by Gail Aldwin
The purpose of writing a novel is to reach readers and share the experiences set out in the story. It starts with an idea floating in the air like a dandelion seed. Sometimes ideas are easy to catch and hold, at other times they slip and vanish. Once an idea takes root, I keep in mind the readers who might one day clasp the novel in their hands. In writing The Secret Life of Carolyn Russell, which uses the voices of a vulnerable teenager and a menopausal journalist, I wanted to show how experiences echo over time and in this way build up resonance with readers. If this was my aim, how did I set about doing it?
- Relatable characters
By writing about women characters of different ages, I wanted to show that insecurities exist at any time in a woman’s personal development. The many firsts that a teenager experiences as they enter the adult world are also faced by an older career woman who goes through a whole range of emotions when she is fired. Likewise, the impetuosity of youth can also find a place in maturity when life feels out of kilter. The purpose of drawing out the similarities of experience across the age range is to convey a message about how life exerts challenges no matter the season of our lives.
- Overcoming barriers
It is a writer’s job to create characters we love and then make them suffer. This is not for the purpose of highlighting another’s pain but to show that by drawing on inner resilience, we can overcome the obstacles that life throws at us. The novels I write are about accepting challenges. My characters make fresh starts and experience new beginnings in surprising ways.
- Emotional journey
As an author, I step into the shoes of my characters in order to embrace their anxieties, joys and ambitions which enables me to write about them. By creating relatable characters and realistic challenges, it is my aim that readers also experience the high points and pitfalls of the journey. Words on the page carry the characters and the reader to the apex of the story and the resolution that follows.
- Smile at the ironies
In getting to know the characters, readers find it’s possible to predict some of their actions, feel embarrassment or the joy of an achievement. The genre of psychological fiction allows a whole range of emotions to be shared. In The Secret Life of Carolyn Russell, I want readers to smile at the characters’ silly mistakes which creates lightness against a backdrop of challenging circumstances.
- Tightly woven plot
The plot is the engine of the story which keeps the characters moving from one set of circumstances to another. As a novelist, it is the obstacles I place in their way that create jeopardy. I want readers to experience heightened emotions as they cheerlead the characters towards their goals.
For The Secret Life of Carolyn Russell, I planned the novel in the way one might experience walking the paths of a hedge maze. You can see through the branches but it’s impossible to reach an alternative path until a gap appears. There are dead ends and double backs, times to meander and others to race. I want readers to accompany the characters, experience the journey, and strive to reach the center of the maze where they’ll discover the beating heart of the story.
Novelist, poet and scriptwriter, Gail Aldwin has been writing for over a decade. Her first two coming-of-age novels were runners-up in the Dorchester Literary Festival Writing Prize 2020 and 2022. Gail was awarded a creative writing PhD in 2018 and still laughs whenever she’s called Doctor Gail. She has appeared at Bridport Literary Festival, Stockholm Writers Festival and the Mani Lit Fest in Greece. Her psychological suspense mystery The Secret Life of Carolyn Russell is published by Bloodhound Books. Gail splits her time between a tiny flat in South West London and a home overlooking water meadows in Dorset, UK.
Gail is active on social media and loves connecting with readers and writers. Do get in touch.