Reading can either be a learnt behaviour or an emotional journey. Don’t read one word after another. Instead infuse yourself between the cover with a girl that’ll have you hungrily breathing in the pages
Today is my daughter’s birthday. She’s in Brugge with her boyfriend. My other daughter’s at uni, first year. My novels and blogs are mechanisms that keep them in my heart.
I was horribly unwell when I first started writing. What little energy I had I spent chatting to my four children. Kitty and I would get so excited about the weekly episode of #vampirediaries. We’d try to find films with a baddie that when faced with a dilemma would do the right thing like Damon. There are two films that were flops, but I loved them, purely because the male protagonist is beautifully, sexily evil; The Guest and No One Lives. Kitty and I would come up with scenarios for boys/girls of this ilk. This led us to a scenario where an assassin steals an identity and comes into contact with a damaged teen girl. This premise got forgotten for a while, mainly because I was so unwell. After my second operation, feeling regenerated our concept reignited and my other daughter Gerty came up with a title ‘The Rebirth of Henry Whittle.”
The following morning I wrote all day. Then the next and the next and so on. It was addictive. I was quite weak and housebound so the characters became totally real to me. I loved them. The girls critiqued, proof read, laughed at me a lot! I updated. We came up with a pen name Gertrude T Kitty (my girls’ nicknames and T because it sounded good). Then off went the first three chapters to literary agents. I struggled with that. I’m too old and too unwell to be anyone but myself or to sell myself. Luckily there was a lot of interest in the premise and requests for the full manuscript. I had lots of ‘we liked it but didn’t love it’ or it’s not one for us but that’s subjective’. I also had two offers of representation and an American publishing house that were considering it. I went with an agent I immediately felt comfortable with. Sadly it did not work out. But I learnt so much, from her and from the response of editors at publishing houses. I took a break then decided to go it alone. No having to compromise.
Readers for me are incredibly important. An unread book means I’m not an author. Yes I had the joy of writing it and sharing it with my daughters but it’s about identity. I’ve a degenerative spine condition; there is so much I can’t do but I can write. I can Twitter. I can blog/vlog and endeavour to connect my book with readers. Readers are magic because they sprinkle fairly dust and they’re with your characters; turning each page, making them real.
My book is an invitation to connect with new people, of all ages, all around the world. I won’t feel awkward or have nothing to say because we’ll have Random Attachment in common. Yes, lots of folk will tell me how wrong I’ve got it, but honestly it won’t upset me. I’m a newbie, a wildcard; I am going to make mistakes. I’m a different generation to my readership so I’ll be out of touch; sometimes say the wrong thing. I’m actually my teenage self again, trying to find a place to fit in, unsure of myself, a bit fragile at times.
My female protagonists are not perfect. Nobody is. We are all flawed and talented in some way but that’s what makes us special and unique. I want girls to read my books then look in the mirror and know they are beautiful. There’s always those that will make you feel less than you are. You might be unable to cut them from your life because you live with them. I think that’s why teen years can be the hardest because you’re trapped; at home or at school. I imagine that’s how a lot of battered wives feel. Unless you’re wealthy you can’t just walk away from a marriage.
My male protagonists will never follow a stereotype. I’ve never met the perfect, 6ft, chiseled cheekboned, 6 packed man. My husband is small and roundish; during our marriage he’s been a villain and a hero.
Today I woke up fresh and I showered. That alone caused me to crumble. I’ve had to lay still til Tramadol kicked in. I’m moving poorly, my body is sluggish and unresponsive. I’m weeing every 15 minutes. What’s lovely though is I have purpose. I’m eager to check things out on Twitter. Then Amazon to see if I’ve any further reviews (only have 4). I check KDP to see if I’ve sold a book. Then I read some blogs.
Having any illness can be lonely, even when you’re surrounded by those you love. Especially neurological diseases and mental illness because the unseen disabilities often have the least support. I yearn to be an author because I need to live a fulfilling life; it’s self help for someone who spends long periods at home. Life doesn’t stop for others when you’re disabled; friends work and socialise, your kids move out and rightly have lives of their own; so it’s up to me to make things work.
So when you read my book not only are you bringing my characters to life, you’re bringing me to life. Thank you for that. X
— Read on youtu.be/tD9kdx0a0q8
My latest vlog.
Us myelopathers live in a higgeldy piggeldy world. Nothing is straight forward, nothing is set in stone when it comes to our condition. It’s eight years ago this month that I had my first operation. When I think of the physical and mental battle I’ve had since then it’s amazing I’m still here never mind have written a book. I don’t say this lightly; my battle with myelopathy has been as exhausting mentally as it has physically. I can’t tell you how often I’ve been on the edge of madness. Connecting with others sufferers through http://www.myelopathy.org/support.html has helped me understand my condition as well as supported my mental health. Any long term illness with chronic pain can lead to depression, acting out of character, gambling, drinking, debt – blogging is a way of letting off steam whilst connecting with the myelopathy community.
My husband and children have been total rocks. They understand the condition well because they live it with me. They’ve seen me on my hands and knees trying to get from the sofa to the kitchen to put the kettle on because I want to do it for myself. They’ve seen me bent over double, breathing like I’m in labour because the pain is so acute it takes my breath away. I’ve spent the last seven years stumbling, swaying, knocking into, tripping over, falling onto a world that seems to be erratically spinning around me.
I’ve always been a glass half full person. When I couldn’t work, walk, sleep I wrote. I poured all my pain, frustration and despair into blogging and writing Young Adult romantic thrillers.
Two weeks ago I self published Random Attachment. For me this is a huge thing. A massive achievement. Also it’s my ray of hope. I won’t bore you with what I’ve lost, with what my condition has stripped me of because I don’t feel sorry for myself. But writing has enabled me to reinvent myself, to be Gertrude T Kitty, author. It’s taken the spotlight off my condition and has given me back some self esteem.
I don’t imagine my book will make multi million sales or I’ll have royalties into the thousands but whatever I have once Amazon take their cut I hope will support my writing and help YMCA West London, Centrepoint and http://www.myelopathy.org/ Up to now I have written for myself, now I am writing for others. I’ve worked this last fortnight on Twittering, Facebooking, vlogging, anything to get my book promoted. My husband has been photocopying and cutting up little adverts for Random Attachment. I’ve been very unwell and immobile during this time so have only left the house once but I did put it up in a newsagent and coffee shop in Pinner. I am up and feeling well today so have my photocopies and pins in my bag ready to pin it up whereever I legally can. I’m asking you, if you could print out the advert and pin it up on a board where you work, or where your children have clubs.
My lovely bookclubbers have bought my book. Thank you for supporting me. I’m dreading feedback because I know how high our expectations are when we critique some of the greats in literature…remember I’m a minnow.
So here I am before Christmas, with a book that is all the more precious to me because my daughters were so instrumental in supporting me during writing and getting it out there.
Yesterday I filmed my first vlog about my book. It took me five attempts because I was so waffly and repeatedly said ‘you know’, ‘so’, ‘erm’. But here is the link to it and the link to my Young Adult (unsuitable for under 14’s) romantic, thriller. I would love if you’d follow me on Twitter @gertrudetkitty. If you buy my book that would be wonderful…if you read it that would be even better and your critique would be the icing on the cake…oh and sharing it. It’s a lot, I know, because it’s hitting your purses, wallets and your time. God I hope the book’s not terrible after all this.
I feel 13 again; my emotions scattered leaves, lifted by the slightest breeze only to drift and fall, waiting for the next force of nature. My second novel, written in 2015, dormant in a flowery folder, its only contact a yellow duster, has been self published…on Amazon and my dream of reinventing myself has been realised.
Sales don’t matter; but they do matter. I’m hungry for reviews yet anxious. I want to actively promote my novel but I don’t want to bore people by harping on about it.
I have a dream that my books will be free to all. I’ve been the teen with no money, homeless, faceless at school, forgotten the day I walked out the school gates, at 16. My reality is I’m the adult with no money; paper, printer cartridges, photocopying need currency, so for now my books are sold.
What I want to know, like yesterday, is are my NA/YA books worth reading. Some of you will say yes, some no. I understand the definition of ‘subjective’ well so I don’t take criticism badly – Bitch!
I remain the outsider. Booky people mix with other bookies. Though #Random Attachment is fiction right now I’m Mia ‘always on the outskirts of friendship‘. I imagine that’s how homeless young adults may feel. Like the girl I saw from afar, sat outside one of Paddington Station’s exits, her bum on the cold, wet pavement, the rain soaking through her jeans and knickers, begging. No one stopped. No one cared. It’s like Chris Brown’s Beautiful People. Most of us only notice the shiny people. Ali Land who is startling talented, the author of the brilliant #GoodmeBadme, tweeted a few words of thanks about Crimemass, that was totally lovely and the polite thing to do but it cast a shadow over me. A 1980’s portal sucked me in, to when I was in love with John Taylor from Duran Duran and I was sleeping in a B&B while listening to the turbulent soundtrack of my parents’ marriage disintegrating. It made me realise that publishing is a tight knit group, you can’t bounce in among them singing ‘Here I am. Here’s my novel‘. I get it. You have to be invited to the table. You have to write a totally amazing novel. I may never achieve that. I see myself more the Nora Roberts of New/Young Adult. Perhaps even that is biggin myself up. I’m definitely one up on Mills & Boon but maybe not quite Courtney Summers. So you see I need reviews. I need to work out where my table is because right now, I’m in the queue for free school dinners, and I’m done with lumpy mash potato…although I am partial to chocolate sponge with chocolate custard.
So what do I want? To make enough money to buy stationery to keep me writing. I want to promote myelopathy. I want to support my family financially, not frivolously because my main purpose is to invite that homeless girl to my table.
Random Attachment is free on @kindleunlimited I would love if you downloaded it. If it takes your interest but you can’t afford it message me direct, tell me a little about yourself; only what you want to. Write a sentence or write a page and if you live in the UK I shall try to get it to you; mention if you hang at any of the YA charities like Centrepoint. You are under no obligation to review, simply to pass on to the next person who likes reading New Adult romantic thrillers…and is financially challenged. You could always write a comment on the inside cover or a doodle, maybe a pencil heart, I might not see it but your opinion matters. You matter.
So this is my action plan. Keep writing. Keep blogging. Keep listening. Keep promoting.
“The doors clanging shut made Mia’s teeth rattle. She sat, folding inward; only her feet, knees and hair visible. Her hot breath, heavy with dread, filled the chasm between her legs and chest. She thought she heard him breathing…and on the end of that his laugh…”