Author Interview: Gael Harrison
I would like to introduce Gael Harrison. Winner of the B.R.A.G Medallion. Gael was born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1954, where her father was a rubber planter. At the age of eleven, she returned to Scotland to complete her schooling at Morrison’s Academy in Crieff.
She qualified as a teacher in Dundee in 1975, and married in the same year. She and her husband moved to Singapore and later to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, East Malaysia. Together with their three young children the family moved back to Scotland and lived for the next eleven years in an old manse in Glenelg, on the west coast of Scotland.
After her divorce Gael moved to Edinburgh and worked as a teacher. In 2001 she took the VSO challenge with Save the Children UK, and spent a year in the north of Vietnam working as a pre-school teacher trainer. After that assignment, she spent the next three years at the United Nations International School in Hanoi and during that time she met her husband, John. For the last ten years they have been working in Kiev, Qatar, Australia and New Zealand. They are now back in Scotland and settled in Edinburgh.
Gael: “I’ve been lucky, in friendships and in my children, and in the ability to have white hot passions for a variety of intellectual and not so intellectual pursuits. I have pursued everything I have undertaken with a sense of optimism and happiness, and I hope that will continue for a long time to come”.
Gael’s website: http://www.gaelharrison.com/wp/
Stephanie: Tell me about the Highland Games.
Gael” ‘The Highland Games’ is a ‘tongue in cheek’ observation of a small village in the West Highlands of Scotland. Not much happens there, but each small thing becomes a drama. It is the story of Suzannah, who goes to Drum Mhor for a few months before she starts a new teaching job in Kiev. She meets all the local characters, is subjected to their scrutiny and gossip and is swept off her feet by James MacTavish. The story covers all the local fun and games, and has a little twist in the tail, in the form of the Ukrainian lover that Suzannah brings back from Kiev.
Stephanie: What genre does it fall under?
Gael: I would say it is Romantic fiction, although the real focus of the book is the village itself.
Stephanie: Is this your first published book?
Gael: No, I have also published ‘The Moon in the Banyan Tree’ with Athena Press in 2005. It is the story of my time in the mountains of Vietnam, working as a pre-school teacher trainer. It seems to sell quite steadily.
I have also published the sequel to ‘The Highland Games’ – ‘The Highland Rocks’ which is set again in the village of Drum Mhor but does not focus on James and Suzannah, but instead on Dolly McBride.
I have also published ‘Where the Golden Oriole Sang’. This novel is set in 1950s Malaya, during the time of the Emergency. The story features the lives of the rubber planters at that time. It is in the historical fiction category and has had some very good reviews.
Stephanie: Why did you decide to self-publish?
Gael: I had an agent for ‘Where the Golden Oriole Sang’ and she asked me to make so many changes in the novel, then the publisher asked me to change other things. In the end I wondered who was in charge of the story. I also felt that they expected me to write in a certain way for a certain market, so I decided to self-publish. I was so happy with all the staff at SilverWood, and they were supportive all the way through.
Stephanie: What inspired you to write this story and was there any research involved?
Gael: I lived for twelve years in a small highland village, and I have so many memories of the fun characters and the small things that made life worth living. I haven’t written ‘about’ that village but I did draw on many of the happenings and spun a tale of fiction around the daily events.
Stephanie: Were there any scenes you found a challenge to write?
Gael: No, not in this book. I enjoyed every minute of it, especially some of the repartee between the acerbic- tongued women! I also loved writing about the Ghillies’ ball.
Stephanie What book project are you currently working on?
Gael: I am writing a final book about the Highlands, called ‘The Highland Curse’ and have also started a novel about East Malaysia, called ‘The Fish in the Tree’. I seem to have two ‘voices’ in me. I like to let both have their say! They are very different styles but I like them both.
Stephanie: Will you self-publish again?
Gael: Definitely. I really liked the experience with SilverWood. The only downside is the marketing. I am not very good at that!
Stephanie: How did you discover Indie B.R.A.G?
Gael: I discovered them through SilverWood and then was delighted to win the B.R.A.G medallion. If you go to my webpage, you will see that I have the medallion proudly displayed on the first page as well as on The Highland Rocks page!
Thank you, Gael! It was a pleasure chatting with you!
Thank you so much for everything. Bye for now,