Gillian Harvey is the author of Everything is Fine. Her latest novel, Perfect on Paper, was published by Orion on 13 May 2021.
Gillian kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about Perfect on Paper.
Perfect on Paper tells the story of Clare, who – from the outside – seems to have it all, but is being completely taken for granted by her family and at work too. One day, she snaps and does something impulsive – which leads her down a path that could change everything. But should she take the risk?
2. What inspired the book?
My children! I noticed their selective hearing. If I ask them to do something, they seem not to react. If I mention chocolate, they’re there in a flash! It made me realise what people mean when they say they feel invisible. I took that idea, and pushed it to the extreme.
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?
A bit of both. I have a general idea, write a few chapters. If it works, I’ll plan the next few. I have planned a book from start to finish before, but felt it took away some of the creativity. The ‘twist’ in Perfect on Paper was something that came to me spontaneously, and it’s what makes the book. I’d hate to plan so diligently that I cut out those flashes of inspiration.
4. Having been through the publishing process a couple of times, is there anything about the process of creating a novel that still surprises you?
The way characters ‘come to life’ as you write. Sometimes it feels as if they take over the narrative and pull you in a new direction.
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
I’m not very good at relaxing. It’s something I’m working on! But I do try to hit the treadmill a couple of times a week, and have just taken up Pilates. It’s hard to get away from it all fully, as I have five children so there’s always something to do. But given the chance I like visiting the lakes near to where I live in France – there’s something incredibly peaceful about being close to water.
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
I know this might be a choice for many people – but I’d definitely say ‘Pride and Prejudice’. It’s the only book I’ve read more than three times, and I think you see it differently each time. It’s gentle, funny and interesting and although it would probably get boring on the 10th read-through, it would hold up better than most!
7. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
‘What have you learned about yourself as a writer.’ I’ve been writing for years and years. I finished my first novel at 24, but didn’t get published until I was 42… Other than my improving my writing and thinking more about genre, I put this down to lack of faith in myself. I never truly believed I’d become a published author, and I think this sometimes held me back from refining and editing my
work the way I could have or trying new agents when the first ones rejected me. I kept racing to the next, seductive new novel idea rather than putting in the editorial and administrative graft.
Even now (I’m currently working on a novel that has enormous potential) I lack faith in myself. I have to continually apply myself and try to shout down the ‘voices’ that tell me I’m not good enough.
I suppose what I’m saying is that if you’re writing a book, try to keep plugging away. It’s so easy to listen to self-critical thoughts, but it’s important not to let them win!
About the Book
It’s time to shake things up a little…
Clare Bailey’s life is perfect. Successful career, loving husband, two kids and a gorgeous townhouse. At least, that’s how it looks from the outside.
In fact, she’s never felt more invisible. Her boss barely remembers her name, her husband is distracted by his new TV job and her daughter has never found her more embarrassing!
But when she’s given a chance to turn her life upside-down she wonders whether she should risk everything she loves for a life that’s more than just ‘perfect on paper’…?
About the Author
Gillian Harvey is a freelance journalist and author who has written for the Guardian, The Telegraph, the Independent and the New York Observer as well as lifestyle magazines including, Woman’s Weekly and People’s Friend. Gillian lives in Limousin, France with her husband and five children. Everything is Fine, published by Orion in May 2020 (UK) and January 2021 (US) is her debut novel.
You can buy Perfect On Paper here. (Please note this is an affiliate link so I may earn a few pence if you buy it from here. Other retailers are available.)