Guest Post by Author Linda Gillard and Giveaway of Emotional Geology

I am pleased to be able to feature another guest post by U.K. author Linda Gillard. She gives you some background on the writing of her lovely book, Emotional Geology, and is also offering a giveaway of one copy to one lucky reader in the U.S. or U.K. To enter, please leave a comment relevant to this post with your email address. For an additional entry, twitter about this contest and leave a separate comment with your twitter name. Deadline to enter is January 18, and the winner, to be chosen by randomizer.org, will be announced January 19.

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WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU SCRAPS, MAKE QUILTS

by Linda Gillard

Some writers quilt, some quilters write. I do both. Some years ago I wrote a novel about a quilter: EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY (published by Transita). It wasn’t until I set about writing a novel that it struck me how similar the processes of writing and quilting can be.

Linda Gillard With One of Her Quilts

Once upon a time I was a cracked-up teacher recovering from stress-related illness, living in the suburbs, contemplating the ruins of my career. Finding myself with time on my hands, I took up quilting. I found it therapeutic working with shape and colour, but as I got better, I longed to do something with words. I decided I would try to write some fiction, just for fun, just for me.

I embarked on a self-indulgent, fantasy-fulfilling novel about all the things I was interested in – quilts, Scottish islands, mountains, geology, poetry, Gaelic and teaching. I started off with one hunky hero, then decided, what the hell – this was my treat, I’d have two. As I wasn’t writing for publication, I made the heroine forty-seven (my age at the time) and the heroes younger. (I said it was self-indulgent.) The book was about a woman who went to live alone on a remote Scottish island. Pure fantasy…

Isle of Skye, Scotland

I was too exhausted to write or even plan anything as ambitious as a novel. I wasn’t ready to tackle a fictional double bed quilt, I just wanted to play around making blocks. And that’s how EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY came to have its unusual “patchwork” structure.

I set myself the manageable task of writing a lot of short pieces about my textile artist and her turbulent life, episodes that were set in different times and places (mostly the Hebridean islands of North Uist and Skye, off the north west coast of Scotland). If my “blocks” were going to tell a story, it would have to be cumulatively. Only when they were all assembled could an overall “design” or story emerge. But I wasn’t too bothered. No one would ever read this book. I was just having fun being creative and experimental, trying out different arrangements of “blocks.”

Floral Quilt by Linda Gillard

In true quilt-making fashion, there came a critical point when life got very complicated and I had to abandon my novel. I shoved it in a cupboard where it languished for a couple of years. When the dust settled, we decided to fulfil a long-held dream and downshift to the Isle of Skye. (A tip: if you want to guarantee your offspring actually leave home, move to the Outer Hebrides. Drastic, I know, but cheaper in the long run than keeping the fridge and drinks cabinet stocked.)

Isle of Skye, Scotland

When we announced our decision everyone thought we were mad. Some didn’t mind saying so. A few friends were misty-eyed with congratulations, others seemed unaccountably angry. Even the removal men said we’d be back. (Et tu Brute?)

My husband got work as a teacher on the isle of Harris and so we found ourselves living on different islands, commuting by ferry to see each other. I’d become a middle-aged woman living alone on a Hebridean island, making quilts. Be careful what you wish for…

Alone in a five-bedroom house on a hillside two miles from the nearest shop (did I mention I don’t drive?) life wasn’t exactly plain sailing, but when I wasn’t bursting into tears at the sight of photos of absent family members, I was pretty excited. There were weasels on the patio, buzzards on the fence-posts and I had the Cuillin mountain range at the bottom of my garden.

Cuillin Mountains, Isle of Skye

In my solitude I started to think about my abandoned novel. I dug it out and found to my amazement that all the things I’d imagined – moving to an island community, the enveloping silence, the blackout darkness at night, the weird shifts between past and present that take place in your mind when you live alone and rarely speak – they had all come to pass (except, unfortunately, the two hunky heroes.)

I looked at my fictional “blocks” and concluded they weren’t bad. I decided I’d make some more. Obsession kicked in, midnight oil was burned. I existed on a diet of cheese and oatcakes and forgot that I had an oven. (A regime familiar to those of you who quilt.) Finally I spread all my printed sheets of paper on the floor, rearranging them many times in an attempt to find a “ quilt lay-out” that worked. When I was satisfied with the running order, I “stitched” all the blocks together on the PC, hoping they’d make some sort of novel. An agent thought they did. So did a publisher. At the age of 53 I found myself a published novelist.

I like to think of EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY as my fictional quilt. It’s layered in time as the story moves back and forth over the years; certain themes (landscape, memory, mountaineering, geology) run through the narrative like brightly coloured threads; I’ve embellished it with odd bits of Gaelic and poetry. One poem actually represents a memorial quilt and the text is set out on the page as a rectangle, framed with a border. It even has a label (which is more than can be said for some of my quilts.)

EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY isn’t autobiography by any means but, as with any quilt, a lot of me went into it. My first novel didn’t turn out quite how I’d expected (what quilt ever does?) but unlike many of my other quilts, this one was finished.

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The male hero in Emotional Geology is named Calum. This is the picture Linda sent to show me how she was visualizing him.

British classical pianist Paul Lewis

British classical pianist Paul Lewis

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20 Responses to Guest Post by Author Linda Gillard and Giveaway of Emotional Geology

  1. bermudaonion says:

    I love this post! I wonder where we could move to keep our son from following us? Just kidding! I can’t believe she has time to quilt.

  2. pearl says:

    What a fascinating post. This story sounds wonderful and captivating. thanks for this lovely feture.

  3. Barbara says:

    My ancestors came from Scotland which I suppose explains why I love the scenery, the accent, the attitude, sheep, bad weather, and solitude – all things Scottish, in short. This book sounds delightful; I’d love to read it. Sometimes what we need is to loosen up about writing, just write for fun, for ourselves, and the outcome can be a real treasure.

  4. Pingback: West Of Mars — Win A Book! » Blog Archive » Linda Gillard – Guest Post

  5. Bridget says:

    Hi! Just wanted to say that we’ve posted this on Win a Book! No need to enter me.

  6. Janel says:

    I loved how this book came together. A labor of love and personal exploration that paid off. Great guest post!

    jgbeads(at)gmail(dot)com

  7. Staci says:

    You have the most interesting authors visit your blog…I truly loved reading this post. I could totally picture myself alone and enjoying it too!!

  8. stacybuckeye says:

    What an amazing journey! I loved the pictures she included too I’d love a chance to win a copy.
    stacybooks at yahoo

  9. ds says:

    Oh, who wouldn’t want to escape to the Isle of Skye and write! Laughed at the bit about she and her husband “commuting” by ferry from different islands, though I’m sure it wasn’t all that humorous at the time…Sounds like a fascinating book by a fascinating woman.

  10. Indeed ds, that commute certainly wasn’t humorous! It was expensive and at times heart-breaking. I would get to the ferry in winter and wait anxiously to hear whether the bad weather would prevent the ship from sailing. Sometimes it did and there was nothing I could do other than go home and hope I’d get to see my husband next weekend. 😦

  11. Valerie says:

    Jill, the link to your review didn’t work for me??

    This is a fantastic post — as a quilt artist myself, I appreciate the analogies used here. I totally know about setting a project aside temporarily (quilty or otherwise) and taking on another one, going back and forth.

    Looks like a book I would like to read. The poetry aspect intrigues me as well. I’m not sure how much geology is in the book, but my sister and her husband both have geology backgrounds so I’ve learned a bit over the years through them.

  12. Rita K says:

    This sounds like another terrific book! I loved her Star Gazing!

  13. Jenners says:

    OH … I just loved this post!!!! I love the ‘self-indulgence” of having younger heros (darn that that part didn’t come true) and I loved hearing how she made her dreams come true. I could see why you would want to live on the Isle of Skye. And I’ve suddenly discovered an interest in male British classical pianists … how mysterious!

  14. Margot says:

    This is a beautiful post. I love Linda Gillard’s writing and all those pictures. It reminds me that I have her books and need to get going reading them and the rest of my project.

  15. Pingback: Hebrides Island Names - iZeen

  16. Mystica says:

    This post is fabulous and makes me quite envious of the lifestyle! Do you think I could enter if I have a UK address but dont live there???

    Thanks once again for an eye opening post

  17. Amy says:

    Wow. That photo of the Isle of Skye was a knock out!!!

    I love the sense of humor the author shows (her being 47 and making the men younger, woo hoo!!!) I’m 41 and I find that I like the way she thinks!

    Enter me please, but I only have a US address if that matters. I will likely look for this title locally.

    Thanks for the opp

    Amy

  18. Lynne says:

    I enjoyed hearing about your road to writing your novel and quilting. As a fellow art quilter, I too, am working on writing a non-fiction book and I can appreciate the similarities. Good luck to you.
    Lynne

  19. Kim says:

    I want to quilt but so far am just a recent fabriholic. Somewhere in this house is the sketch of a quilt idea I did decades ago when studying geology. I Googled ‘geology quilt’ last year or so and “Emotional Geology” came up. I sent for it right away and LOVED it. Tonight I re-Googled the same words and it led me here. My favorite part of the book is when they merge their artistic passions. Wonderful! Thank you.

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