Gillian Polack #WeLoveOurAuthors

This is pretty exciting. Today we signed a new (to us) author, Gillian Polack. She has seven books already under her belt, and next year we’ll be adding two more. Join us as we get to know this prolific Canberra author.

Gillian has a rich past full of interesting events. Her interests generally revolve towards writing. She has been and probably is all at once a food historian, a Medievalist, a book reviewer, an editor, a teacher, a researcher, and an adviser.

In your forthcoming novel Chocolate Redemption, the protagonist, Priscilla, is a writer. Her main character, Aelis, is real and lives in a linked reality. Priscilla and Aelis must both save those they love and, in the process, save themselves. What inspired you to write about linked realities and parallel stories?

I was thinking about everyday life and how many stories it has to tell. I wanted to write about a young woman and an older woman living parallel lives, centuries apart because I wanted to explore the ways our lives have changed and the way they are also the same. I also had an intense desire to write about kittens called Stuff and Nonsense. This was because I live in a flat and this was the only way I could own these cats myself.

And what about Borderlanders? This story features characters with disabilities, which is not very common in fantasy novels.

No one (or very close to almost no one) was writing novels where women with disabilities were centre stage and where the characters weren’t victims, were able to act independently, and didn’t lose their problems on the road to victory. Oh, and didn’t die. I research narratives and, because this was bugging me, worked out what was preventing people like me becoming lead characters. I tweeted that I knew how to write such a novel. I had no plans to write one.

“Write this novel – we want to read it,” people said. 

“I have no income for summer, so I can’t,” answered I, foolishly. “Also,” I said, “I don’t have enough information about the lives of women with this kind of disability to build my main character. 

Within a week, I had been given enough support on Patreon to get me through the summer and I was given the lives of thirty women who wanted the novel read. I checked the novel with some of the givers-of-lives afterwards and they said “It me” and cried.

This series of events still unsettles me.

Do you ever find that your characters and settings are sometimes based upon your own life experiences?

In the case of Chocolate Redemption, absolutely not. I’ve put one small episode in based on my own life, due to a running joke with my readers, but the rest of it is invented.

My life is a very quiet life these days and not enough to sustain as many books as I’ve written. All my novels so far have morsels of my existence woven through, but my characters are not me and their lives are not my life. Every one of them is filtered through my voice, which confuses readers and has led to some interesting conversations about what is and what is not me in my fiction. 

What is your biggest motivation for writing? 

I love meeting my characters and finding out what will happen in their lives. It’s my way of finding joy in what became a bit of a difficult life. I’m happiest when I’m dreaming of a novel or inventing characters or writing or editing. 

What would you say is your biggest accomplishment? 

I’m really not good at defining accomplishments for myself. I always feel as if I should’ve done better or haven’t done anything well enough. Whenever I am in this mood, my biggest accomplishment is surviving. For the rest of them, it varies.

What advice would you give a young writer trying to get published? 

Learn who you are and how who you are fits into your writing and helps shape your choices. And read. Read some more. Read a lot more. Know what you like and why.

What inspires you when you hit writer’s block? 

I love to say that I don’t get writer’s block, but the truth is that I took a good look at it many years ago and worked out what it was. The next thing I did was work out why I had to stop. Sometimes it’s to think, sometimes it’s to feel, and sometimes it’s because a story is going to go somewhere quite worrying. I have different tools for handling each problem. 

My research has taught me how to deal with them, too. I’m an ethnohistorian who studies narratives and that’s an exceedingly useful other profession for a fiction writer to have. It gives me history for my fiction and it teaches me about writing. I began this side of the journey with a writer called Geoffrey de Vinsauf and I was taught by a nun called Sister Frances. I can’t think of anyone who would predict that classes in Toronto with Sister Frances would lead to a cure for writer’s block.

Describe your writing style in three words.

Quirky. Friendly. Sometimes-bleak.

We’re so excited to be bringing you new books from Gillian. Check out her previous work via the links below, and follow to ensure you’re first to hear about her new releases next year.

Follow Gillian


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