Monday Interview – Gemma Jackson

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.

Gemma Jackson

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

You can also order a copy of Gemma’s debut novel, Through Streets Broad and Narrow, via Polbeg’s website at


18 thoughts on “Monday Interview – Gemma Jackson

  1. Hi Gemma,
    What a lovely interview! You sound as though you have the determination and persistence for a writing career and it’s always good for aspiring writers to hear. Well done, you sound as though your persistence paid off and to have a three book contract is fantastic!
    I have been a member of the NWS since the start of 2012 and I have to agree about the members of the RNA. They are all incredibly helpful and the feedback from critiques is priceless.
    I liked your point about jealousy too…I think jealousy can sometimes encourage us not to give up. Seeing a debut author publish a book a few years ago in the same genre that I write in and with my Christian name and my maiden name definitely made me jealous, but it also made me all the more determined!
    Helen R.

  2. Hi again Gemma,
    I was just wondering what you meant when you say that you were “sabotaging your own chances”?
    Helen R.

    • Wayhay, I figured out how to get on here. I’ve been trying since Monday morning. This is so exciting. I want to TALK. Helen, I was shooting myself in the foot because of the letters I received from publishers, and there were many, I read them with a lump in my throat. I ignored all of the positive comments, about well written, humour well placed and all of that. All I saw was the great big BUT. I read that as a rejection. It wasn’t untill I met the ladies of the RNA who informed me I’d never received a rejection letter in my life. I had received expressions of interest and suggestions. Have you any idea how absolutely terrible that made me feel? I felt like the village idiot and yet at the same time what an incredible ego boost. Ignorance is its own worst enemy. I was devastated but energised to go on and try and improve my attitude and my skill. I am presently editing all of my previous books and intend to send them to an e-publisher as soon as I have them in tip top order.

  3. Great Interview, Gemma. So glad you perservered and your dream came true. Sometimes I wonder why I want to add to all of the millions of books out there- but there is something about telling a story that makes you want to share it with others. I can tell you have that determination- and thank you for sharing your path to publication.

    • Thanks Jackie. As far as all of those books out there, as an avid some would even say manic, reader I want all the books I can get my hands on. Not everyone enjoys the same type of book and I truly believe there is scope for all of us. I long to meet someone who has actually paid for and read my book. I’ve had incredibly positive reactions from reviewers but to me the most important person is the one who dishes out their hard earned cash to buy my book. Maybe that makes me weird, it wouldn’t be the first time but oh, to have that feeling that your work is actually worth something to a reader. That Jackie, is magic

  4. Gemma that is such a lovely interview! I envy you your storytelling upbringing. I remember when everyone rented their telly and we had to pop into the television shop to pay the weekly rental, 10 shillings and sixpence I think it was in london. But so much better to have had fireside stories, that also builds good social bonds whereas telly inhibits them.
    Good luck with your future, Lynne

    • Thank’s Lynne. Isn’t it sad that storytelling is a dying art. Have you ever heard Bernard Cribbins read a story? He is wonderful. I’m afraid I dislike television intensely. We had an electricity strike years ago. It was the most wonderful thing that ever happened. People sat on their windowsills and talked to each other. Men carried covered lanterns to lead the neighbours to the shops. Honestly, I hated it when the strike was over. I’ve often felt like cutting the electric pilons just to recapture the feeling of community.

  5. Hi Gemma

    This is a lesson in never giving up, if ever there was one. There is a lovely mix of realism and encouragement in your article and I have given myself a slap on the wrist for bemoaning the fact that I am not yet published, when I am relatively speaking so early in my journey 😉 Thanks again for sharing your experiences and good luck with the rest of your writing career.


    • Thanks Jo. It really is tough especially when you read about someone who sent in a manuscript as a joke and had the thing published in weeks. It makes it hard to carry on but I was determined to see my work in print.

      • Hi Gemma

        I think we all agree that you have given us a great boost in sharing your story and that you are welcome back any time you want to chat or tell us about another book release. Thanks again for being part of our Monday interview and do stop by and visit us all again soon.


  6. That’s a really inspirational story and a lesson in never giving up if ever I heard one! You sound like a very strong and determined character who deserves this success. Good luck with the book..I’ll definitely be checking it out.

  7. Hi Gemma, thanks for sharing your journey with us. Brilliant news on making it. Love the book cover. Like Helen R, I’d really like to ask you what it was you were doing to sabotage your chances and what it was that you learned from RNA/NWS to be doing differently. I’m most intrigued by this and would love to hear more. Good luck with the book sales!

    • Hi Julie, I answered Helen further up in this section, check it out. My problem was lack of knowledge in spite of all the self help books I read. Sometimes something can seem so obvious to everyone its never mentioned. That’s what happened to me. I could keep kicking myself over the matter but that just delays you living so I can’t be bothered. Onwards and upwards.

      • Hi Gemma, Thank you for the lovely interview. It is really an encouragement, to hear about your writing journey. Perseverence, and following your dream, you are so right.
        Lorraine x

  8. Hi Gemma, It’s wonderful to hear about your success. I’m so impressed by your determination and it’s fantastic that it’s paid off in the end. I really like the title of your book. I love Dublin and it’s so evocative of it. Thanks for sharing your words of wisdom and advice with us.

  9. Good Morning,
    Rachael, Alex and Lorraine, thank you so much for your kind comments. It’s really strange and yet so satisfying to be able to say I’m a published author. When I say that I have to look behind me to see who I’m talking about. For some people the road to publishing is so quick and painless but like most things in life for the rest of us it’s hard slog. Holding an actual copy of my first book in my hand was a magical moment. I wish everyone on here the chance to experience that moment.

    Now, I’m running away from home. I feel as if I’m tied to my computer by an umbilical cord. Honest, the darn thing pulls me back to it when I get too far away. So, I’m getting out of here.

    Have a great day everyone. I’ll check into your blog from time to time. It’s fun.

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