Sunday, 17 March 2013

Guest Post - Things that Matter by Della Galton

Della Galton, Queen of Womags, has a new book out called Ice and a Slice. In this post she talks about issue-led fiction, and why she likes to write about big themes which are important to her. I've read Ice and a Slice, and my review of it follows Della's post. It's excellent - I highly recommend it! 

Things That Matter

I’ve often wondered how we choose what we write. Do we choose to write short stories or novels because we love them, or do we just drift into the form? And what about the subject matter? Why do we choose that?

The first short story I ever had published was called Second Chance, and it was published in a teenage confession magazine called Loving (I wish that magazine was still around, it was excellent)

Second Chance was set in a doctor’s surgery, and it was all about a teenager who was planning to have a termination – blimey, I don’t think I’d sell that story now – it’s quite a controversial issue, even today. But then I’ve always liked writing about controversial issues. I don’t have a copy of Second Chance any more but I can remember the last line, which went something like this.

Throughout her life she would give her baby many second chances, but none of them would be as important as the one she was giving him now…

The first novel I ever wrote was called Prisoners.

It was about a woman who works in a pet shop and falls in love with someone she shouldn’t (her married boss). There are a few animal characters and they have a few nights out (the people, not the animals) and in the end the couple get it together.

If this sounds like an immense muddle, then that’s because it was. I’d had four or five short stories published when I wrote Prisoners. I thought writing a novel was simply a matter of writing 70,000 words.

Moving swiftly on, my first published novel, Passing Shadows, was about a woman who works in an animal sanctuary and falls in love with someone she shouldn’t (the father of her best friend’s child.) There are a few animal characters and they have a few nights out (the people, not the animals) and in the end the couple get it together.

Sounds familiar doesn’t it? So why did this novel work and Prisoners not work? Well, partly because I knew a bit more about what I was doing. I was passionate about the main characters, Maggie and Finn. Also, this novel had some strong themes, friendship and betrayal being two of them.

My latest novel, Ice and a Slice, also has some strong themes. It’s about friendship, beating the odds, and love.

It’s also about alcoholism, which is a theme I’ve explored in short stories too, but I wanted to take it further and the only way to do this was to write a novel.

The main character in Ice and a Slice, is called SJ, and she drinks too much, although she would argue until she was blue in the face about that! And if you don’t believe me, then do check out her Facebook page here or her Twitter account here, where she is surprisingly active!

So, why did I write about alcoholism? Well, as I said earlier I’m big on issues. I like writing about things that matter, and alcoholism is a subject very close to my heart. Many of my family suffer from it. Some of them are in recovery and some of them are not. And some have died needless premature deaths.

An alcoholic is not someone, as I once thought, who drinks meths on a park bench. Alcoholism is not a moral issue for weak minded people – it’s a disease that can affect anyone – it can strike doctors, lawyers, teachers, plumbers, vicars, secretaries, taxi drivers, anyone. It’s a disease of our time.

So, yes I feel passionate about alcoholism and that’s why I wrote Ice and a Slice. SJ – or Sarah-Jane Crosse to give her full name – is deeply flawed, but I love her to bits. I think she’s probably the most three dimensional character I’ve ever created. Hence, she has her own social media pages. Do check them out.

You’ll have more luck getting a sensible answer from her when she’s sober – so mornings are good!

And if you like what you see, do take a look at Ice and a Slice too – you can read a free sample or buy it for less than a glass of Chardonnay :) by clicking here.

Thanks for reading.
Della Galton x

Thanks Della - I always enjoy issue-led fiction. It means so much more!

In Ice and a Slice, SJ is aware she might possibly drink a bit too much but she's not admitting to the label 'alcoholic'. Her husband Tom is hardly ever around, and seems pretty unsupportive. SJ is estranged from her sister, after she slept with SJ's first husband, leading to the break-up of that marriage. Friend Tanya is doing what she can to help, but she has problems of her own that she must come to terms with. SJ plucks up the courage to see an addiction counsellor, the rather gorgeous Kit, and it is from then on that her life begins to change.

There's a really shocking scene at the start of this book, and then you get the back story showing what led up to those events. It's a real page-turner of a book. Although it is written in third person, you get so close to SJ that it feels like first person, and by the end, SJ seems like a friend. So it's lovely you can then interact with her on Twitter or Facebook - see Della's links above! 

This is a book with some serious messages, but it's written with warmth and humour, from the point of view of a character you really care about. Definitely one that's worth reading. You can buy it here.


Karen said...

Funnily enough I've just written a short story about a character with a drink problem. I've known many people like that, so it's a subject close to my heart too.

I'm off to download your book, which sounds great, and wish you lots of success with it :o)

Della Galton said...

Hi Karen, Thanks so much. I hope you enjoy it - and SJ ;)

Blog Master said...

I've been saying all along, Della, this was the best thing you ever wrote. Now you've pinpointed why it's so good. You were writing about something that brought out passionate feelings within you. And it shows in the immediacy of the writing. Read this novel, people. It's good.

Wendy's Writing said...

I am looking forward to reading this, Della.

Anonymous said...

Alcoholism is not a disease. What total tosh.

womagwriter said...

Anon - oh yes it is. Look up the definition of 'disease':

1. A pathological condition of a part, organ, or system of an organism resulting from various causes, such as infection, genetic defect, or environmental stress, and characterized by an identifiable group of signs or symptoms.
2. A condition or tendency, as of society, regarded as abnormal and harmful.

Blog Master said...

Well said, Womag.

Anonymous said...

Alcoholism is not a disease. Saying it's a disease acts as an excuse. There is no excuse for the harm it does to everyone involved.

Dolores Doolittle said...

Ignoring worthless Anonymous comments, Della, this book sounds very moving and uplifting. And your review, Womag, adds to my keenness to read it.

My brother recently died one of those 'needless premature deaths', but from his many friends we've heard overwhelmingly of his goodness, kindness and great humour. We'll never stop hearing him laughing.

Warmest wishes, Della, to you and those in your family affected by alcoholism, and Success with the book.

Suzanne Ross Jones said...

This sounds like a terrific book. I'm looking forward to reading it.


Mister D said...

Many of us rely on the effects of alcohol to help us get through life's ups and downs, but its hard to stand up and be counted and say that we can't get by without it. Look forward to reading the book.

Anonymous said...

Alcoholism has affected the lives of many in my own family. While I don't feel that alcoholism 'runs' in families I do think that quirky personalities who may find it difficult to cope in a "neuro normal' world do. Alcoholism (or drugs) may be the only thing that eases the inner pain of these 'neuro diverse' individuals. As time moves on we are finding much neurodiversity in our family, Aspergers, Dyspraxia, Dyslexia. Understanding and accepting our differences and having others accept us too may enable us to manage without the substances that dull the pain. I'll be looking at Della's book too.

Della Galton said...

Hi guys, I hope you don't mind me putting a general comment to everyone. I just wanted to say thanks so much for all that you've said. I thought it was very interesting what you said Anonymous. I can see I've chosen a controversial subject. But it is because it's so close to my heart. I care very much about the effects of alcoholism not just on the sufferer but on everyone close to them. Believe me, this book is from my heart. Thanks again.I'd be honoured to hear what anyone thinks of Ice and a Slice at some later stage. If you do read it, please do email me. I'd be delighted to hear from you. (whatever you think - good and bad)

marianh, said...

Agree with y ou completely, anon. My son is mentally handicapped and epileptic. He didn't get these through his own actions. Alcoholics make the decision to drink.

marian h said...

PS. A comment isn't worthless just because it doesn't tally with your opinion, Dolores. And I also had a brother who died of alcoholism. The difference is, he chose it. My son didn't.

womagwriter said...

Alcoholics choose to start drinking, but once they begin to drink they cannot stop. It is a disease, an abnormality, which gives them the 'addictive' personality. They cannot help themselves - they ARE alcholics, just as epileptics or asthmatics can't help themselves having the disease they do. Alcoholics can be cured by just stopping drinking though that is no easy thing to do and I'm sure there are many who would prefer to simply be prescribed some drug which would make them be able to stop after 1 or 2 drinks, like 'normal' people can.
Saying it's a disease is not an excuse. On the contrary, it recognises the seriousness of the problem, and the fact that a solution is needed. One thing I think Della's book puts across very well is the difference between drinking a bit much on social occasions, and being an alcoholic who craves drink and once started, can't stop. Which is the drink which is one too many? For most of us it's the 3rd, 4th, 5th, depending on our tolerance levels. For an alcoholic, it's the first.

Dolores Doolittle said...

Marianh - indeed it isn't. It wasn't that the comment didn't tally with my opinion, it was use of the words 'tosh' & 'excuse' that I found offensive.

Mental disability & epilepsy are of course not brought on by a person's own actions, the same as with many horribly serious illnesses. I don't think awareness and concerns over different diseases are mutually exclusive.

antoniabloomwriting said...

I'd like to read this too.

Alcoholism certainly is a disease which does tear families apart.

Lots of people drink alcohol and nothing happens to them, but for alcoholics that first drink can mean a lifetime of addiction. Who would know it was going to happen to them?

Geraldine Ryan said...

A brilliant post, Della. I think, if you are a writer, one of the first lessons you learn about writing is never to judge. You can't write real, believable characters if you do. I look forward to reading this and will definitely be hopping over to Twitter!

The Novel Factory said...

Wow, I really enjoyed that article. It was so easy to read, I flew to the bottom! Got chills reading that remembered line from the first short story - just shows how few words it takes to have an emotional impact. I started off writing short stories because I thought they were 'easier'. I'm older and wiser now. Thanks so much for sharing your journey, it's really fascinating to those of us at earlier stages...

Anonymous said...

I'm a different anonymous to those that have gone before!
Just read the sample on Amazon - the writing just flows, infinitely readable, as it always does with your short stories. Love that opening scene!

Della Galton said...

Just felt the need to say a couple more things. Thanks Different Anonymous. :)Am bashfully thrilled. Thanks Geraldine. Nice to 'see you' And thanks The Novel factory. It's a brilliant journey, every step, I love it. And thanks most of all to Kath for letting me guest blog.xx