Gemma Jackson is a writer and, despite having travelled far and wide, she is also a Dubliner through and through. Gemma’s debut novel, Through Streets Broad and Narrow, was published by Polbeg in June 2013. Here Gemma tells a bit more about herself and her route to publication.
First and foremost ladies may I salute you. I made some great friends on the HMB web site and at the RNA meetings. I regret to say we never thought of setting up a support group as you have here. It’s a marvellous idea because writing and let’s face it, rejection, is a very lonely business. Only a fellow sufferer could possibly understand what we go through.
We know that, like us, you were once a member of the NWS but we wondered if you could tell us a bit about how you came to join, how long you have been a member, the genre you write in and what inspired you to start writing?
I’m almost afraid to answer. I really don’t want to discourage anyone. I have tried to get published for 25 years. Yes, pick yourself up off the floor. I did say 25 years. I was my own worst enemy and it was only after I joined the NWS that I discovered that I’d been sabotaging my own chances.
I grew up in Dublin and was surrounded by ‘story tellers’. Our televisions had money meters attached. You had to pay to view. Honestly, if your parents refused to pay, tough. Therefore sitting in front of the fire listening to stories being told in person or on the radio was – to my mind anyway – simply the greatest. Writing down stories seemed totally natural to me.
I’ve had rave reviews and positive comments. I came close so many times. I’d get someone who really believed in my work, but they’d be promoted or leave the company and it was back to the start again. It’s a bloomin’ tough world.
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t spend 25 years sitting in front of my machine beating my breast and crying. I’ve travelled the world. I was an Air Hostess. I was one of the people who set up Disneyland Paris. I’ve toured America by train and rented camper van. I’ve lived, (imagine me sitting here with a hand to my brow) but my dream has always been ultimately to be a published writer. I’d like to ‘have computer will travel.’ That would be the best of both worlds for me.
Please can you tell us a bit about your journey to publication and how ‘The Call’ came about?
I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the ladies of the RNA and the NWS. It breaks my heart that I can’t be considered a NWS success. I didn’t join in 2012 because I hadn’t a MS ready to be read. I wanted to leave the place for someone who had a MS in hand.
I’d been concentrating on submitting to MB for years. I came so close so many times only to fail. As you all no doubt know it’s soul destroying to be constantly so close and yet so far.
In 2012 I decided enough was enough. I dusted myself off and wrote two completely different books. Again, with the first I was so close, it went to the reading panel but again, failure.
With the second, with the words of advice I’d received from the RNA I went to bat for my book. I refused to accept failure and fought for my story. Imagine my shock when I received the email that told me the publisher was going to accept it. It’s been eight months and I’m still expecting the call to tell me there has been a mistake. I’m so accustomed to failure success is a shock to the system.
When you read this my very first book will published and on the shelves. Yet I’m still waiting for them to tell me they’ve made a mistake.
What’s next for you, Gemma?
I have a three book contract with Poolbeg Publishing. I’m trying to create a niche market for myself by writing about Dublin using stories I grew up listening to. I’m crossing my fingers that I can emulate the success of Mary Jane Staples and write using my main characters and the events in their lives.
Have you got any advice for others who might be hoping to emulate your success in securing a publisher or perhaps an agent?
Listen and learn from the ladies of the RNA. I couldn’t believe how willingly each and every one was to help me. I attended my first RNA meeting in London as a guest of a lady I’d never met. It was a heart warming experience. I had to fly over and it cost me a small fortune but it was worth every penny.
I don’t have an agent. I signed the contract with a speed that was indecent. I needed to be validated as a writer. I didn’t want to go the e-book route. I wanted to know that I was good enough for a publisher to take a chance on me. Having said that I’ve every intention of taking everything I’ve learned and re-assessing my previous work before submitting it to an e-book publisher.
What are your dreams and aspirations as a writer, in terms of your long-term career?
I want to be still writing books when I’m bent with age and keeping my teeth in a glass. I love the whole process. Having said that I’m hoping being – finally – a published writer I might get to travel and meet like minded people.
What was the single biggest benefit of joining the NWS, do you think?
Learning that what I’d assumed were rejection letters were in fact letters of interest. It was crippling to realise that I’d been stupidly jinxing my own chances. But what a boost to my self-esteem at the same time. It forced me to reassess everything I believed about my writing.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us or any other advice you can offer?
It is really, really, difficult to keep a positive mental attitude in the face of constant kicks in the teeth. You’ve made a great start here by setting up your own support group. If you experience jealousy because others are getting published, that’s only normal. Admit it, own it and then congratulate the lucky lady.
You can find out more about Gemma, via her blog at http://gemmajacksondubliner.com/
You can also order a copy of Gemma’s debut novel, Through Streets Broad and Narrow, via Polbeg’s website at http://www.poolbeg.com/