Today I’m over the moon to welcome fellow KI author Gillian O’Rourke to the blog. Gillian’s debut novel, “The Reluctant Prophet” was published at the beginning of September, and she kindly agreed to submit to some gentle interrogation…
Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born in Scotland, but moved to Australia with my parents and brother when I was two. So I grew up in lovely, sunny Melbourne and worked there as a nurse. In 2007, I moved to Ireland with my husband, where I now work as a Social Care Worker in Intellectual Disabilities. We have three crazy dogs and try to grow some of our own fruit and veg. I’ve been writing on and off since my teens, but a couple of years ago, I thought ‘feck it’ I want to make something of this. I have to say, I’ve been very fortunate finding a publisher as quickly as I did.
Your first novel, “The Reluctant Prophet”, was released at the beginning of September. Could you please tell us a little bit about the book – no spoilers!
The Reluctant Prophet is a story told from the point-of-view of seventeen year old Esther, a young woman beginning her journey as a newly ordained priestess. Esther is a prophet and her gift/curse of foresight is something sought after by the nobility. The unfortunate thing for Esther is that she can only see the futures of the people around her and never her own. Needless to say, this spells disaster for Esther. In some ways it’s a coming of age tale, but it’s also a story of sacrifice, faith and courage. I’ll say no more than that – no spoilers!
How have you developed your characters? Do you have a favourite character?
I guess because the story is written from Esther’s POV I have a closeness to her character, but I also have a fondness for two other characters. Hadrian is the one of the main male protagonists: he’s strong-willed and determined, but can be gentle when he needs to be. Daralis is the other character. She’s protective and stubborn, but also has an undiminished brightness that helps Esther along, even though she has her own struggles. I enjoyed writing them a lot.
What is your favourite part of writing? Which parts do you find easy? Is there any particular aspect of writing that you struggle with, and how have you overcome it?
My favourite part of writing is sitting down and finding myself immersed in the story. It’s probably the easiest part of writing, where I can just type away without much thought or care for anything else. The part I struggle with are the edits. I’m never one-hundred percent sure I’ve used the correct grammar, but some of my bad habits are getting better. I’ve learned a lot working with editor, Zoe Harris of Grimbold Books. Taking note of her suggestions I believe has helped, so hopefully, my next work won’t need so much correcting in that way!
What made you want to be a writer? What were your favourite books growing up?
I always loved writing stories at school and reading, so I think it was a natural progression to want to write as well. My mum and dad always encouraged me to pursue my creative side, so I think that really developed my love of writing. I had so many favourite books growing up, it’s hard to pick one, but I think Isobelle Carmody’s, Obernewtyn Series, swayed my writing towards fantasy.
I confess I’ve never heard of Isobelle Carmody – could you tell me a bit more about her work?
Isobelle Carmody is an Australian writer of children and YA novels. She writes fantasy, her most well-known books are probably her Obernewtyn Series, which she started as a teenager. It is a dystopian/post-apocalyptic work, whose central character, Elspeth, a ‘Misfit,’ has special mind powers. The series follows her and her Misfit friends, as she pieces together threads of the past so she can destroy the weapons, which almost destroyed earth and save the future. It has a very medieval feel to it, and loads of fantastic ideas – mind talking animals, humans with different mind talents; coercers, healers, future tellers, empaths . . . The book also explores prejudice, religious indoctrination, has hints of romance and the series still isn’t complete! I read the first three Obernewtyn books nearly twenty years ago and it’s still one of my favourite series. There is also a strong undercurrent of environmental issues and animal welfare in her novels.
Do you have any tips for other first-time writers? You and I share a publisher – what was your experience like working with Kristell Ink?
I think the main thing is to write and keep writing. And let people read your work. For a long time, I never let anyone read my stuff, but when I decided to, I was pleasantly surprised by the response. It helped my confidence in that respect.
And working with Kristell Ink has been an amazing experience. It’s really a delight to work with Sammy and Zoe. They are so passionate about the books they decide to publish and really believe in the authors. It’s like a little family of its own, where we all help each other out. I really don’t think I could be luckier in being a part of it and very grateful for having the opportunity to work with them.
What was your journey to publication? How long did it take?
To be honest, I was very fortunate in this respect and it took 6-7 months of trying all up. I had never really let anyone read my work, but I thought I’d put it on a writers’ community site first for a while. The manuscript was a paranormal mystery and it was received well, to my surprise. So I thought, maybe I’ll see if a publisher might be interested in it.
I sent several queries out to agents and publishers, but never heard a thing back (Surprise, surprise). Through the writers’ site, I heard about Holland House Books, who had a mystery imprint. I contacted Robert Peett, who said to send it in. It was Robert who asked me whether I wrote anything else during a conversation. Although the paranormal book wasn’t what his imprint worked on, he liked my style of writing. I told him I wrote fantasy and had a manuscript, (which was The Reluctant Prophet) and he said Kristell Ink was a fantasy imprint I could send it in to. It was passed onto Sammy Smith and she asked me for the full. Within a month she contacted me to say she loved it and I was offered a contract.
So maybe it was fate? I don’t know. I wasn’t even attempting to publish the fantasy manuscript, but I guess it all worked out as it was meant to.
Can you share some of your favourite books and movies of the last few years?
I think I’ll just list them, it’ll make things easier!
Books – The Devil’s Diadem, Sara Douglass or anything by her.
Anything written by Juliet Marillier, Trudi Canavan, Fiona McIntosh or Isobelle Carmody. (That doesn’t narrow books down much, but I love pretty much all their books).
The Green Mile, Stephen King.
The Reapers are the Angels, Alden Bell
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte (favourite book of all time)
Movies – Amelie
The Shawshank Redemption
Sweet Home Alabama
What are your plans for your next book?
I’m currently working on the second book in the series. It takes place twenty-five years after the story of The Reluctant Prophet. Its main character is different, but some of the protagonists of the first story will be seen or mentioned. It’s called The Sinner’s Daughter. I’m currently re-writing a huge section of the book, but the cut and rewrite had to happen. I think it will be a much more harrowing and realistic story this way and it will tidy a couple of threads left from the first book, although I am trying to write each one so they can be seen as stand-alone stories. My goal is to have it finished by the end of the year, so fingers crossed I’ll reach my goal!
You can stalk Gillian on social media on Twitter : @gillywrites
and on her website :http://gillianorourke.com/
and you can buy “The Reluctant Prophet” here (ebook) : http://www.wizardstowerbooks.com/collections/kristell-ink/products/the-reluctant-prophet-gillian-orourke
for a mere £2.99, should you desire it.