“I adore writing the first words that come to you and having not the faintest idea where their wondrous story is going to take you. I love the sudden flourishes and flurries of ideas that render you sleepless when you start something really amazing – little snippets of story, shards of character and strands of sentences that shine with potential and excitement.”
Katy Gilbert 7 November 2011
The Back Flap
“You keep searching…
This is a book that started as one thing and ended as another. A book that unfurled over a sunny autumn and an icy winter in 2010, lit up by a flicker of hope and a determination to succeed. A book that twisted slightly the deeper inside I looked, a book that healed once it’d uprooted everything it required to become complete.
For me it’s a ray of cold sunshine or an embrace with a shunt in the right path, a smile on bitter lips or a sly breeze in close summer that slits right through.
It’s whatever you need it to mean, you know?
Short pieces, poetry and odd lines; 44 pages of goodness, two full colour covers by Emily Boyle and a lot of heart.”
About the Book
What is the book about?
You Have This Day In Front of You is about adversity and overcoming it. It’s about seizing hold of everything that’s thrown at you and creating something wonderful, having a blast as you do. It’s the second magpie that flies over your head, or the penny that you found in the crack of the pavement. It’s about this life being your life and it’s about whatever you need it to be about for you.
When did you start writing the book?
August 2010, after considering crowd-funding on a car journey through sunny countryside. I thought, ‘I could do that’, so then I did. I’m so glad, it was lots of fun!
How long did it take you to write it?
Till December, right up to the night that it went to print! That didn’t surprise me though, so it was alright. There were a lot of long, late, dark (freezing!) nights, but I wouldn’t take a moment of it back. Besides, it’s England, so you get used to draughty houses and wearing hundreds of layers! Also, my inability to live in a room without keeping at least one window open probably has a little to do with the chill. Fresh air is divine.
Where did you get the idea from?
A message that I wanted to cast out into the world. It came at a time when a lot of people around me seemed to be having real difficulty in life, while I was trying to make the very most of every moment that I was given, despite rather a lot in my world being less than ideal. You have to seize everything brilliant or create it for yourself, otherwise what’s the point? I wanted to share the capacity for joy and the uselessness of resigning yourself to misery – unless you’re enjoying it, of course. I know quite a few people who claim to relish constantly moaning!
Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?
There were a few more difficult pieces. Charity Shop Hearts was one of them, mainly because it has a deliberately restrictive syllable count and rhyming pattern, etc. That was the piece I was finishing at almost midnight on the last day the book could go to print, even though it was the first fresh piece I started for it, sitting on a cold mattress staring at the wall where I was writing it down. It was also tricky because it unexpectedly became something of a catalyst, contributing to what turned out to be one of the most difficult periods of my life; realisation and introspection blossoms through the book, but at the time it was painful. I’m glad that that was my situation during the writing though, because I feel it gives the message I’m presenting integrity that would otherwise have been forgone. It all falls into place in the end.
What came easily?
I had my meadow, one of the opening pieces, came out of nowhere and flowed like a dream. The story behind it was writhing quietly around the back of my mind that day, as I’d been talking it through with one of my best friends late (or early) the night before; unwillingly dragging all of it back up, though the conversation was a remedy. Sitting at my desk, looking out on a gorgeous day, I began to write on a whim, abandoning what I had been working on. In that moment came sudden realisation of what I’d been living with, bottled up deep down for so long, and I felt both angered and liberated. I had my meadow, and it’s second part, finally put all that to rest. I’m pleased. Neither you past nor anyone from it should get to spoil your present for you.
We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?
Since I was a child I’ve loved Jacqueline Wilson and I still thoroughly enjoy her books. I’m a big fan of William Golding’s Lord of The Flies, and Meg Rosoff is another absolute favourite of mine, as is Oscar Wilde. I admire all three for their originality, artful skill, and their disregard of crowds and bandwagons. I love the poetry of John Clare, who I studied with a fantastic English teacher at AS Level, and reading Shakespeare always motivates me. I also love Beatrix Potter dearly – she reminds me to keep the charm alive. As for influence, I think I’d cite these more as inspiration. It’s very important to me that I’m my own person, so I’ll always follow my gut instinct rather than attempting to mimic the style or subject matter of someone else, or similarly conform to what’s in fashion. I like to look on my stories and pieces with fresh eyes and the zing of something brilliant and new in my heart, and you can’t do that if you’re dying to be compared to someone else, or if you keep glancing over your shoulder to check that you’re getting it right. If anything, they’ve encouraged the independent spirit that I’ve always been grateful to have.
Do you have a target reader?
Anyone and everyone! I can’t afford to be picky! No, but seriously, I want to engage anyone who is interested, not discriminate with age groups or genders etc. Each reader who picks up a book of mine and enjoys it is genuinely important to me, and I appreciate them greatly. I don’t want there to be boundaries with who will most likely connect with my work, everyone is welcome.
Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?
I don’t have a process! I write when the ideas come to me, which often means it’s on the back of an ancient receipt that I’ll later find illegible, or ink on my skin which will have disappeared by the time I have any paper to scrawl it down upon. When I was writing my latest novel – which was pretty much over with a year or so ago now, time is terrifying! – I was very strict with myself; I’d write from getting back from school till tea, and then on again till bed. It worked, though looking back it looks brutal! It was my free time, though, and although it was dreadfully tiring sometimes I still loved every moment of it. I like to listen to music often when I write; it’s a tremendously important part of what I do and who I am. People sometimes ask who my greatest writing inspirations are, but many of the people I look up to are actually musicians. Overall, though, I don’t have any process or plan, I’m not a greatly organised person – preferring ‘organised chaos’ – and it would take all the fun and charm out of things for me! I like fate and meaning, sudden sparks, things falling into place, and delight.
Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just Chapter headings and a couple of sentences?
Smoothly continuing from the last question, no! Haha, if I could put my finger on one thing in this way of life more unbearable to me – personally – than having a process, it would be planning stories (or indeed my poetry). I just can’t sit down and outline what is going to happen or how I am going to present it and how each character will react to each certain, placed situation – so often have characters fallen into life from nowhere in the middle of writing, or story lines materialised from my finger tips at any given point. I adore writing the first words that come to you and having not the faintest idea where their wondrous story is going to take you. I love the sudden flourishes and flurries of ideas that render you sleepless when you start something really amazing – little snippets of story, shards of character and strands of sentences that shine with potential and excitement. I’d hate to spoil the unrivalled joy that there is to be found in that; I don’t even want to attempt to plan things out unless it’s necessary for the kind of book that I am writing. Of course this approach means that the writing takes longer to finish, but it also feels a lot more dear to me as well, and that shows in the story, right through each page. It’s like sunlight, that joy.
Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?
As I go, and again and again once I’m done, until I’m completely happy. I always want to be proud of what I release, so I have to check!
Did you hire a professional editor?
No…as I’ve just dubiously mentioned I have to trust myself. With that in hand, if you want to see a hilarious and completely unpredictable result of this in video form, with me discovering a value-enhancing and character-endowing tiny mistake in the first edition of You Have This Day In Front of You, it’s up for your entertainment on my YouTube channel, /katygilb. Quality production.
Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?
Music is so important to me, and while I was writing my young adult novel I was listening to two of my all time favourite artists, Vanessa Carlton and Ingrid Michaelson – both of whom I love beyond rating. To me, their music feels like home. I was also playing a lot of the wonderfully talented Tegan and Sara, as well as brilliant Fall Out Boy, who were brilliant.
Right now, alongside all of the above, I’m really into some newer people that I’m coming across, too. I think Ed Sheeran is fantastic, I love Ellie Goulding’s sound, and I think Ke$ha is fantastic fun, as is the very talented Tinie Tempah. Imelda May’s style rules, Jessie J is wicked, I’m getting more into Coldplay recently, and I’ve swiftly fallen in love with Emmy The Great. Also, although it really doesn’t seem to correlate with my rather lacking romantic side I’m getting quite into Taylor Swift too, haha! Then there are people I’ve known for a lot longer who I absolutely adore: Skye Sweetnam, Allison Weiss, Nerina Pallot, Sara Bareilles, Lelia Broussard, Jenny Owen Youngs, Bess Rogers, Lauren Zettler, Katy Perry, Chipmunk, Nelly Furtado, Katy Rose, Michelle Branch, Kate Nash, Katie Melua, Frou Frou… There are so many, but they’re all so good! Finally, of course, since about six years old I’ve been a dedicated S Club 7 supporter. Never forget.
Did you submit your work to Agents?
Not in the case of You Have This Day In Front of You or any of my other indie pieces. They feel like a separate kind of work to me; they were built for the independent part of my world. My novel wasn’t, however, so I’m constantly approaching both agents and publishers, which is a lovely process.
What made you decide to go Indie? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?
Impatience! As I said earlier, I would never have been able to live with myself if I’d just sat at home, waiting with my fingers crossed. I’m a real believer in making it happen and so I commit myself to that every day. I also relish the challenge of getting somewhere as an independent artist; I love to work hard and I want to earn and deserve any success that I do achieve. For me, that is what will bring integrity and real worth to any joys that unfold in the future. I think that the entire experience is an exceptionally worthwhile one that thoroughly shapes you as a person. It raises the bar of what you’re capable of, as well as the confidence you have in yourself.
Did you get your book cover professionally done or did it you do it yourself?
A combination! I’m fortunate enough to have a very good friend who doubles as an artist – Emily Boyle (www.sesamoia.tumblr.com). For You Have This Day In Front of You I took the photographs and Emily edited them, as well as designing the border within the book. For my free downloads, Cut knee, age three and Love/song, I did the art myself – there’s actually a video of me creating the set for Cut knee on my YouTube channel. Love/song was a horrifically glittery, kitten-covered, sarcastic affair – it was so much fun to create. The fact that I genuinely nearly failed my Art AS level shouldn’t put you off, though; my enthusiasm makes up for the lack of meeting assessment objectives! Emily and I are pairing up again for my new project, too. I’m thoroughly looking forward to working with her again, she’s so talented, enthusiastic and hilarious. The biggest challenge will probably be to stop laughing and actually get the covers done!
Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?
This is such a great question! I do have a plan and I work on promotion constantly, whether on a significant campaigns or in general, day to day updates that have to be maintained to keep everything shiny and new. It’s one of those things that leaves you with so much less time to actually write than you’d expect! That said, I like the idea of winging it sometimes, as far as seeing what happens and what works. It’s a lot of fun to have bright ideas out of the blue and just go with them because you can, and you think they’ll work.
Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?
Definitely! I think the most important thing is to hurl yourself into it with all the passion you possess, because it’s all you have to keep you afloat. It can be stressful and frustrating, and it’s always very hard work, but when you really love something and you put the effort in, if it’s meant to be it will always be rewarding. Make the effort to enjoy every moment, because the journey’s a massive part of your life too! Be prepared to deal with the legions of people who didn’t follow their dreams to start suggesting that you ‘get a real job’, and don’t let them persuade you to give up on yours. That we’re alive is such an incredible opportunity, and we have way too little time to waste it compromising or failing to create as many amazing moments as we can. Seize onto what means the most to you and have the time of your life.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Staffordshire, England, alongside oatcakes and bull terriers. It’s not very well known, but geographically it’s in the middle, if that helps!
Where do you live now?
Stafford, still! I haven’t moved out yet and I couldn’t afford to anyway, so. I’m not sure where or whether I’d choose to move to if I could. I love the seaside; I always feel very at home when I’m next to the sea, so perhaps somewhere coastal. I’d miss the Midlands though, it feels so right to come back when I’ve been away for any length of time.
What would you like readers to know about you?
Probably some important, life-enhancing trivia or something. Perhaps that the one thing I’m quite good at drawing is Billy Casper out of Kes (film adaption of A Kestrel For A Knave)? People say that ‘there’s a good likeness’. That or that I’m very grateful for them sticking with my interview for this long. You’re the best.
What are you working on now?
Right now I’m focussing on resurrecting my website, which was lost to the Internet last month.
I’ll be catching up with my next project! It’s a non-fiction book on ‘beauty’; a challenge to the dreadfully distorted perception that’s presented and accepted by the media and society. It won’t just be a focus on teenage girls and being skinny, though, and I promise it won’t be me preaching at you either!
The project is for anyone who has ever felt less than completely comfortable and confident in themselves, embracing rather than dividing by age, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, nationality, etc. This book will be a celebration, and I want it to be fun, too. Gorgeous in body and soul. I’m so excited to share it and everyone can get involved! I’m currently accepting submissions of people’s views on the subject, so please do get in touch – there are contact details on my website – (you’ll win prizes for doing so, wicked)!
End of Interview
Check out Katy’s website and you can buy her book here, where two free downloads can also be found.