Saturday 8 April 2017

Close to Home ....Gina Kirkham

As a book reviewer I have made contact with authors from all across the globe and feel immensely privileged to be able to share some amazing work. However, there is always something rather special when a book comes to my attention which has been written by an author in my part of the North of England. So with this in mind I have great pleasure in featuring some of those authors who are literally close to my home. Over the next few Saturdays, and hopefully beyond, I will be sharing the work of a very talented bunch of Northern authors and discovering just what being a Northerner means to them both in terms of inspiration and also in their writing.

Today I welcome North West Writer

Gina Kirkham

A warm welcome to Jaffareadstoo, Gina. Tell us a little about yourself and how you got you started as an author?

Even though I seem to be hurtling towards my sixties at an alarming rate, I like to think that I'm still pretty agile and young at heart, although my knees, which strangely enough have started to sound like a team of elephants jumping on bubble wrap first thing in the morning, tell me otherwise. I'm a Nanny to two beautiful granddaughters, Olivia and Annie, spend my days chasing around after my two Westies, Brodie and Bailey, and trying to keep a previously used, but still in excellent condition husband, constantly amused with my antics. After a very enjoyable and successful career with Merseyside Police as an operational response Constable, I retired in August 2012. I had visions of slipping into Gin & Tonic induced comas in the garden, shaded from the afternoon sun by dappled shadows from the trees, whilst the busy world I had been part of carried on without me. Sadly, as romantic as this vision seemed, it was doomed to failure as the first three months offered only perpetual rain and a huge price increase on the Gin! So, with a pot of tea on the go and half a packet of digestives to keep me fuelled, three sheets of paper later, I had drafted out a plot, a character and a story and I was off on a most exciting adventure.

You are about to publish your debut novel. Are you allowed to tell us anything about the book and your inspiration for writing Handcuffs, Truncheon and a Polyester Thong?

Urbane Publications
18 May 2017

Handcuffs, Truncheon and A Polyester Thong is inspired by my career as a police officer. As difficult, stressful and harrowing the job could be at times, there was always time for laughter. On many, many occasions, laughter and humour were our coping mechanism for the unpleasantness in this world. The story is told through the eyes of Mavis Upton, a recently divorced, ‘thirtysomething’ mummy to 7 year old Ella. Supported by her quirky, malapropismsuffering mum, Mavis is flung into a journey of uncertainty, self-discovery, fearless escapades, laughter and extra-large knickers as she follows a lifelong ambition to become a Police Officer. Using her new found investigative skills, she reluctantly embarks on a search to find her errant dad who was last seen in 1962 carrying an early morning edition of the Daily Mirror that contained her mum’s much needed coupon for a foam cup bra all the way from America. What follows is a humorous and sometimes poignant look at the life, loves and career of an everyday girl who one day followed a dream.

What have been the highs and lows of writing your first novel?

There has definitely been a few lows. Losing my first three weeks worth of work in the early days was the most memorable. My laptop crashed and died. Panic struck I suddenly breathed a sigh of relief as remembered I’d had the foresight to save it to a ‘stick thingy’ my husband had given me. As you can see by my excellent use of technical jargon, I am an absolute duffer when it comes to computers. Sadly, after much messing around, it transpired that I must have stuck it in the wrong ‘outlet thingy’ as nothing was on it. I cried, kicked the stuffed hedgehog doorstop, had a gin and started again. I now have three ‘stick thingies’ which I save everything, and I mean everything, on and a big sticker on the side of my new PC that declares in red felt pen ‘This is the right outlet, duffer!’ The high has got to be opening the email from Matthew, my publisher, saying he would love to publish Handcuffs, Truncheon. I was on holiday with my hubby who was very relaxed draped out on his sun lounger reading Simon Scarrow’s Britannia, when I came screaming out from the door of the villa waving my iPad in the air in unbridled excitement. Hubby, very much in the zone, fearing he was to be imminently attacked by a Roman Soldier, kicked out his leg, sending me toppling over the adjacent lounger. I was so beside myself with joy I could barely get the words out to tell him.

As a new writer based in the North West, does this present any problems in terms of marketing and promoting your books and if so, how have you tried overcome them?

The northwest has an amazing selection of book stores, both well known and the smaller cafΓ© book shops, that are incredibly supportive of local authors. So far, and I know I am talking very early days as this is my first novel, I have yet to see any disparity between North and South for marketing and promotion. I do believe social media has played a huge part in narrowing the gap, everything is so accessible these days. I have been amazed at the ‘family’ atmosphere of Blogging Groups on Facebook and Twitter, everyone is hugely supportive of each other and in particular the authors, giving them a platform to introduce themselves and their work.

If you were pitching the North West as an ideal place to live, work and write – how would you sell it and what makes it so special?

Gosh, that's a difficult one to put into words as it is such a wonderful place to live and work, with so many different facets to the area. I think what I love so much about the North-West is that I have the beach, sea views, wonderful countryside and parks, and a slower paced village life on my doorstep, but a short journey away I have the amazing vibrant City of Liverpool and the Docks one way and the beautiful, historic City of Chester the other. I have the best of all-worlds living here on the Wirral.

As Northerners, we do tend to have an ‘in this together’ attitude, where if help is needed, everyone pulls together and we have a unique sense of humour in adversity, which is where my inspiration to write first evolved.

Writing is a solitary business - how do you interact with other authors?

I do enjoy the solitude and tranquility of writing and I am fortunate that my ‘office’ looks out on to my garden and the very trees that were supposed to give me dappled shade in the early days of my retirement. Now my fingers gently caress the keys of my PC rather than the glass holding my gin! Initially, my only contact with other authors was with my nephew, and my neighbour, who are both crime authors. They encouraged, berated, laughed and taught me everything I know. Since being signed by Urbane Publications, I have met some of the other lovely Urbanites at a pre-Christmas party in London, they were a fantastic bunch of people. Again, through social media, we keep in touch, encourage and support each other, prop each other up at low points and generally have a giggle. It's like being part of a big family.

Have you found that local communities have been supportive of your writing, and have there been any opportunities yet for book shops, local reading groups, or libraries to be involved in promoting your work?

Yes, they are very supportive here. Through word of mouth, before I have even been out on my travels trying to sell my soul for a chance to shine, I have been contacted by local reading groups asking if I will visit and have a chat about my book and my journey to getting published, once the book is out. A local independent book shop on the Wirral, the fabulous Linghams, has offered me a signing event in May, which I'm really looking forward to doing. I've been practicing my signature for days in various pens, colours and effects. It’s at times like this I wish I had been christened Abigail or Felicity, as I could get a really good flourish with those names!
More about Gina can be found on her website by clicking here 
Follow on Twitter @gingeejay

Publication date for Handcuffs ,Truncheon and a Polyester Thong is the 18th May, 2017 Urbane Publications  (Matthew Smith)

Available for pre-order from Amazon UK

Huge thanks to Gina for spending time with us today and for sharing the excitement of her debut novel with us.

I hope that you have enjoyed this week's Close to Home Feature

Coming next week : Clare Coombes


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