Guest Blog: Pauline George on her Début Novel ‘Jess’

24 Feb

Today’s guest blog is from brand new author Pauline George, whose début novel Jess has just been published by Regal Crest.  You can read the blurb for the novel over on our New & Upcoming page, but in the meantime allow Pauline to tell you how the story came about…

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JessJess is my first. Well, my first novel at least. I started writing Jess about ten years ago, although I actually finished it in less than a year. Most of the years since writing Jess, she sat in my laptop, gathering binary dust, waiting for me to have the courage to send her out into the big wide world.

When I did submit Jess to a publishing company a few years ago, I received a rejection e-mail. I was brave enough to ask why and was told that my lead character, Jess, was ‘snarky and shallow’. When I read this in the e-mail, I was aghast, because that is exactly what Jess is. It’s the story of a part of her life where she has the chance to change.

Because of this rejection I put Jess away and didn’t touch her for a few years. I know it was just one rejection, and many authors have had a lot of them. I know I should have ignored it. But Jess is my first, and for me writing is a very personal thing, as it probably is for all writers. I guess I couldn’t take the criticism at that time and maybe it made me feel vulnerable. Whatever it was, I saved Jess and left her in her folder on my laptop.

Sometime later, I don’t know why, I thought about Jess and how I shouldn’t let that one publisher put me off. So I blew the binary dust off Jess and got to work. I went over her with a fine tooth comb, rewriting and getting her ready for the big day. I decided I would again send Jess out into the big wide world, and this time I would persevere and take my chances.  I resolved to rise above the rejections and keep sending Jess out, until someone liked her. The next publisher I sent Jess to did like her and offered me a contract. I am grateful that Cathy and the team at Regal Crest saw the potential and gave Jess a chance. I suppose in a way I should also be grateful to that first rejection, as it led to me making Jess better. I didn’t change her character in any way, but maybe I made it more obvious how shallow she was in the beginning.

It’s been such a long time from first writing Jess, that now, on being asked what my inspiration was, I have to say I’m not sure. A little bit of history about me: when I first discovered my sexuality 20 years ago at the ripe old age of 42, I wanted to read books with female protagonists and women who loved women. I went to my local library to see if I could find lesbian novels to read, but twenty years ago there was a dearth of them, at least in my local library. Over the next few years I read as many as I could find in the library and then I discovered London’s Charing Cross Road – do you remember Silver Moon Bookshop? I realised I wanted to be one of those authors, I wanted to write a lesbian novel. I thought I could write one as good as those I was reading, at least I hoped I could, and so I started Jess.

pauline georgeThey say ‘write about what you know’, and I took that as far as I could without being biographical. Although Jess isn’t based on anyone I know, there is a bit of me in her. Not so much in the character herself but within the story. I hope my friends will be flattered and not offended that I’ve used their names in Jess. It is only their names though, the rest is fiction as they say. I was totally enamoured by Niagara when I went to stay there for a few days. It was so amazing and I thought it would be good to incorporate that trip into Jess. It was my first holiday to that part of the world but it wasn’t my last. I’ve now been to America for a few years and absolutely love it. Maybe there will be reference to these trips in subsequent books, especially the time spent in Vegas. I also went on a murder weekend founded by Joy Swift MBE, which was great fun. I used the plot, with Joy’s permission, in Jess, as I thought it would be fun to take the characters away for the weekend. So you can see there are a few of my experiences in Jess.

I found it quite easy to write Jess. The characters led me along and told me their story. I know that probably sounds a bit daft, and I don’t know how it works for other authors, but this is how it works for me. Most of the work I did on Jess was on my hour and a half long journey to work as a signaller on the Tube. I would think about what I’d already written and see where it would go next. Whatever I came up with and whatever the characters were telling me, I would keep running it all around in my head until I could put it down on paper. I write almost everything by hand with a fountain pen in A5 notebooks, and then transfer it to my laptop. Sometimes, if I was having a good inspirational day, I would write so much that it would take quite a while to type it up. But it’s the way I work, I get an idea and have to get it down there and then. I don’t always have my laptop handy, especially if I’m at work. On a break I would take myself into our little kitchen and sit at the table busily writing away. My colleagues got used to seeing me and hearing me wittering on about my book. I do like the process of handwriting, it makes me slow down and get my thoughts into a coherent pattern. Mind you, I sometimes get writer’s cramp and have to stop for a few minutes. I have been very lucky, in that I’ve not had too much of a problem with writer’s block. A lot of the time I seem to have writer’s diarrhoea, if there is such a thing!

My second offering is a novella and has been accepted by Regal Crest for publication in January 2015. Although at the time of writing this blog I’m adding meat to the bones and it could grow up into a full novel.

I hope you enjoy reading Jess as much as I enjoyed writing about a small part of her life.

2 Responses to “Guest Blog: Pauline George on her Début Novel ‘Jess’”

  1. pauline holyoak at 8:16 pm #

    Nice post, Pauline. Glad you found the courage to (finally) send it ‘out there.’ I’m putting it on my ‘to read’ list.Good luck with the sales!!!

  2. Devlyn at 3:46 am #

    Good post, I’m looking forward to reading Jess. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

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