in tetbury...

hello ! I'm here - was worried I wouldn't make it in time !

Blu Tue 16-Jun-09 12:58:44

we can seeeee you!

Where's Tetbury?

it's Gloucestershire

mollyroger Tue 16-Jun-09 13:00:12

mollyroger here, surruptitiously typing on a slightly sticky keyboard at work...

Are you a Quaker, Patrick? If so, is it a lifelong thing or...?

PatrickGale Tue 16-Jun-09 13:01:13

Somewhere in Gloucestershire. Full of ladies who lunch, i suspect... Mary Ann Singleton would love it...

hee hee !

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 16-Jun-09 13:02:24

We're really delighted to introduce Patrick Gale - he's on a slow laptop with v slow connection, so please do bear with him - and be assured that he will try and answer all the questions even if it's not within the hour, so if you don't see an answer to your question immediately, do log on again later this evening and have another look.

Welcome Patrick Gale....

Blu Tue 16-Jun-09 13:03:36

We are ladies who don't lunch, well, not today anyway!

Do you want new q's, or have you read the thread?

PatrickGale Tue 16-Jun-09 13:03:58

No i'n not a Quaker, Mollyroger. I was just curious and then got really fascinated by it as a religion once i started researching the novel. I'm really a sort of genetic Christian because my childhood was extremely godly as were both my parents, but i get so furious with the C of E over their childish attitudes to women and sexuality that the Quakers felt like a very welcoming and sane place to visit.

PatrickGale Tue 16-Jun-09 13:05:09

I'm on a steam powered laptop. Very very slow so I'd love new questions and I'll answer the ones on the thread later on I expect.

chuffinell Tue 16-Jun-09 13:05:45

hello Patrick Gale..i loved Notes from an Exhibition and may consider becoming a Quaker after your fab descriptions of the peace and quiet of their meetings.

i would like to read another of your books, which would you recommend?

can I ask about Notes from an Exhibition and about Rachel ? Did you like her ?

PatrickGale Tue 16-Jun-09 13:10:04

Well Chuffinell, when people enjoyed Notes From an Exhibition I usually tell them to read Rough Music next as it inhabits a similar territory - fraught family full of secrets, Cornish setting, seriously difficult mother etc. But my publishers would tell me to recommend my latest one, The Whole Day Through because it's a five-hanky job and will be perfect for your next afternoon off. Not that mothers get many of those.

mollyroger Tue 16-Jun-09 13:11:02

ah thank you! I wondered because if I were to feel the urge for religion, I always reckoned Quakers seem like a decent bunch, for exactly the sorts of reasons you have mentioned.
And you do seem to write about them with a great deal of 'affection' and (my quaker boss says) a good deal of knowledge...
I love the idea of ''carrying people in the light''
I'll probably have to read the rest of this later, as i am not supposed to be on here right now blush
Hope the others are gentle with you x

chuffinell Tue 16-Jun-09 13:13:56

shock shock Patrick Gale chatted with me!! shock shock

thank you so much - i will order them both, but read Rough Music first...it may be a while before i can have an afternoon off with 5 hankies!!

Quakerism appeals hugely to me too, I sent off for their literature and was all set to go along to the Meeting House in town but my parents had the same idea and have been along - I rather wanted it to be my thing. Am a very lapsed Catholic and the peace and silence seem very attractive..Catholicism is full of ritual and an almost OCD-ish amount of repetition which suits my personality but might not be good for my mental health - the guilt etc particularly.

PatrickGale Tue 16-Jun-09 13:18:46

Well, MaryAnnSingleton. did I like her? I suppose i like all my characters in the end. I knew from the outset that I wanted to write the most difficult and challenging mother I could without making her downright abusive but I also was keen to show that she was also rather amazing, not just as an artist, but as an inspiration to her children. I decided that, for all that she could be scary and neglectful, Rachel could also be enormous fun and hugely exciting to be with. I think Anthony is not nearly such a saint as some readers make him out to be. I think he really damages the children by always putting his adored wife's needs before theirs. If only he had put them first a little often, they'd have had the confidence to face up to her better. Especially poor Morwenna. I still worry about Morwenna. I hope she's okay somewhere...

I really felt for Morwenna reading her birthday chapter yesterday. Agree about Antony - urging the children to be gentle and kind to Rachel because she feels things more than we do

PatrickGale Tue 16-Jun-09 13:23:14

Hmm. I know what you mean, MaryAnn, about Catholicism. But don't get the wrong idea about Quakerism. It may be quite quiet but it can also be very VERY challenging because it leaves you nowhere to hide. With no ritual, no music, no man in a dress telling you what's what, you have to fall back on your own inner resources and your own thoughts. It made me realise how I'd always used religion as a sort of pacifier. In my latest novel I made a point of having two chapters side by side where the man and woman go to church, in both cases against their will, so I could deal with this... And I suspect my next novel is going to be about a really lousy father, who just happens to be a C of E priest with an adoring parish and a longsuffering wife...

fruitshootsandheaves Tue 16-Jun-09 13:24:07

I have to confess I'd not heard of you before Mumsnet announced you were coming on to chat shock (I must get a life) but I have since read some of your book reviews and they sound really good. However a story about a mad artistic woman sounds a bit too close to home! Which of your books would you recommend I start with?

redandgreen Tue 16-Jun-09 13:29:11

Hi Patrick, have to confess I'm a big fan blush. This question was sort of asked earlier, but are there characters in any of your books that you'd consider revisting? There are often fairly peripheral characters in your books whose stories I would love to hear in full.

I know that you don't paint, but your descriptions of the paintings and Rachel's making of her artwork is deliciously evocative and pitched just right - it could have been wankily annoying - it just me want to go to my desk and draw

Pan Tue 16-Jun-09 13:33:01

Which other author do you get most pleasure from reading? << def. NOT a publisher's question.......>>

PatrickGale Tue 16-Jun-09 13:35:23

Well, Fruitshoots, it's always nice to chat to someone for whom I'm a completely unknown quantity! If mad mothers are a bit close to the bone for you, my new one might be better as it features a totally sane mother, albeit a naturist with osteoporosis. it's a love story, a sort of modern day Brief Encounter, about a man and a woman who get a second chance at love after a twenty year gap. It's very quiet and gentle, compared to Notes, but plays similar games with memory and the way we kid ourselves about the past in order to make our futures bearable. Or perhaps you'd enjoy something more comic, like A Sweet Obscurity, which is about the romantic mess spun by four people in charge of the same troubled young girl. Or perhaps you'd enjoy an old fashioned boarding school story with a twist? Friendly Fire has been described as being a bit like Mallory Towers with added sex. End of advert. Just buy the things, you don't have to read them all straightaway!

prozacpopsie Tue 16-Jun-09 13:35:27

Hi Patrick

I'm a 'Morwenna' so MUST read your book with my namesake. Which one is it - I can't seem to find it named, on the chat so far? (Sorry for stupid question.)

Anyone else feel their brain cells slipping away, since child/ren?!

[Did I really do a lit degree?!]


PatrickGale Tue 16-Jun-09 13:37:51

Sorry, Prozacpopsie, I should have said. Morwenna's the daughter of the troubled family in Notes from an Exhibition. Well done on having such a lovely name. Are you Cornish too, or just pretend Cornish?

Friendly Fire provided the ladies of my book group with their first encounter with cottaging ! I have to say that they were not keen on that book but am delighted to report that they seem to universally love Notes.
Have you met Armistead Maupin btw ?

prozacpopsie Tue 16-Jun-09 13:41:47

Thanks PG.
How very dare you - I'm Cornish through and through, my luvver.
I'll add your backlist to my Amazon wishlist and look forward to reading and neglecting my wee boy.

PS Without being too nosy, is mental illness something close to home? I had PND so am convinced I'm a frustrated genius, rather than just a mad bint.

fruitshootsandheaves Tue 16-Jun-09 13:48:02

Thank you, this will be a good claim to fame for me to bring up at my book club meeting (blush ashamed to belong to a book club with my appaling lack of known authors)
I am drawn to one of your older books, The Cat Sanctuary as I love cats but I fear that something nasty may happen to them in the book; do you like cats? as that will probably answer that!

RumourOfAHurricane Tue 16-Jun-09 13:48:34

Hi Patrick - am a huge fan of your work ( said in a non sycophantic way ..)..please can you tell me what authors you read yourself? Apologies if this has already been asked. Am too lazy to check right now..

prozacpopsie Tue 16-Jun-09 13:48:48

PPS My hubby was an author at HarperCollins. He asked if that's where you still are? Some of our pals work/ed there (dontcha know). We know all the best people. wink

LaineyW Tue 16-Jun-09 13:51:34

Hi Patrick,

I've just found The Whole Day Through in WH Smith in St Ives, Cambridgeshire so I bought it and have a blissful afternoon planned sitting in the sunshine and reading it.

reluctantly I must go and do some work - thanks so much for being here today !

Pan Tue 16-Jun-09 13:53:58

has he gone?

PatrickGale Tue 16-Jun-09 13:59:20

Hello all. Sorry. This hopeless connection defeated me and I vanished for about ten minutes. I'll stay on until 2.30 so nobody feels shortchanged. I'm also going to answer any older questions I've not had a chance to read yet, so if your lunch hour is over, sorry but do call back later on for your answers...Beware baby laptops. They have NO POWER!

teafortwo Tue 16-Jun-09 13:59:34

Hi Patrick... if you are still there...???

After popping in a few days ago just to say thank you I have thought of a question!

I find the biggest strength, for me, with your novels are always your characters. They are very complicated and 'real' as a result of this they have complex reactions to the settings and plots you put them in.

How do you go about creating your characters? I mean the physical process (do you have scrap books, note books, do they become real to you - like Jane Austen is said to have spoken of her characters like real people, do you mindmap, do you draw them...?) and also mentally - do you have an idea how your mind actually creates them - just what passes through your head to make your characters so believeable?

PatrickGale Tue 16-Jun-09 14:02:55

Dear Prozacpoopsie, yes mental illness is something fairly close to home, though less now than in the last few years. One of my siblings had a really tough nervous breakdown during my childhood and more recently I had a boyfriend with bipolar disorder (also a painter, funnily enough) who killed himself. The latter was partly why i was so insistent Rachel would fail in all her suicide attempts! Read Kay Redfield Jamieson if you haven't already. she's brilliant on the links between creativity and "madness" of various kinds.

PatrickGale Tue 16-Jun-09 14:07:07

Thanks, Teafortwo. I always start a novel with character-building. I think the most lifelike plots aren't really plots at all but simply what happens when you bring two or more characters together. I build my characters pretty slowly, over about a year, before I actually start writing the novel they'll appear in. Ideally it should feel when I'm writing that I'm simply giving the most accurate account I can of scenes that are playing out in my head. By the time I'm writing, it doesn't feel as though I'm making stuff up. But then I do have a theory that most novelists are basically, mildly mentally ill!

PatrickGale Tue 16-Jun-09 14:11:53

Hello Shineoncrazydiamond. My favourite authors? I seem to like the quiet ones. I love Ann Tyler and Colm Toibin and I loved Carol Shields. I think Rose Tremain is pretty wonderful and so is my new discovery, Marina Lewycka, who I sense is a much more serious writer than her publishers are marketing her as. And of course, MaryAnnSingleton, I love Armistead Maupin's work. He was a bit inspiration to me early on in my career as was Iris Murdoch, and I'm lucky to count him as a friend... If any of you are looking for novels to entice reluctant readers of the 12-14 age group, I can recommend The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. Very scary but also really thoughtful adventure that throws up lots of interesting questions about gender and ethics while managing to be an edge of your seat thriller...

PatrickGale Tue 16-Jun-09 14:14:50

Alas, fruitshoots, The Cat Sanctuary does indeed have cats in it but something pretty nasty happens to them towards the end. I like that book, even though it was pretty early on. I dared to write a novel that was completely female and got my wrists slapped for daring to encroach on feminist territory. Odd, really. I haven't a misogynist bone in my body but because I like writing female characters it's inevitable that some of my female characters have a bad time and I regularly find that gets me accused of misogyny in a way that I doubt would happen if I wrote under a female name... Any thoughts?

RumourOfAHurricane Tue 16-Jun-09 14:22:03

Thanks Patrick. I happen to have a prolific 10 year old reader who is currently devouring 'The machine Gunners' which is a fabulous read. I am always on the look out for new stuff though, so will look out for that book.

ahundredtimes Tue 16-Jun-09 14:24:52

Oh I love An Unquiet Mind - such a wonderful and clever book.

I love the 'light' in your writing. I hope you know what I mean by that - not sure I can explain it further. Is that influenced by Cornwall do you think, or do you think you'd write like that if you lived somewhere murky?

LaineyW Tue 16-Jun-09 14:25:04

I wondered how you feel when you read all these comments from red-blooded women of a certain age who are swooning over your picture Patrick?

fruitshootsandheaves Tue 16-Jun-09 14:25:45

I think it's very clever to be able to write from a female point of view if you are a man and vice versa. I couldn't write from a man's point of view as I can't imagine how they think!
Maybe you should have written as Pat Gale and left people guessing!

and I think your theory that most novelists are basically, mildly mentally ill is also true of artists!

It was great to talk to you, I will definately buy some of your books but might steer clear of The Cat Sanctuary!!

PatrickGale Tue 16-Jun-09 14:29:16

Dear AHundredtimes. Light is certain in big supply where I live in Cornwall, but I suspect the light you mean is more an emotional/spiritual thing. I certain try to inject my work with a sense of possibility and i suppose i tend to err on the side of forgiveness, which perhaps injects a light into even my darker stories.

ahundredtimes Tue 16-Jun-09 14:32:31

No, I did mean the 'air'. It's in your prose!

motherinferior Tue 16-Jun-09 14:34:27

Patrick: I just wanted to thank you for writing Rough Music and A Sweet Obscurity, both of which tie, I think, as my favourites of yours.

(I appear to have signed on for an Arvon course where you appear, but (a) am a long way down on the list (b) would have to dust down my shaming Great 21st Century Novel and contemplate it in despair.)

PatrickGale Tue 16-Jun-09 14:35:02

Believe me, LaineyW I'm 47 (not 46 as the nice man from the Indie so kindly said I was) so swooning from red blooded persons of whatever gender is always gratefully accepted! Enjoy your sunny afternoon's reading. I've had such a good time chatting here and only wish I'd had a faster connection. Any Gloucestershire mums out there who want to come along to Tetbury tonight will find me doing my schtick at the Yellow Lighted Bookshop at 7pm. All good wishes, PG

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 16-Jun-09 14:45:54

Big thanks to Patrick who has signed off for now. He will be answering the advance questions later this afternoon and the full archived version will be up on the site tomorrow. Thanks to all those who sent in questions and again to Patrick Gale for joining us.

mollyroger Tue 16-Jun-09 14:55:25

<<<swoons from the pressure of not swooning in front of him>>

PatrickGale Tue 16-Jun-09 15:28:42

dear Saltire, Never tell a novelist that you lend their books to people; we have a living to make and we get no royalties on personal loans!! I tend to read non-fiction when I'm writing, often around the subject of the book, so have recently been reading a lot of venereology stuff. In between I devour fiction, often in a haphazard, unplanned way, either reading books by friends or books that have simply come my way. But yes I always read anything by colm Toibin, Ann tyler, Vikram Seth, Alan Hollinghurst, Damon Galgut, Armistead Maupin, Patrick Ness or Charlotte mendelsson. I've just finished an adorable new novel from Tiffany Murray (not out yet but look out for her.) And I have certain books I re-read whenever I'm feeling sad or have a cold or whatever. Persuasion and Mansfield Park are firm favourites, as is Middlemarch and Love in a Cold Climate. God, I'm such a girl, aren't I? I'd say I read Will Self and Wilbur Smith but you wouldn't believe me.

PatrickGale Tue 16-Jun-09 15:42:48

FrannyandZooey asks who my favourite characters are. from my own books, I'd have to say the hero and heroine of my latest novel, The Whole Day Through because they're so new that I still feel very protective towards them. They're also rather hopeless emotionally which I respond to because I'm pretty tough by comparison, I suspect. As for other people's characters, I love Mrs Madrigal, from Tales of the City, and the heroine in the awful hat in Brief Encounter and I've always had a terrific crush on the rather uptight naval hero of Persuasion... As for your comment about the author photograph, you're too kind and my publisher's marketing department are too flattering. the reality is distinctly greyer and more wrinkled but the sofa is much the same, despite the best efforts of one of our dogs to ruin it.

PatrickGale Tue 16-Jun-09 15:43:32

Goodness Concordia, I'm honoured to be your first in three years! Actually I'm normally really pissed off when I hear people saying they read to relax. All novelists want their work to excite you so much you stay up all night - they don't want to be the literary equivalent of mogadon - although plenty are. I think you should read Rough Music next, so that you're ready for when your three year old is a plotting, brooding seven who might spill the beans on your passionate affair!

PatrickGale Tue 16-Jun-09 15:44:13

Dear Blu, always happy to oblige with a reading list. And it needn't be inferior. Read more dead authors for a start. they're cheap and they tend to be brilliant if they're still in print after a few decades. Try Sylvia Townsend Warner - published by Virago. the Flint Anchor is a wonderful story of a thoroughly difficult family and in particular two sisters who couldn't be less alike. She also wrote one of the best novels after Rumer Godden's Black Narcissus - the Corner that Held Them. Marvellous stuff. I would also point you towards the short stories of Carol Shields, Alice Munro and Mavis Gallant - tough, funny, brilliantly observed and packing such a punch you will rapidly forget you're not reading a novel... Happy reading. You also ask about using personal experience and real life in my work. I've done this a lot since turning 40. In some ways I feel I can stop living now and just write about my life so far! It is pretty tough on my nearest and dearest but certain things are off limits. I'll never write about my hubby, Aidan, or my immediate family. Not while they're alive at least! What I tend to do instead is take elements of my life elements of people's characters then jumble them all up. Real life and real people tend to be too weird and full of sticky outy bits to work in the artificially logical world of a novel. It's all smoke and mirrors, my dear but I'm happy if it works without you noticing the things propping the scenery up.

PatrickGale Tue 16-Jun-09 15:44:48

Dear TotalChaos. Richard and Judy changed my life completely! Try over 100,000 new readers for starters. The strange thing was that I never got to meet them to say thank you in person. Judy, if you're reading this, thank you for changing my life!

PatrickGale Tue 16-Jun-09 15:45:19

Dear IwoulddoDrWho, ooh but i've been tempted! Mainly because I worry about Morwenna so and wonder what has happened to her. And Hedley too. I rather hope Morwenna got swept up by the nice unexpected aunt from Canada and taken back there to have a healing and wonderful love affair with someone (whose gender I can't quite decide) before finally writing an amazing and purgative novel and retreating into brave anonymity in a log cabin somewhere... I never write sequels as such but I have often brought characters back because I miss them or want to correct some wrong I feel I did them. So either of these characters might well be making an appearance before long. My next novel will certainly be set in the west of cornwall again and in the present, so watch this space...

PatrickGale Tue 16-Jun-09 15:46:06

Dear oregonianabroad Funny you should ask about the art gallery notes because they were the very last idea I had. I had more or less finished the novel but realised it still consisted of what were in effect a load of short stories with no very definite order. I needed something to pull them all together and, looking at my character notes for Rachel, I realised there were lots of details I hadn't managed to fit into the main narrative text which I could slip in on the sly through these gallery notes, or Wall Text as they're known in the trade. It also struck me that the framing device was a neat way of implying that Rachel's art has survived into an unspecified future, which is comforting when read alongside the grim facts of the life that went into making it. GOD I'd love to see those paintings!
As for how I write, I'm really not that disciplined. I rely entirely on the interplay of poverty and obsession. When I've a novel on the go I try to write every day, certainly in the morning. I write the old fashioned way, with a fountain pen and a notebook, because I like to write out of doors. This is about to change a bit because my richard and judy present to myself, along with getting a lovely baroque cello made, was a writing room on the edge of our garden. It looks like an upturned boat and is so beautiful inside that I suspect the field where I used to write a lot may be seeing rather less of me this year. As for drafts, I usually write about four, involving an editor and my agent closely after the second one.

PatrickGale Tue 16-Jun-09 15:46:37

Dear GrapefruitMoon, I don't mean all my mothers to seem ruthlessly careerist. Please don't judge my attitudes on the showing of just two novels. If you read my others you'll find plenty of mothers who don't work, like the one in Rough Music, and quite a few who aren't ruthless or strong enough, like the one in The Cat Sanctuary who fails to save her daughters. That said, I'm aware that a lot of my fathers are hopeless by being absent so I'm about to correct the balance by writing a father who is hopeless and is there all too much! Never mind neglecting your children for novels. Remember, they will see you reading and be enthused for reading by your example. I came from a family where both parents were regularly completely unavailable thanks to the demands of books and I became a reader partly to find out what it was that held them so enrapt.

PatrickGale Tue 16-Jun-09 15:47:13

Dear pollycazalet. Sorry the latest was so short. It just happened that way and then I decided not to fight it because I realised all my favourite love stories were short ones that left me sort of hungry and sad when they finished. I sincerely look forward to some feedback about Bobby, the gay brother with Mosaic Downs Syndrome but as yet have had none. Maybe the families of such people are too worn out to read mere novels! But yes, I hope it does challenge people. I like to write about characters other people avoid as I think fiction is a fantastic way of broadening people's empathy. That said, I hate issue fiction as it tends to be dead in the water, so I had to work quite hard to make sure Bobby was quite hard to pin down. Re Quakerism, yes, I'm amazed to say that Notes from an Exhibition has been responsible for a lot of new attenders at Quaker meetings, if not members. I can recommend a visit to your nearest Quaker Meeting if you're not religious but are simply hungry for something quiet and thoughtful and discreetly challenging in your life. they also tend to have brilliant sunday schools!!
I don't think Hedley is ideal at all but that's probably because he's pretty much a self-portrait! Like him, I was always pretty hopeless at being a teenager and like him I always felt that my role in the family was to be the "good one". i think this is true of quite a lot of gay people - we don't rebel as teenagers because we feel the mere fact of being gay constitutes such a huge rebellion against everything the family seems to stand for. of course we then grow up and realise that we belong in our families as much as anyone else and can even start families of our own, but that's another novel...
And finally yes Regent Square or a house very near it is just where I'd imagined Rachel and Antony living. Only I had to make it less specific because I needed house with a lookout and those tend to be between Regent Square and Morrab Gardens. I love Penzance and can heartily recommend a visit there to anyone on holiday. It has a quiter charm than St Ives but is full of enchanting "secret" corners for you to discover. It's also a lot easier to find a parking space!

PatrickGale Tue 16-Jun-09 15:47:46

Dear sophiaverloren, I'm thrilled I got the description of the Brussells meeting house right because I never dared go inside! I was awarded a marvellous fortnight on a literary retreat in the heart of the city by the Flemish government. They have an apartment for writers on Oude Grasmaarkt (sp?) near the Bourse where i finished writing Notes and where i spent every afternoon walking and walking and falling in love with a city I'd been told was ugly and uninteresting. I had a lovely guidebook that split the place into a sequence of walks, so took a different walk every day as part reward, part exercise, before heading back to my desk. It ended up bubbling over into that rather strange haunted chapter where Morwenna flees the offer of domestic bliss to head back to Penzance.

SuperBunny Tue 16-Jun-09 16:27:04

Oh, Patrick Gale! I know you've gone but I wanted to say that, as an expat, I loved Notes from an Exhibition and, despite never having been to Cornwall it left me feeling rather homesick for the British countryside and determined to explore parts of the UK that I have never seen. The story was rather close to home in some parts and I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry, indeed I did both. Well done. I had forgotten about you blush but will add some of your other books to my reading list.

Lovely thread.

foxinsocks Tue 16-Jun-09 18:55:27

oh Patrick, reading how you experienced, at close hand, someone with bipolar who committed suicide puts things in perspective a bit. I wondered how you could get it 'so right' in Notes tbh.

Am half way through your new book and loving it (v pleased it is in paperback so I can carry it on the train)! Interesting reading about the effect R&J had on your career. I must admit, I first heard of you on here (mumsnet) and have since read virtually everything you have written.

yappybluedog Tue 16-Jun-09 19:43:31

<sighs> he's bloody luverly

Blu Tue 16-Jun-09 21:16:32

Thank you, Mr Gale.

I am disgusted (as someone who has in fact read through much of Virago's list - though not the ones you suggest, so thank you for that) that anyone has been petty enough to have a go at you writing an all-women novel. In fact one of the things I love about your writing is that you write ALL chracters with a sense of fullness and detail and no lazy assumptions at all. And Gail Patrick has no class as a pen name at all.

I am pleased to read you description of your new book - another thing I love about your work is that eroticism is as much the territory of the older and elderly as the young.

Good luck, I hope the evening in Tetbury went well.

Oh, you could become a regular MN-er under the name 'GailPatrick'. And do undercover research!

pollycazalet Wed 17-Jun-09 08:13:50

Ah, Patrick I know you've gone but thank you for answering my questions and thank you for your books. Am going to go and read some of your recommendations now as I think our tastes are very alike - Middlemarch and Love in a Cold climate are two of my comfort reads - along with the books containing my namesake.....

I'm really chuffed he answered my question too - and that he has sanctioned child neglect to facilitate reading of books! (I totally agree with seeing adults reading inspiring children btw)

MamaHobgoblin Wed 17-Jun-09 19:47:07

Oh damn damn damn, forgot and missed it!! sad

D'you think he's lurking and reading the thread back to himself? Hallo Patrick? grin

Just wanted to say thanks for doing this, I've been reading the thread and it's very interesting. I'm another reader who started after hearing Notes from an Exhibition recommended ... um, everywhere! and picked it up because it seemed to be about art and Quakerism, two big interests for me. And now I think I have most of your novels, about a year later. Most recently read A Sweet Obscurity, and I think in many ways, it's my favourite so far.

IwoulddoDrWho Fri 19-Jun-09 18:18:07

I think I'm in love with Patrick Gale. How nice is he?

"Dear IwoulddoDrWho, ooh but i've been tempted!"

At first I thought he meant he was thoroughly tempted to do Dr Who. Who could blame him?

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