Good morning Sara and welcome. Can I start, as always, by asking you a little about yourself?
Morning, Jo – it’s a pleasure to be here. I live in west Wales, on the Carmarthenshire coast, with my husband, Simon. We have two grown-up children – our daughter lives down the road from us with her two dogs, and our son lives in Dublin, so we’re frequent visitors to Ireland. In the past, all my jobs have been child-related. I’ve worked as a primary school teacher, and also been a child-minder and an assistant in a children’s library. I now write full-time.
How did your writing journey begin?
I’d always loved writing bits and pieces and imagined myself writing a novel one day, but when the children were young I never seemed able to set aside enough time. When I turned forty, I decided it was ‘now or never’ and I joined a local writing class. The emphasis was on writing for children and I built up collections of short stories for four to eight-year-olds. The first of these was called ‘Welsh Cakes and Custard’ and it was published in 2013. It won a Welsh award and this really encouraged me to keep writing. I’ve written another two children’s books under my real name of Wendy White.
What inspired you to write Not Thomas?
My first teaching post was in a very disadvantaged area, and the poverty and neglect I witnessed there made a lasting impression on me. I drew on these teaching experiences to write Not Thomas, and I wrote it very slowly over fourteen years. I chose to write it under the pen name Sara Gethin to keep my novel distinct from my humorous writing for children.
Not Thomas is quite dark. It’s about child neglect and the story is told entirely from the point of view of five-year-old Tomos. He’s been removed from his lovely foster parents and sent to live with his mum who’s hiding a drug addiction. Tomos isn’t based on one child I taught – he’s a mixture of a number of children I knew and heard about, all rolled into one often very sad, but also really hopeful, central character.
As a writer what is the best piece of advice you have been given?
The lecturer on that very first writing course I attended gave us an essential piece of advice – read, read, read! He told us it’s the best way to learn what good writing is. Some students disagreed with his advice because they felt it would lead to them copying someone else’s style. It’s an argument I’ve heard many, many times since, but I still firmly believe that if you want to write well you have to read an awful lot too.
What destination is top of your bucket list?
I would love to visit Australia. I’m not very good at roughing it, or coping in extreme temperatures or with unusual foods, so it’s the perfect place for my dream holiday. And all that reading time on the plane there and back – bliss!
And lastly, you’re one of the contestants in I’m a Celebrity – Get Me Out of Here. Which four famous people would you like as companions in the ‘jungle’ and why?
Being a contestant on I’m a Celebrity – Get Me Out of Here is my idea of absolute hell! Roughing it, disgusting food – see my answer to the previous question. But thank you for letting me choose four companions to help soften the pain.
First of all I’d pick Graham Norton. I think he’s hilarious and he’s interviewed so many famous people he’d never run out of entertaining stories. We could rely on him to make witty remarks about the other contestants too. Next I’d choose Kate Bush. I love her voice, although I know it’s a little like Marmite. We could duet around the camp fire and annoy everyone else. She could teach me her dance moves too – they’re about the only dance moves I stand any chance of learning. Dara O’Briain is my next choice, mainly because he’s very funny, plus he has a talent for science, which I’m really bad at, and I might as well use my time in the jungle to learn something new.
And finally, I’d choose an author. This is the hardest choice of all because there are so many wonderful authors I admire to choose from. I’m going to plump for Patricia Cornwell. I could spend hours picking her brains about police and forensic procedures. Then I might try my hand at writing a detective novel when I’d escaped from the jungle (I secretly want to be Ian Rankin). Ms Cornwell could entertain us too, with imaginative ways to bump off the most annoying contestant – hypothetically, of course. Hopefully, the most annoying wouldn’t be any of my chosen companions – or worse, me!
NOT THOMAS by SARA GETHIN
The lady’s here.
The lady with the big bag. She’s knocking on the front door. She’s knocking and knocking. I’m not opening the door. I’m not letting her in. I’m behind the black chair.
I’m waiting for her to go away.
Tomos lives with his mother. He longs to return to another place, the place he thinks of as home, and the people who lived there, but he’s not allowed to see them again. He’s five years old and at school, which he loves. Miss teaches him about all sorts of things, and she listens to him. Sometimes he’s hungry and Miss gives him her extra sandwiches. She gives him a warm coat from Lost Property, too. There are things Tomos cannot talk about – except to Cwtchy – and then, just before Easter, the things come to a head. There are bad men outside who want to come in, and Mammy has said not to answer the door. From behind the big chair, Tomos waits, trying to make himself small and quiet. He doesn’t think it’s Santa Claus this time.
When the men get in, Tomos’s world is turned on its head and nothing will ever be the same again.
Not Thomas is available to buy in paperback direct from the publisher Honno Press:
and in paperback and on Kindle from Amazon:
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Website & Blog: saragethin.com