Want to talk about ‘slow writing’? Well, welcome – you’ve found the right site.
I write novels slowly. Very slowly. I began writing my debut novel for adults, Not Thomas, in 2001 after it had been percolating for ten years in my head. I finished it in 2015.
It’s the story of Tomos, a young boy longing to return to the place he calls home, but living instead with his neglectful mother. It’s written from Tomos’s point of view and based on my teaching experiences.
I started with the opening scene then wrote the very last line. Neither has been changed. The bits in between I wrote in random order.
Tomos’s mum, Ree, remained a sketchy character, right up until I’d almost finished the novel. She lurked in the background, pencilled in, making Tomos’s life much worse than need be. I was afraid if I gave Ree more rein, she’d take the story and hijack it. I wanted the novel to be about Tomos. I wanted it to be a child’s view of life.
I didn’t work on Not Thomas daily, or even monthly. It was a pet project I kept on my laptop. I dipped in and out of writing it while I concentrated on getting my children’s books published.
I wasn’t in a hurry. After all, no one was ever going to read it because it was in the voice of a child – a five-year-old child – and what adult would want to read that?
Then in 2010, Emma Donoghue made me rethink. She published Room and it had a five-year-old’s viewpoint. It did really well. It turned out adults wanted to read a novel with a young child’s point of view after all. I speeded up – a bit – and finished Not T.
Honno Press, the second publisher I approached, accepted it in 2016. Caroline Oakley, who’d been Ian Rankin’s editor at Orion for many years, edited Not Thomas and was happy to keep the view point as I’d written it. It was published in July of this year.
So slow writing worked for me. I eventually got my novel finished and, thankfully, published – a novel I never thought would see the light of day. If I’m ever lucky enough to meet Ms Donoghue, I’ll buy her a latte or two.
That’s the background to Not Thomas. Here’s some info about me:
Sara Gethin is a pen name – in real life I’m Wendy White.
I write for children under that name, and my debut children’s book was lucky enough to win the Tir na-nog Award in 2014.
I grew up in Llanelli, an industrial town in west Wales, and took a degree in Philosophy & Theology.
I don’t remember why now – English was my real love.
I’ve worked as a library assistant, a childminder and a primary school teacher. My first teaching posts, back in the early 90s, were in disadvantaged areas, and the poverty and neglect I witnessed left a lasting impression.
I write full time now, and yes, I have speeded up. Home is still west Wales, although I’ve swapped industrial living for a small town with a large castle.
If I could live anywhere else, I’d choose Ireland.
My husband and I spend as much free time as we can over there – drifting between the wonderful theatres, pubs and bookshops of Dublin.
One of my favourite bookstores in Dublin: The Winding Stair, near the Ha’penny Bridge
Sara’s debut novel ‘Not Thomas’ – a story of neglect, love and hope, shown through the eyes of a child – is published by Honno Press in paperback and as an e-book, and is available to buy direct from the publisher, from Amazon and from all good bookshops.