Thursday, 19 July 2012

Guest Post: Gillian Hamer on crossing genres

Rule breaking in fiction - how to write the book you want to read!
By Gillian Hamer

Thanks to Gillian Hamer for this guest post

The journey to get my novel, The Charter, into print has been a long and rocky road. It wasn’t until I felt confident enough to approach agents that I realised I’d committed quite a few cardinal sins in writing the story I wanted to write, all about a shipwreck off the coast of Anglesey, which has long fascinated me.

Apparently, in publishing, there are rules; a lot of rules. And one of the most fundamental rules in ensuring the success or failure of your novel is ‘though shalt not cross genres’.

I didn’t know this when I wrote The Charter almost five years ago. In fact, I didn’t know much about the world of publishing. I simply wrote a story I’d had in my head for 20 years, crossing modern-day crime fiction with a hint of paranormal and a dollop of historical backdrop.

It’s all to do with marketing, so I’m told; the fact that readers like order. If they like crime, they want to read crime. If they like historical fiction, they only read that. Personally, I think that’s a load of tosh. I love books that have an element of surprise, which leave you confused (in a good way) and breathless as the story unravels. I think of Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger as a good example. Those who have read it will surely agree with me that they reached the end not entirely sure of what they’d just read – but adoring it all the same.

Now, I’m no Sarah Waters, of course, but that must surely point to there being a market of cross-genre books, or novels that don’t quite fit the mould. You’d think? But, no! Although the story, or perhaps my writing, gained the interest of two agents and went through numerous rewrites – removing ghosts, adding ghosts, removing ghosts – it became clear, when my current agent gave it the thumbs down, that my book had come to the end of its journey down the traditional publishing highway.

So, if I wanted to see The Charter in print, I had to go down the independent publishing route. Last year, I decided to do just that, and formed Triskele Books with two other talented authors in a similar position to my own.

Why did I bother?

I’ve had close connections with the island of Anglesey, off the North Wales coast, all my life. It’s a place that fascinates and never fails to thrill me. You cannot take a drive around Anglesey without passing a Neolithic burial chamber along the side of the road. Even the Druids based themselves there, creating a centre of excellence on the island.

For as many years as I can remember, when driving along the A5025 coastal road, traversing the eastern side of the island, I can recall hearing the story of the victims of the Royal Charter ship every time I passed Llanallgo Church. The  majority of the victims were buried in the cemetery of this church and it features heavily in my book.

I also remember new reports and articles over the years when excited divers allegedly found Australian gold off Point Lynas, where the ship had hit the rocks. I even have a vivid memory of metal detecting as a child with a family friend, who lived on the island, somewhere on Red Wharf Bay. He convinced me that the shiny pennies I kept digging up were treasure from the Royal Charter. Years later, I discovered that my friend had been the source of the hoard.

I think when a person, topic or legend has fascinated you all your life, any story that you can create, as a writer, around its existence will always mean a lot to you. So, if I could bring the legend of the shipwreck to a greater audience and also write about a part of the country I loved, then it was a no-brainer for me.

And, if it meant breaking a multitude of publishing rules and regulations along the way then it was just too bad!

Book blurb

Sarah Morton hopes that discovering the truth about the 1859 wreck of the Royal Charter will silence the demons of her past. But, tormented by visions and threats on her life, Sarah fears the ship may claim her as its final victim.


Born in the industrial Midlands, Gillian’s heart has always yearned for the pull of the ocean and the wilds of North Wales. A company director, Gillian has been writing as a hobby all of her life, but after taking a creative writing course a decade ago, she decided to take her writing to another level and sought representation. She has completed six full-length novels, split between straight crime and her mix of paranormal thrillers. 
   Gillian is also a regular columnist for literary magazine Words with Jam, and in that role she has been lucky enough to interview a cross-section of authors, from Ann Cleeves to Michael Morpurgo.
   Gillian splits her time between Birmingham and a remote cottage on Anglesey, where she spends far too much time dreaming of being the next Agatha Christie, and can be found walking her Jack Russell, Maysie, on deserted beaches. In her spare time she is a regular theatre-goer, avid reader and curious traveller! 
   Her novel, The Charter, was launched in June 2012, under Triskele Books, an author’s collective set up by Gillian and a group of fellow writers. Her straight crime novels are represented by Shelley Powers of the Shelley Powers Literary Agency.


Twitter: @Gill1H or @triskelebooks
Facebook: Gillian Hamer or Triskele Books


  1. It's unfortunate that you wasted so much time contending with the sometimes-rigid and blinkered people who dominate the traditional print industry. Your story gives me encouragement to bypass them from the start and self-publish right away. Our responsibility is to our readers, and not to some self-important intermediary. Congratulations on having gone the micropublishing route. On a negative note, thanks to buggy code at my blog host, Wordpress,i am not able to sign this comment using my Wordpress credentials, and that bothers me, but it's not your fault.

    1. Thanks for stopping by & commenting :)
      Naughty WordPress!


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