Author Interview: With Gina Kirkham- Handcuffs Truncheon And A Polyester Thong
The Writers Lounge:
How long did it take you to write Handcuffs Truncheon And A Polyester Thong and do you have a place in your home or elsewhere where you prefer to write?
Gina Kirkham: Handcuffs, Truncheon and A Polyester Thong took roughly eighteen months to write. I think because it was my first attempt, I had very little confidence in my ability, so I regularly ‘shelved’ my first drafts only to return to them a few months later to try again. Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot and Blues, Twos and Baby Shoes were a lot quicker, at six and three months respectively as I already had contracts for them. I had quite a tight deadline for Blues, Twos, and as I usually have the attention span of a gnat, I was quite chuffed with myself when I managed to achieve it.
I have a little desk in the conservatory where I write, it’s really peaceful with lovely views of the garden and trees; I’m a huge tree lover, particularly when the wind rustles the leaves. The only downside is that it gets so unbelievably hot in there in the summer, to the point I think I’m having a second menopause, and in the winter it’s absolutely freezing. Between November and March I end up attired like Nanook of the North to keep warm with just the tip of my nose peeping out from a fur-edged snood!
The Writers Lounge: The humor in Handcuffs is hilarious, as it applies to your character, Mavis Upton. She’s a police officer and so were you. Is the police humor inside your book something that helped you on the job of being a police officer? Can you give us a real-life example of that humor?
Gina Kirkham: Emergency services humour is quite dark at times and is often used as a coping mechanism, a way to deal with the effects of what we see and experience. There were many times when I had to find humour in certain aspects of an incident or I would have openly cried, so my quirky humour definitely helped me immensely over the years. I’m very life observational, I people watch (for character development) and I’m one of those annoyingly optimistic humans, I try to be upbeat and see the ‘funny’ in most things, so I’m never lost for something to make me smile.
Oooh, I have so many examples of real-life humour. One that still makes me giggle came from my 82 year old Dad who has dementia. As sad as this journey with him is, I have to see the funny side or I would weep. On this occasion, I picked him up from his residential home to take him to an appointment in town. Sitting in the waiting room, he took the opportunity to bitterly complain to me and anyone else who was in earshot. "Don't know what I'm doing here, lass, there's nowt wrong with me bowels, I go regular as clockwork..." he sniffed. “... and there’s no toilets here either!” “Ummm, that's because we're in the Opticians Dad!"
The Writers Lounge:
Did you struggle with any aspect of writing Handcuffs? Is there anything you would do differently if you were to re-write it?
Gina Kirkham: Gosh, yes, the back story for Mavis is based on my own personal life experiences and the chapters dealing with the loss of her mum was so difficult for me to pen. It was strangely cathartic as I was actually describing in exact detail the loss of my own beautiful mum. I wept buckets when I finished that section of the manuscript but I was also filled with a sense of peace. I had not only paid tribute to her, but she will be forever alive in those pages and the dedication. It became part of the healing process. Oooh, that’s a difficult question. I’m not sure to be honest. I hope my writing has improved for the better since Handcuffs, so I’m sure there are bits that would benefit from a rewrite, but I try very hard not to go back over past works. It’s similar to the editing process of a new manuscript, I could keep rewriting and editing for ever, but there comes a point when you have to say ‘right, that’s it — this is definitely the finished product’.
The Writers Lounge: Do you intend to continue writing about the adventures of Mavis Upton or are you considering writing in a different genre, with a different story and different characters?
Gina Kirkham: I left the last in the Mavis Upton series, Blues, Twos and Baby Shoes, in such a way it could either be the last one, or there could be a surprise return. Each book charts 10 years of her career (and life) and as a British police officers career usually spans 30 years, those three books gave it quite a clean end. I loved Mavis, the escapades and the laughter, but I was a little worried readers could become bored with her if her tales became trite. As a writer, you owe so much to readers, so it is very important to consider what they would want from a book. I would much rather Mavis went out on top than fizzle into oblivion. With this in mind, I have been working on something a little different, still humour, but with a twist!
The Writers Lounge: After writing Handcuffs did you give it to friends and family to read and if you did how were their reactions?
Gina Kirkham: I sent the first few thousand words to my nephew, Luca Veste, who is a fabulous British crime author, and asked for his expert opinion. I knew Luca would tell me the truth, whereas my hubby would probably lie to maintain a peaceful existence, and as he’s a man who loves his food and I‘m the one that cooks his meals.... well, I think that says it all! Joking aside, Luca was very encouraging and supportive, which in turn gave me the confidence to try querying publishers with the finished manuscript. His reaction had me whooping and hollering around the kitchen... ‘Reading and loving latest version now. You’ve got something special and original here’. I think I was glowing for months after reading that.
The Writers Lounge: Do you look at reviews and how do you deal with a bad review? How do you feel when getting a good review?
Gina Kirkham: Oh gosh, reviews. They can be wonderful and have you reaching the heights of euphoria one moment and then just as quickly plunge you into the depths of despair the next. I won’t lie and say bad reviews don’t upset me. Of course they do, they sting like crazy, and some can actually be quite mean to the point of crushing your confidence, but it’s something you have to expect. As my mum used to say, not everyone likes jam on their toast, and it’s the same with books and readers, not every storyline or style of writing will be enjoyed by all. When someone spends their hard earned pennies on a choice of book, then they are entitled to an opinion, be it good or bad. Some reviews can have a low star rating but still be constructive. They have been so carefully thought out by the reviewer, and it would be remiss not to take on board their comments for future reference. That’s how you grow as a writer. A good review has me dancing (arthritic knees permitting) on the ceiling. I read every one that comes through on the main review sites, it truly lifts my heart. It’s so kind of people to take the time, reviews are our bread and butter and help immensely towards future contract offers and sales but more importantly, it’s lovely to know that someone has enjoyed your words. It makes writing so worthwhile.
The Writers Lounge: What are your thoughts on self-publishing and traditional publishing? What works best for you?
Gina Kirkham: I know from following author groups and writing forums that thoughts on the two platforms for publishing are often a bone of contention between people. I don’t think there is a right or wrong choice, it is whatever works best for each individual writer. I studied the Writers & Artists Yearbook prior to making any decision with Handcuffs and after a lot of discussion, hand-wringing and angst, I decided to try for traditional publishing. I was just incredibly lucky that with my first six submissions, I received an offer of a publishing contract with Urbane Publications, who are an indie publisher in the UK. They have a great publisher/author ethos, which is the perfect foundation for a good working relationship. Authors tend to have more control over their work when it is self-published, but they also have the financial expense of bringing it to that platform, for example proof reading, editing, cover design, advertising, promoting, etc., which they have to pay for themselves. Being traditionally published, I didn’t have any outlay and because of Urbane’s collaborative approach, I was fortunate to be involved in every step of the process. I still pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming!
The Writers Lounge: Are you currently working on another book? Do you feel you’ve evolved as an author since you’ve first been published and if so, how?
Gina Kirkham: I’ve just finished editing my latest offering, Murders at The Winterbottom WI. It’s a cosy, humorous and very tongue in cheek murder mystery involving several wonderful characters that were inspired by the lovely ladies I have met through my talks at various Women’s Institute around the UK. It’s a change of protagonist, poor Mavis has been side lined for a more youthful Prunella Pearce, a librarian who enjoys solving mysteries. This is a little different from most murder books, as the reader will know the identity of the murderer from the very beginning.
The Writers Lounge:
What advice would you give to someone who wants to write a book?
Gina Kirkham: Write from the heart and write to enjoy the process. Don’t set out to write with the sole aim of being published, you will put far too much stress on yourself. You are in control for this part of the journey, you can have as many drafts as you want, as many twists, turns, ideas, change of characters, out-takes... it doesn’t matter, because at this stage the story is just for you. No judgements apart from your own. There will be plenty of time later to perfect it before you decide to share it. Remember, you have to put the words down for those words to be read, so don’t keep them to yourself.
The Writers Lounge: Where can people find you on the internet?
Gina Kirkham: Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ginakirkham1/ Twitter @GinaGeeJay Blog www.ginakirkham.Wordpress.com