Life hasn’t lived up to their expectations. Love has let them down. But art has
brought them together. And it’s never too late to learn lessons.
Four very different individuals meet once a week to draw the human figure. They each come to realise that it’s not just the naked model they need to examine and understand. They all have to secrets they hide from the world and from themselves. They each need to uncover and confront the past before they can make sense of the present and, ultimately, navigate a new path into the future.
Dory “works in the sex trade – the clean-up end”. She deals with the damage sex can cause. Her job has given her a jaundiced view of men, an attitude confirmed by the disintegration of her own relationship. Now that she needs to make a fresh start love doesn’t figure in her plans.
Stefan is a single-minded sculptor who can’t make ends meet. To make ends meet he finds himself facing a class of adults who want their old teacher back. Love is an emotion he long ago shut off, but it creeps up from more than one direction. Is it time to admit that letting people into his life is not defeat?
Fran is a wife and stay-at-home mother on a collision course with her mid-life crisis. She craves the romance of her youth. An on-line flirtation becomes scarily obsessive, putting everything she really loves at risk.
Dominic is a damaged child, he knows all about sex but nothing about love. He has been given a different vision of the future but his lifestyle still holds a dangerous allure. By grasping the help and love that’s on offer he has the chance to transform his life.
Targeted Age Group:
25 – 65
How is Writing In Your Genre Different from Others?
I write contemporary women’s fiction, which always has a love story at its core, but I do not write conventional ‘romance’. Real life isn’t neat, tidy and predictable. I do not write join-the-dots plots. I write about life and love as it is, without prettifying or filtering it through rose-tinted spectacles.
What Advice Would You Give Aspiring Writers?
If I had any fail-safe tips I’d have employed them myself and be a best seller by now. All I know is that no one succeeds in this business without being able to take the knock-backs and keep coming back for more, like one of those wobbly men with a silly grin on his face. You have to be persistent to the point of obstinacy, even bloody-minded. You have to believe in yourself. And – this may seem obvious – you have actually got to do it. It’s no good thinking about it, talking about it, reading articles about it, going to workshops, but keeping your manuscript in a drawer. It’s no good waiting till you’ve got more time, the children are off your hands, you’ve gone part-time or you’ve retired. You have to put your money where your mouth is and just do it. Now!
Influenced by my older sister, I began to write in childhood. It was a hobby pursued throughout my teenage. Writing was only abandoned when I left home and real life took over from the fiction.
I did not go to Oxford or Cambridge. Instead, after leaving school at sixteen with just sufficient in the way of qualifications to get me in, I went to Croydon Art College in south London.
I did not work on any of the quality newspapers, in television or publishing, but did a variety of jobs – shop assistant, beauty-consultant and barmaid. I also had a job which consisted of picking up American tourists and sending them on a free guided-tour of London which culminated in lunch at the Hilton. The unsuspecting tourists were then subjected to an intense sales-pitch, selling Florida real estate. I was no good at this ‘commission only’ job and, unsurprisingly, didn’t enjoy it. I was very relieved when I eventually landed the job of my dreams, working as an illustrator with an advertising design studio. I eventually went free-lance.
I married and resumed writing while my son, Tom, was a toddler. My first two novels were published by a new, small publisher, but it closed after failing to achieve the required marketing push and wide distribution which would have given its authors – and itself – any real prospect of success.
Since those days I’ve continued to write what I have always written – unconventional, subversive and surprising stories, which never follow the current band-wagon. Unfortunately, no subsequent publisher has wanted to take a risk on my brand of women’s fiction. So, when the opportunity arose, I went Indie.
Still a keen artist I draw and paint, design Christmas cards, and regularly attend a weekly art class. I’ve been a school governor, a contributor to local newspapers and was one of the initiators of the successful community shop in my village.
Read more About Gilli in this interview.
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
LIFE CLASS was a title waiting for a book. I myself attended art college and – after I got over the initial embarrassment – I enjoyed the life drawing classes very much. I stopped when I left college and went on, eventually, to work as an advertising illustrator. It was only when I was married and at home with my baby son, I resumed going to evening ‘life classes’. As soon as Tom was old enough to go to the college crèche, I changed to a day time class. And I’ve continued ever since. I won’t tell you how old Tom is now, but he’s not a baby. So the book had a long gestation.
When I started to seriously think about developing the story, I considered the people I knew. I lighted upon a good friend of mine who did a very interesting and sometimes amusing job. I knew she would be happy to help me with my research. If I gave the heroine of my story a job like my friend’s, she would be coming into contact with people – maybe people she knew – at very vulnerable, embarrassing and possibly life-changing moments. More than that, she might make perfectly reasonable assumptions about those people, assumptions which could colour her view of them and give her an ethical dilemma. This was the crucial seed which turned on the ‘what if’ part of my brain.
Life Class grew from those two elements – the job and the weekly class. Of course, from then on, other remembered incidents and experiences from my own life were absorbed into the story which, once I’d begun it, mixed into the cocktail, along with a generous helping of imagination.