Our Writer of the Week is Gabrielle Mullarkey. Gabrielle’s long read, “Before A Fall”, appears in Special 241, on sale this week.
Am I right in saying this is your first long read to appear in the “Friend”? How did you find the writing experience to that of a short story?
It’s actually my second. My long crime read, “Who Killed Santa Claus?”, featured in festive Special 235 last year. I really enjoy writing to different lengths and the longer form really allows you to spread your wings, especially when it comes to the ins and outs of a crime story. I’ve written three novels to date, so I’m always exploring the challenges of the longer prose form.
When writing your crime stories, is it important to keep the reader guessing for as long as possible?
Oh yes. I love to read crime fiction as well as write it, and one of the pleasures is following the clues and working out a character’s motivations. That said, my favourite TV detective is Columbo. Although we know the killer’s identity from the start, what keeps you guessing is how Columbo will finally snare them.
For short story ideas, plot or characters first – or both?
On reflection, they often happen simultaneously – a character imagined in a particular place or situation, or a character faced with a problem. Then I start to wonder how they’d respond to what’s going on around them.
Through success or otherwise, how have you developed as a writer over the years?
I really like that question because all writers get knockbacks and it may sound like a truism, but you learn a lot from constructive criticism. In my novel writing, for example, I feel I’m creating richer, more multi-layered characters.
When I plan my teaching courses (I’m a creative writing tutor for Adult Learning at two county councils), I learn, as well, from the activities I prepare. Overall, I suppose I like to think my writing has matured as I have.
If you were to compare yourself to any famous fictional character, who would it be and why?
The first character I identified with as a child was Jo March from “Little Women” because she was passionate about writing and lived inside her head a lot. Despite setbacks, she always seemed to know what she wanted and was true to herself. I still see her as someone with traits to aspire to.
Notebook and pencil or laptop? Kitchen table or study? Blank wall or inspiring view?
I carry a small notebook everywhere, partly for my expressive writing habit and to jot down ideas. Then I transfer anything “with legs” to my laptop in my upstairs “office”.
I face a wall that I perk up periodically with artwork, my own or someone else’s. At the moment, it’s this toucan I dashed off because I love a pop of colour!
P.S. What’s your one top tip for aspiring writers?
Write a little something every day, even if it’s a limerick about how you can’t write today. I’m a great believer in expressive writing, which I practise regularly. Sometimes, you’ll be surprised at what emerges.