A Conversation with Gill Sherry
As a valued member of the CP team, Gill Sherry has written countless articles and interviews for the magazine. This time, however, as she celebrates the release of her debut novel, Serious Foul Play, she’s the one answering the questions.
Please tell us a bit about yourself and the books or authors that inspired you to become a writer?
I’m an animal lover, football fan, aspiring photographer and writer. I moved to Kuwait from the UK in 2014 and am very proud of my association with the Middle East. I’m sad that the pandemic has kept me away from Kuwait for so long but hopefully I’ll be back again soon.
One book I referred to a lot when I first began writing was ‘A Heart Bent Out of Shape’ by Emylia Hall. I love her descriptive prose and clever use of metaphors. More recently, I was captivated by ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owens. That is such a beautiful book.
Tell us a little about your journey so far.
Becoming part of the team at CP Magazine was a major turning point in my life. Having a career that involved writing was a dream come true. It allowed me to develop as a writer and to earn and gain respect. When the time came to finally look for a publisher for my novel, it was a huge bonus having that experience on my CV.
How did you get started writing? Was there any specific event that began your writing career?
I haven’t always been a writer but I have always been a reader. I get twitchy if I don’t have a book to read. But sometimes I would read a book and think, I’m sure I could do better than that. So, I took the plunge, went off to France for a creative writing retreat and began to put pen to paper. It was moving to Kuwait, though, that allowed me the time to really get started on my novel. Without the 9 to 5 monotony that dictated much of my life in the UK, I was able to concentrate on what I really wanted to do.
Tell us about the title of your novel. What is serious foul play?
Serious foul play is a sending-off offence in football. It’s the term used to describe a tackle or challenge that endangers the safety of an opponent. I wanted the title to represent the football connection in the story but also a title that would hint at the excessive force or brutality associated with the term.
What research did you have to do to write this book other than your personal experiences?
I don’t claim to know absolutely everything about football, but I do love the sport so it made sense to write about it. It also meant I didn’t have to do a lot of background work so I was able to concentrate on the story without getting bogged down with research.
How long did it take you to write it?
A lot longer than I care to admit! Let’s just say it was years rather than months. Originally, the protagonist was called Nathalie and the story was based in France. Thomas was a minor character. But the more I began to write, the more his personality developed. In the end, I ditched Nathalie altogether and followed Thomas’s story to London and Scotland instead. Needless to say, that delayed the process somewhat! Maybe I’ll introduce Nathalie in a later book.
What should readers look forward to the most from this book?
I always say you should write something that you, yourself would like to read. That’s what I tried to do with Serious Foul Play. I’d also like to think that my sense of humour comes across in the book. It’s not a traditional crime novel – although it includes blackmail and murder – neither is it a romance or a psychological thriller. It falls in between genres so it’s a little bit different but, hopefully, it includes something for everyone. And you don’t have to like football to enjoy it!
How do you begin drafting a novel? Can you describe your process of getting into your story?
I’m not sure there is a right or wrong way to draft or write a novel. I know some authors who plot the entire story from start to finish before writing a word. I prefer to let the story tell itself. I had a rough idea of where I wanted the story to go but it took unexpected twists and turns along the way. I remember saying at one point, “Oh, I didn’t expect that to happen!” and that’s the beauty of writing. One thing I did spend a long time on, though, was character development. It’s important to know as much as you can about your characters before sending them on their journey.
What books are currently in your to-read list and are there books/genres you will just not read?
I don’t enjoy fantasy novels so I refuse to read them. Time is too precious to waste on something you don’t enjoy. I have a few novels waiting to be read on my Kindle but I’m concentrating on writing my second novel rather than reading someone else’s!
Are you working on another book project? Can you tell us a little about it?
I’m working on a sequel to Serious Foul Play. I hadn’t intended to write a sequel – I’d already written 30,000 words of a brand new project – but I had an idea of how the first chapter could look if I continued the story and just couldn’t get it out of my head. So, I’m now a third of the way through the sequel.
Would you say your writing style is more character driven or plot driven?
I would say it’s more character driven. The characters definitely drive the plot, rather than the other way around.
What lessons have you learned as a writer?
You definitely need a thick skin. Not everyone is going to like what you’ve written. It took me almost a year to find a publisher and, needless to say, there were plenty of rejections during that time. But self-belief is vital. Believe in yourself and believe in your writing. If it’s meant to be, it will be.
What is your ideal working environment?
I’m not one of these writers who can pen a few chapters on a long train journey or during a flight. I need comfort and absolute silence to be able to concentrate. I also need order. I can’t stand mess or clutter. My office at home is my sanctuary.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Our home in Scotland is surrounded by nature and wildlife – as well as beautiful beaches – so I love being outdoors with my camera. Failing that, I’m either reading, watching football or away with my husband in our campervan!
What advice can you give to other, budding writers?
Read, read, read! Reading is so important. It’s amazing what you can pick up, often subconsciously, by reading good books. Also, if possible, join a writers’ group. Support, encouragement and feedback from fellow writers can be invaluable.