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Author Patrick Gale joining us on for a chat on Tuesday 16th June between 1 and 2pm(117 Posts)
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.
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!
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.
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!
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...
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 but will add some of your other books to my reading list.
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.
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!
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)
Oh damn damn damn, forgot and missed it!!
D'you think he's lurking and reading the thread back to himself? Hallo Patrick?
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.
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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