G.X. Todd, agented by our Camilla Wray, is the newest author to join the Darley Anderson Literary, TV and Film Agency! Gemma’s debut series was snapped up in a knockout six-figure pre-empt by Headline’s Publishing Director, Mari Evans. Translation rights have also already sold to Brazil. (Full summary of the series below!)
Emma Winter was able to catch five minutes with Gemma between writing and her day job (*coolest job ever alert* mobile librarian) to discuss Pilgrim, heroes and everything in between.
Emma Winter: Firstly, congratulations! How does it feel to know that there are going to be lots of people reading your book?
G.X. Todd: Well, I was ecstatic when I got three people to read it, so the thought of more is…what’s a better word than ‘ecstatic’? That.
EW: How did you develop the idea for DEFENDER? Did you always know it was going to be a series?
GT: I like writing about isolation. I like putting people into harsh situations. And, most of all, I like writing about things that interest me: in this case, the human psyche, loneliness, and the psychology of violence.
I wrote the first book as a standalone, but as soon as I typed The End, I thought ‘You know what, I love these characters. There’s so much we can do with them, do with the world. Let’s run with it.’ So I ran, and I’m still trying to catch up.
EW: Could you give us a little summary of the series – how do you see it panning out across all four books?
GT: 21st Century life no longer exists. Mankind has disintegrated. A locked part of the human psyche has been awakened, and the Voices have emerged. In a desolate world, paranoia and survival are the new laws of the land, and when dangerous factions of Voice-hearers begin to gather their numbers, bent on eradicating anyone who can’t hear a Voice of their own, it comes down to a chosen few to stand up and fight.
In essence, I’m seeing it pan out in epic terms, but on a very individual, human level. The core characters (Lacey, Pilgrim, Alex, Addison, etc.) are the real heart of series, and it’ll be in their struggle, their fight, that the story truly lies.
EW: All of the characters are very compelling, did they arrive fully formed in your head or did some take some work to become fleshed out?
GT: Pilgrim came fully-formed as if he’d been waiting for me to find him. He’s fun to write, too, because he’s pretty cantankerous. Lacey is what I think my eldest niece might be like in another 8 years (and if we suffered a catastrophic event), so her head took some work getting inside. Alex was maybe the hardest of them all because she’s the most unlike me. And finally Voice is a smart-ass. Strangely enough, writing Smart-Ass comes naturally to me.
EW: How did it feel to be told your book was going to be published?
GT: *add ALL the superlatives here* Exhilarating and terrifying in equal measures. And when the big emotions settled, I felt sad because my dad isn’t here to share it with me. He’d have been really proud.
EW: How long did it take to write DEFENDER?
GT: The first draft took maybe six months. It was a pleasure to write; it came out all in one go. It’s the redrafting that can be a slog. It began life at around 90,000 words, and is now hitting 120,000.
EW: By day, you’re a mobile librarian tell us a little bit about your amazing job; what are the best bits, what are the worst bits?
GT: Best bits: the books (obviously); the people I work with; having enthusiastic conversations with customers; the pride that comes from squeezing the library van through a tiny gap without demolishing any car side-mirrors.
Worst bits: Seeing how isolated and lonely some of our elderly borrowers are. Government cuts. Bad drivers (they’re everywhere).
EW: Where do you get your inspiration for writing from?
GT: The belief that it’s possibly the only thing I’m decent at. So I’d best make the most of it.
EW: Which authors do you most admire?
GT: This list could be endless. Richard Matheson, Stephen King, Karen Joy Fowler, Miriam Toews, Jim Thompson, John Wyndham. (Honourable mention: Richard Laymon.)
EW: If you were going to have a literary dinner party, who would you invite?
GT: I have this answer already prepared! Margaret Atwood, JK Rowling, Stephen King, and Ray Bradbury (if he were still here).
EW: Do you have any tips for writers?
GT: If you’re writing a series: PLAN EVERYTHING IN ADVANCE. It’ll make your life so much easier.
Generally, though, just keep the faith. If you believe you’re writing something that deserves to be read, don’t give up.
EW: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
GT: Peel your bananas from the bottom. It’s how monkeys do it. They know what they’re doing.
EW: What do you think are the key things for debut authors to keep in mind?
GT: Don’t be afraid to ask for help or clarification. You’re not alone anymore – you have a team of people who want you to succeed.
Keep writing stuff you enjoy, and stories that excite you. Because believe me, you have to love it – you’ll be reading the damn thing a 100 times over before you’re done.
EW: What are you most looking forward to on your publication journey?
GT: Definitely meeting the readers. It’s such a lonely job. To have someone outside of your own head read it, experience it, and then want to talk to you about it. That’s pure magic.
EW: Who inspires you most?
GT: My mom. Cheesy, I know, but she’s the strongest person I know. Brain surgery at age 42, living daily with disability, and losing my dad three years ago to cancer, and she’s still getting on with it. Rock solid.