This week I welcome Gillian Hamer author of The Charter onto my blog. Gillian talks about the pleasures and pitfalls of writing in mixed genres. Having read The Charter, I can confirm that cross-genre writing can work very well, each element - crime, history, paranormal - enriching a fascinating story.
Why the Charter?
Why Break Rules?
The journey to get my novel, The Charter, into print has been a long and rocky road. It wasn’t until I felt confidence enough to approach agents, that I realised I’d committed quite a few cardinal sins by writing the story I wanted to write about a shipwreck off the coast of Anglesey that has long fascinated me.
Apparently in publishing there are rules. Lots of rules. And one of the most fundamental rules in ensuring success or failure of your novel is ‘though shalt not cross genres.’
I didn’t know this when I wrote The Charter. I simply wrote a story I’d had in my head for twenty years, crossing modern day crime fiction, with a hint of paranormal and a dollop of historical backdrop.
It’s all to do with marketing so I’m told. The fact that readers like order. If they like crime, they want to read crime. If they like historical fiction, they only read that. Personally, I think that’s a load of tosh. I love books that have that element of surprise, that leave you confused (in a good way) and breathless as the story unravels. I think of Sarah Waters, The Little Stranger, as a good example. Those who have read it will surely agree with me that they came to the end not entirely sure what they’d just read – but adoring it all the same.
Now, I’m no Sarah Waters of course, but that must surely point to their being a market of cross genre books, or books that don’t quite fit the mould. You’d think? But no. Traditional publishing shook its head and crossed its arms in a most definite negative. Although the story, or perhaps my writing, got interest from two agents, and went through numerous rewrites – removing ghosts, add ghosts, removing ghosts – it became clear when my current agent gave the thumbs down that my book had come to the end of it’s journey down the traditional publishing highway.
So, if I wanted to see The Charter in print I would have to go down the independent publishing route, which I decided to do last year when I formed Triskele Books along with two other talented authors in very similar positions to my own.
Why did I bother?
I’ve had close connections with the island of Anglesey, off the North Wales coast, all my life. It’s a place that fascinates and never fails to thrill me. You can’t take a drive on Anglesey without passing Neolithic burial chambers along the side of the road, and the Druids even based themselves there, creating a centre of excellence on the island.
For as many years as I can remember driving along the A5025 – the coast road that traverses the eastern side of the island – I can recall hearing about the story of the victims of the Royal Charter every time I passed Llanallgo Church – the cemetery where the majority of the victims are buried. The churchyard features heavily in the book.
I can also remember news reports and articles over the years when excited divers allegedly found Australian gold off Point Lynas where the ship hit rocks. And I even had a vivid memory as a child, of metal detecting with a family friend who lived on the island, somewhere on Red Wharf Bay who convinced me the shiny pennies I kept digging up were treasure off the Royal Charter – it was only years later I discovered he’d been the source of the hoard.
I think when a person, topic or legend has fascinated you all your life, any story as a writer you can create around its existence will always mean a lot to you. So, if I could bring the legend of the shipwreck to a greater audience and also write about a part of the country I loved, then it was a no-brainer for me. And if it meant breaking a multitude of publishing rules and regulations along the way – then it was just too bad!
Sarah Morton hopes discovering the truth about the 1859 wreck of the Royal Charter will silence the demons of her past. But, tormented by visions and threats on her life, Sarah fears the ship may claim her as its final victim.
Born in the industrial Midlands, Gillian's heart has always yearned for the pull of the ocean and the wilds of North Wales.
A company director, she has been writing as a hobby all her life, but after a creative writing course a decade ago, decided to take her writing to another level and sought representation. She has completed six full length novels, split between straight crime and her mix of paranormal thrillers. Gillian is also a regular columnist for
literary magazine, Words with Jam, and in that role has been lucky enough to interview a cross section of authors from Ann Cleeves to Michael Morpurgo.
Gillian splits her time between Birmingham and a remote cottage on Anglesey
where she spends far too much time dreaming of being the next Agatha Christie, and can be found walking her Jack Russell, Maysie, on deserted beaches. In her spare time she is a regular theatre goer, an avid reader and a curious traveller!
Her novel, The Charter, was launched in June 2012 under Triskele Books, an author's collective set up by Gillian and a group of fellow writers. Her straight crime novels are represented by Shelley Powers of the Shelley Powers Literary Agency.
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