After reading The Chosen Seven & Melita, I could not resist talking to Gill D. Anderson, the author of both of these books. So, imagine my delight, when she agreed to have a conversation with me. This is one of the most heartfelt interviews on my blog. She has opened up about her personal life, writing process, the source of inspiration for her characters, and tips for aspiring writers. Let’s welcome the very talented Gill D. Anderson to our family.
Melita is a character that has many layers. She was not a bitter person at birth. Circumstances transformed her from a vibrant young girl to a difficult woman. The depth of this character is astounding. How did you come up with the idea for this character?
Melita is definitely the most complex character I’ve written. While she is a fictional character, there are some elements of her that were taken from my own observations of a particular woman. I’ve also been privy to many different types of parenting styles as a social worker so as with any fictional character, you take small snippets of traits you have observed from various real life women in order to make a fictitious person.
Due to coming from a broken home and a family full of estrangement, I wanted to demonstrate how bitterness can destroy relationships. There are certain words and actions that can never be taken back and may cause everlasting damage. Melita goes through significant trauma and hardships in her life. While there is no excuse for her taking this out on her daughter Emily, the reader would struggle to discount that her trauma background is a contributing factor for her behavior all the same. The common characteristics of bitter people are the need to intentionally make others suffer, wading in self-pity and the need to be constantly drowning in animosity and resentment. Melita is a narcissist whose bitterness settles in when she continually focuses on her anger and resentment over several significant emotional “violations” that have happened to her in the past.
In order to depict Melita’s personality, I researched the traits of bitterness and noted a common theme where bitter people’s perception of damage and the extent of their vengeful response to the original slight can seem exceedingly out of proportion to the reality of what occurred. Once bitterness settles in, it can become all-consuming with someone who does not have the tools in place to release it. In this case, it makes Melita do and say the most destructive irrational, and self-defeating things.
I’m particularly fascinated by the saying ‘Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.’ We see these destructive patterns in families all the time and I think this is why Melita is resonating with so many people. A number of readers who have provided feedback have said that the book made them emotional as it was so raw and poignant or that it reminded them of someone in their own family. On that note, I absolutely love hearing from readers and always respond to messages in relation to feedback – including constructive criticism. I’m constantly learning and growing by listening to the readers’ points of view.
I have had the pleasure of reading two of your books, The Chosen Seven (which is a crime thriller fiction novel) and Melita (which is a suspense/drama fiction novel), Both novels are very different in both genre and content. What inspired you to write in different genres for each book? While we are on the subject, what inspired you to write The Chosen Seven?
I didn’t set out to be a multi-genre writer, it just kind of happened on its own, I think I was as surprised as anyone else! Prior to writing The Chosen Seven, I read Inside the Lindt Café Siege written by the journalist/reporter Deborah Snow. On 15 December 2014, the unthinkable happened. A terrorist attack occurred in Australia. An Islamic State-inspired gunman held his captives in a terrifying siege situation that kept the nation glued to the media coverage. Two hostages were killed and three were seriously wounded. The survivors’ lives were changed forever.
The book had a profound effect on me, I could not stop thinking about the myriad of emotions that would run through your head as a hostage, coupled with the terror of trying to reason with the person holding your life at stake. It inspired me to write my own fictional siege story and tap into the psychology and mindset of the hostages who vary greatly in personality types and character traits. It allowed me to do what I enjoy, which is to psychoanalyze each character and allow the readers to learn and understand each person’s back story, their individual motivations, and consequent quirks and traits.
With Melita, the story just took on a life of its own. I didn’t set out to make it a particular genre. It was clear by the end that it was more of a drama fiction/suspense novel. It has also been categorized as women’s fiction by some, yet I’m getting positive feedback from a few men who are reading it so that’s great! I enjoy hearing how people interpret the messages in Melita in different ways. A reader pointed out the other day that Melita is not just about the mother and daughter relationship as the dynamics of the story end up affecting the other important people in the main character’s lives too.
You are a master of creating characters with emotional depth. Is there a story behind your acute observation and understanding of human emotions – how did you develop these skills?
I’ve always been fascinated by people and the life stories that shape who they are. From a young age, I’ve observed people’s idiosyncrasies closely and as I grew older, I wondered about nature versus nature debate (how much of your personality is innate versus how much life events and familial patterns shape who you become). My background in social work and studies of sociology and human development have also strengthened my understanding of the theories behind each human emotion.
I believe that everyone is fighting some sort of battle the rest of us know nothing about. We are all guilty of looking at each other and thinking someone ‘has it all’ not knowing the demons that person may be carrying around with them. I’m a believer in making someone’s day better with a kind word, a smile, or a compliment. I come across a lot of people that make this a challenge when they are rude or unfriendly. I never make this about me and instead my imagination goes into overdrive about what might be going on for them.
What is your journey of becoming an author?
I’ve written since I was a young child. It started off with poems, songs, and short stories and once my girls grew up, I realized that there was nothing holding me back from writing a full novel. It was a challenge because I still have a day job but once I turned on that creative faucet, it was hard to turn it off and there was no stopping me! I can write a story very quickly, it’s the editing process that strings out the whole process. It does take a lot of determination and dedication to see the whole process through from start to finish but the end result is always so worth it.
There are so many aspiring authors who lack the courage to put forth their work, what would you advise them?
Just write from the heart and don’t worry about what others think because you cannot please all of the people all of the time. My novels all have controversial themes and there are always going to be people who get offended at various aspects of this. It can be a little daunting waiting on feedback but I’ve also learned never to take criticism from someone I’d never go to for advice.
I say feel the fear and do it anyway! At the very least you would have tried and even if a book isn’t successful, it still a huge achievement to complete one and actually publish it. Fear of failure is something I’m guilty of too, but I’d rather know that I’d tried and failed than always wondered what if! For me, the scary part is when I think about all the friends, family, and colleagues who have my book in their possession and I don’t hear anything for ages! I start to wonder if it’s their polite way of saying the book isn’t for them…. But the reality is people are busy and often times they haven’t found time to read it yet! As the writer, you sit there with bated breath waiting for feedback and reviews (impatience is my worst trait at the best of times!) so I’d say don’t get stressed if this isn’t forthcoming. Just be patient and don’t check for reviews compulsively like I did the first time around!
In relation to yourself – who is Gill D Anderson, the woman behind the novels?
This is a hard question! I find it hard to describe myself in a nutshell. I was born and raised in Edinburgh Scotland and while I love living in Adelaide, South Australia, my place of birth will always have a place in my heart. Like many fellow Scots, I have a cheeky sense of humor, like a good laugh and tend to ‘tell it as it is’ which means I’m direct and don’t sugar coat what I’m trying to say!
Aside from writing, I enjoy working out and eating out in equal measures so never become quite as svelte as I’d like…. But life is for living – now more than ever! I value time with my family and making special memories while we can. According to personality tests, I’m an ambivert which means I have traits of both an introvert and an extrovert. I find this interesting because it’s true that I can be feisty yet can also seem reserved. I can be assertive yet also have a vulnerable side. So just like some of the characters I write, I am many things!
I find it fascinating that different friends bring out various facets of my personality – I think we can all relate to this. I have intellectual friends who bring out my brainy side, friends who act the clown, and bring out my fun side and hippy friends that bring out my spiritual side. My point is that no two people will view us in the same way because we all draw out different traits in each other. This is another thing I factor in when creating characters.
I try to live a simple life and am always working on myself to be the best version I can be. I’m a strong believer in karma and always treat others as I’d like to be treated.
I’m partial to champagne, rose wine, chili chocolate, and chili crisps – actually anything with chili, especially Asian inspired dishes. I’m obsessed with cocker spaniel dogs and have a beautiful 9-year-old black cocker named Mac. He rules in our house! Both my daughters are now adults so it’s nice to have a fur baby around for cuddles and companionship when my husband is at work. I’m thankful and grateful for all I have and count my blessings daily.
Thank you so much, Gill D. Anderson for fitting me into your busy schedule and having this heart to heart with me. It has been an absolutely delightful conversation. I wish you loads of success with your books. Also, I can’t wait to read your next book in the near future.
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