Gwenda was born in Newcastle upon Tyne and educated at Durham and Manchester Universities. She now lives in the Lake District in the UK. Her passions are for genealogy, gardening and graveyards.
Gwenda’s stories have featured in numerous print and digital publications. Most recently her short stories have been published in Dodging the Rain, Toasted Cheese, Retreat West, Brilliant Flash Fiction, Bandit Fiction, as well as with Cranked Anvil. She has also written four novels and three novellas. Her novella Offcomers won first prize in the NAWG Open Novella Competition in December 2016 and others have been either shortlisted or longlisted in national competitions, such as Cinammon Press prize 2006, Virginia Prize 2009 & 2011 and Flash 500 Opening Chapter competition 2017.
Firstly, tell us a little bit about yourself, and the kind of stuff you like to write.
I see myself as a creature of contrasts: creative but also very organised. I love being with people but happy to be on my own, fascinated by the past but anxiously intrigued by the future. My motto is “curiosity and hope” which was a support both during my teaching career and now in lockdown. I’m aware that I talk to myself quite a lot.
I enjoy writing stories, novellas and novels – each new idea seems to find its own length. My novellas are often based around a real-life historical character such as Agatha Christie, Bram Stoker, Anne Bronte or the painter George Romney. Doing the research for this sort of writing is a real pleasure but I do have to be careful not to get too immersed in it sometimes. My short stories are more quirky, often quite dark. The novels I’ve written so far tend to be about families, their secrets and tensions.
How long have you been writing, and what was it that first got you started?
I’ve been writing for years. I started when my children were little when I suddenly found I had some time to myself and a feeling of a new beginning. I would have loved to make writing my full-time occupation but it was never possible – instead it’s been a constant thread running through my life.
What does your writing day/schedule look like?
I don’t really have a schedule. I try to put a couple of hours aside each day to write but I’m an expert at procrastination and have to be strict with myself at times. I often untangle character or plot problems when I’m out walking and have to hang on to the thought until I get home to jot it down.
How have you found writing during lockdown times? Has your writing day changed much from how it was pre-lockdown?
I’ve found life in lockdown surprisingly busy, especially once I embraced the new reality of Zoom, so I have tried to be more disciplined and to set aside time each afternoon to write. I’ve actually been quite productive in the last year, completing a novel and writing several short and flash stories.
Tell us about the last thing you were working on. And also, a little about your very next project.
The novel I’ve just finished is called ‘Nothing to Hide.’ It’s about how little we really know about other people and how secrets sometimes emerge in unexpected ways.
Since then I’ve written a couple of flash and short stories, the most recent called “The Leg in the Skip.” I’m now doing some research for a novella/novel about three women, including the once famous Victorian social reformer Harriet Martineau. At some point I’m going to have to make myself stop doing the research and start writing.
What successes have you had in the past? How do you feel when you see your work in print?
I’ve had lots of stories published over the years both in print anthologies and online. One of my novellas won first prize in the NAWG Open Novella competition a few years ago which was great. I still haven’t managed to have a novel published but it’s still my ambition. I’ve accepted I’ll never make much money from writing – luckily that’s not why I do it. Seeing my work in print or online is a real thrill every time. There’s nothing quite like it.
Do you have a particular place where you go to write?
I’m lucky enough to have my own study upstairs – it’s quiet and looks out over the back garden. I have everything I need there – my desk, computer, files, reference books, a heater for the chilly mornings, a digital piano and an old Lloyd Loom chair for reading.
Do you have any tips or advice for other writers?
Just keep at it. It’s no good getting discouraged by rejection as that’s an inevitable part of writing. Having some success and knowing people are reading your work is great but I write because I love doing it and can’t imagine life without it.
Finally, some quickfire answers:
Planner or pantser? Planner.
Computer, pen & paper, or typewriter? Computer.
Do you write every day? In theory yes. In reality, not always.
Do you have a daily/weekly word count target? Not at all. I just start and see where I get to.
Gwenda has a website and blog at www.gwendamajor.wordpress.com