Let’s all welcome author Gabriella West to the Friday Author Feature. Gabriella West is the author of The Leaving.
At 15, Cathy Quinn is an intelligent misfit living in 1980s Dublin. As the book opens she discovers that her charming older brother Stevie, who’s gay, is falling in love with the one boy in school whom she likes. Over her last two years of school, Cathy struggles with her dysfunctional family, coming to terms with her powerful attraction to her best friend Jeanette, and leaving Ireland. “The Leaving” is a realistic, yet lyrical, look at adolescence and first love.
Above all, the novel offers a close look at two siblings growing up in conservative, recession-plagued Dublin in the 1980s, when homosexuality was still taboo, and being different was not tolerated.
Find The Leaving on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Goodreads
Visit Gabriella West’s website
How long have you been writing?
I started writing fiction in my teens, so about 30 years now. Which seems unbelievable.
What inspired you to write this book?
“The Leaving” was inspired by my own adolescent experiences of growing up in Ireland in the 1980s, feeling like an outsider, being bullied in school… I also fell in love with my best friend as a teen, which was overwhelming and was something I felt I couldn’t confide in anyone about. I fell in love and had the painful experiences of desire and rejection before I put any kind of LGBT label on myself. But even when I knew who I was, I still felt terribly isolated with it.Writing “The Leaving” over a number of years in my twenties was incredibly cathartic. And this was before I had ever heard the term Young Adult; I didn’t set out to write a Young Adult book, just an autobiographical novel which leaves the main character in a place of open-ended transition at the end (rather than despair).
Which character is your favorite and why?
The character of Paul, a young, HIV-positive gay man, was my favorite character when I was writing the book. He’s the only one who is on the level and doesn’t want to “get” anything from Cathy. I made him a Buddhist, too, and that was before I had really explored Buddhism myself. I just wanted him to be different from the other characters in the book. And he really is the ultimate outsider.
What advice do you have for young authors?
The most helpful advice I have is to find a writing group. I was in one starting in my early twenties that lasted for about thirteen years. It’s so easy to start to lose faith in yourself, so the fact that there are people out there who consistently believe in your writing and encourage you is enormously important.It’s so easy now to put out work digitally and feel like you are having a big impact on your fanbase. That’s great, but remember to listen to feedback about your work from peers and teachers that might be coming from a more objective place. I know that my own writing has changed as I’ve gotten older and life has changed me. My writing has become more attentive to physical detail, more grounded. So you will change and your writing will change, and that’s just part of the process.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love hikes in wooded trails or near the ocean. I like just sitting out in the garden getting some sun and listening to the birds. I love reading, of course.On a less lofty level, I really enjoy reality shows like “Top Chef” and “The Amazing Race,” because I can immerse myself in characters … and that’s a great pleasure for me.
Thanks to Gabriella West for stopping by the Friday Author Feature!