How did you become a writer?
I grew up loving books, and always wanted to "make one." On the way I worked in a variety of occupations that had to do with book publishing. I was a typesetter (back in the day), a ghost writer, an editor. I dreamt of owning a bookstore, but wisely realized it would be the wrong vocation for me because I couldn't bear the thought of selling a book, seeing it go out the door.
I had always intended to write a novel, but it wasn't until I turned 40 that I got serious about it. I was working as an editor at the time, and happened to read a self-help book that advised one to imagine the words on one's tombstone. The words that flashed before me were: "She never got around to it." I didn't want that to be me, and so I began writing every day.
Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).
Being entranced by fine writing, over and over and over, is key to developing an "ear" for prose. One novel in particular influenced me: "A Walk with Love and Death" by Hans Koning. Each sentence of that novel is spare and beautifully simple.
When I became serious about writing, I bought a stack of books on how to go about it. "A Writer's Time" by Ken Atchity was particularly helpful, giving simple-to-follow instructions. Writing a novel is such an unmanageable task, it helps to begin with a stack of index cards: something tangible.
I continue to turn to my shelf of books on writing at various stages of the process. I have over 75 such books now (!), and I have learned something from each of them.
Janette Turner Hospital and Jane Urquhart, fine writers and teachers, were extremely helpful at key moments.
When and where do you write?
I begin writing first thing in the morning, and I usually turn to other tasks in the afternoon. I rise early, so by noon I will have put in a full day. I work in a room that's my designated office space. I will sit at a desk, or on a couch, or stretched out on a twin bed, always with my laptop computer.
I am fairly mechanical in my method: I keep a small diary in which I write down the time, and the number of words in the manuscript. Then I commit to a certain number of words for that day. I do not permit myself to call it a day until I've reached my goal. Usually I will fly over, and award myself with silly stars.
What are you working on now?
I am working on two novels right now. One I've been writing for over 4 years, and it's close to being finished. The working title is IN THE SERVICE OF THE SHADOW QUEEN. It's a historical novel set during the reign Louis XIV, the Sun King, and involves the theatrical, magical and courtly worlds of the time. It's to be published in the spring of 2014. The other I've yet to begin, but I'm thinking about it a lot. (Yes, I have a stack of index cards.) It will be a Young Adult novel about Hortense de Beauharnais, Josephine Bonaparte's daughter.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? Never!
What’s your advice to new writers?
In a word: persevere. Collect rejection letters. Keep going. Never give up.
Sandra Gulland is the author of four internationally-published historical novels: The Josephine B. Trilogy and Mistress of the Sun. A TV mini-series based on the Trilogy is in the works. Sandra has recently launched an e-book publishing venture—Sandra Gulland INK—in order to ensure that her novels continue to be available to readers worldwide. She and her husband live half the year in rural Ontario, Canada, and half in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. For information about the author, her work and INK publications, see her website: www.SandraGulland.com. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.