Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Gail Schimmel

Gail Schimmel is an admitted attorney in South Africa, with four degrees to her name. She is currently the CEO of the Advertising Regulatory Board―the South African self-regulatory body for the content of advertising. She has published five novels in South Africa, with The Aftermath as her international debut. She lives in Johannesburg with her husband, two children, an ancient cat and two very naughty dogs.

Schimmel's new novel is Never Tell A Lie.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Never Tell A Lie is undoubtedly a book about lies, and the harm that can occur when you’re known to be a liar. I think it is great as a title in that it sets out one of the major themes of the story. But – it wasn’t my working title, it was chosen by the publisher. My title for the book was The Friendship, because for me this book (and really, most of my writing) is about the complexity of women’s friendships – how important they are, and how dangerous they are when they go bad. I suppose, in an ideal world, the title should be some sort of mash-up of the two ideas. But “Never Tell A Lie in Your Friendship” just isn’t that catchy...

What's in a name?

Names are such a thing for me! Firstly, I need the character to have a name that fits them. If I name them wrong, then they might not work. A lot of people have asked me about the name “Django” in this book – the main character’s son. People think I had some great symbolism in mind. Nope – that was just the name that character wanted, and he wasn’t interested in debating. My worst is when I have to change a name at edit stage (like if two main characters have a name starting with the same letter). I have also been known, in a first draft, to name 3 characters “Sue”, and to change a character from “Molly” to “Maggie” half way through.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

Whenever I feel down and like I am not where I want to be, I ask myself what teenage Gail would think of what 47-year-old Gail has achieved. And, to be honest, teenage Gail would be thrilled! I think she would love this novel, although it is probably a bit less literary than she would have expected. Because teenagers are awfully serious, and grown-ups are not.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

I love both beginnings and endings – it’s the middle that is a murky pile of confusion and angst!

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

My main characters always have a little bit of me. I honestly believe that that is almost impossible to avoid, as hard as one might try. But none of them actually are me, and none of the other characters are ever completely based on anyone I know.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

Relationships. My books are all about relationships, and the “what if” of life, and my inspiration often comes directly from a moment in my life or a conversation. Also, I seem to have an enormous amount of ideas in the bath or shower – so it seems that washing is a big inspiration for me!
Visit Gail Schimmel's website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue