Monday, October 30, 2017

Kathleen McGurl: Writing on the move

Today we welcome Kathleen McGurl to the RNA blog.

Kathleen McGurl lives in Bournemouth with her husband. She has two sons who are both now at university. She always wanted to write, and for many years was waiting until she had the time. Eventually she came to the bitter realisation that no one would pay her for a year off work to write a book, so she sat down and started to write one anyway. Since then she has published several novels with HQ and Carina UK and self-published another. She has also sold dozens of short stories to women's magazines, and written three How To books for writers. She works full time in the IT industry and when she's not writing, she's often out running, slowly. Her latest book is The Girl from Ballymor, a dual timeline story set in Ireland during the Great Famine.

Over to you Kathleen...

This year I spent six months travelling around Europe in a motorhome with my husband. I was lucky to get six months off work - I work for John Lewis and it was the reward for having done over 25 years with them. But of course, six months off work means six months away from the day job only. No time off from writing, and I wouldn’t want to, anyway!
We left home in early April and travelled through France, Italy, Croatia, Spain and Portugal, arriving home in early October. It was, as you might imagine, an amazing trip.

At the beach in northern Spain

I knew I’d have a new book coming out while I was away (The Girl from Ballymor) and had also agreed to a deadline to hand in the next book. One problem with life in a motorhome is that there’s no space to bring a printer. So I’d rushed to complete a draft of the new book before we left home, printed it, and took that with me as I prefer to edit by scribbling in red pen over a printout.
But the next rewrite, following my editor’s feedback, had to be done on screen with no printout to scribble on. I found that hard as it’s a different way of working. Maybe I should have found a print-shop but I don’t know the word for it in Italian!
I started a new novel after those two edits, and that was easier, although writing about rainy, damp Ireland when I was dealing with an Italian heat-wave was not always easy.

The glorious Dolmites

At home I mostly write in the evenings, outside of the day-job hours. While travelling I tried to write in the late afternoon and early evening, after we’d arrived wherever we were going to park for the night, and before we had our evening meal and the wine that invariably went with it. It wasn’t always possible if we were out for a long day or needed to spend time blogging or planning the next few days, and I made a point of not beating myself up if several days went by with no words written. After all, the trip was primarily about the travelling.
When possible I sat outside to write, trying not to be distracted by gorgeous views over the sea or mountains. As it only rained during the day about three times on the entire trip (and I am not joking!) in theory I could sit outside always. But as anyone who’s tried using a laptop in bright sunlight will know, it’s not always easy to see what you are doing. I must buy one of those laptop sun-hoods before any future trips.
An essential piece of kit was a 12v laptop charger so I could charge the laptop even if we weren’t hooked up to mains electricity, which was often, as we free-camped a lot.

Writing at a Croatian campsite

The Girl from Ballymor came out in early September, and my challenge then was to try to do some promotion for it while on the move. I have a good phone contract with a large data allowance that can be used while roaming, so I was able to use Twitter and Facebook the same as at home. And check Amazon rankings, of course! My publicist asked if I could do a pre-recorded radio interview for Talk Radio Europe. I agreed and then spent many sleepless nights fretting about how best to manage this. I needed to make sure on the day of the interview we would be parked somewhere with no background noise, and I’d need to be in the van with closed windows for quiet, so preferably under some shade so I didn’t pass out with the heat... Of course I was worrying for nothing and it all went well in the end.
Many of the places we went to provided inspiration for future novels. I write dual timeline – a historical mystery resolved in the present day – and love visiting anywhere with a bit of history attached. So – most of Italy, then! Highlights for future writing ideas were Certaldo in Tuscany (home of Boccaccio), the restored lemon groves in Limone, Lake Garda, and Pompeii, of course.

A Tuscan sunset - inspiration for a future book?

I know of a few other writers who write while in their campervans. It takes a bit of adjustment and requires a lot of flexibility, but the rewards are well worth it. Writing is one of those jobs you can do anywhere, and having a campervan allows you to be anywhere. It’s a match made in heaven.

Thank you Kathleen for that insight into an amazing trip and the challenges of writing on the move. 

You can find out more about Kathleen on twitter @KathMcGurl, on Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/KathleenMcGurl, and on her websitehttps://kathleenmcgurl.com
And The Girl from Ballymor is available now: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06X8YRDM8

4 comments:

Elaine Everest said...

A lovely reminder of following your trip courtesy of your blog.

I'd like to know if you would do it again? xx

Kath McGurl said...

Definitely if I could get the time off again! Maybe not for 6 months though. 2 or 3 would be perfect.

Kate said...

Great post, Kath, and gorgeous pictures!

Jeannie said...

It’s been great to follow your travels, Kath, and lovely photos.