Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Author Interview: Gill Hornby

This week is a busy week for new books being published including All Together Now by author Gill Hornby so it's my pleasure to well Gill to the blog to tell us a little bit about it.

Can you tell us a little bit about your latest novel All Together Now?
It is about three lonely people, one dying town and a community choir that is on its last legs. When the choir holds a recruitment drive, it draws in some unexpected characters and, one by one, lives and fortunes are changed. 

What inspired you to write about a community choir as opposed to other activities that might have brought a community together?
Well, I belong to a choir and like all choir members am slightly evangelistic about the power of singing and song. The difference between a choir and a sports club, say, is that you can sing when you are five, or when you are a hundred and five.  Men and women do it together. It doesn’t matter what your background is, or your education. And part harmony, I realised, is the perfect metaphor for a happy society: everyone can join in a little bit, the weak are carried by the strong and while every member plays their own separate part together they combine to make something other and which no one person could ever make alone.

How much research did you need to do about music and choirs to enable you to write this story? 
I’ve been in choirs since I was 11. My mother has sung in some group or other every week since before the war. She’s 90 in October and she is still in the church choir. It has been all around me all my life and I have grown up with an appreciation of all the positive things that singing can do.

If you were to join a choir what type of choir would it be, choral, folk/jazz or popular music?   
I have been in all sorts. A couple of months ago, I sang the Messiah in a scratch choir as part of the Handel Season. Occasionally we do pop up choirs in the village – Faure’s Requiem and Zadok the Priest. But every week, I trot along to Rock Choir, where we do pop, rock and soul in three part harmony and that I simply love.

Which character was your favourite to create? 
I presumed, when I started it, that all my main characters would be women so when Bennett came to life and started to steal the heart of the whole book he was a revelation and a joy. I love everything about him: his sincerity, his literalism, his struggle to contain the emotional damage he feels despite being a strong respectable chap in a suit. Daft as it may sound , I’ve missed him rather since I’ve finished working with him!

What was your soundtrack when writing All Together Now?
What an excellent question. I discovered, while I was writing The Hive, my ideal working conditions which are as follows: I put in some earplugs and then put on nice pop in the background. I can’t hear it very well, but it seems to occupy the fidgety, flighty part of my brain. And every day that I was writing All Together Now, I was listening to Paul Simon – who else, really, if your mind is on harmony? And, as it happens, Homeward Bound then became the pivotal song of the book.

What does your typical writing day look like?
Once the children have left for school, I delay and defer and procrastinate and displace and then I realise how much time I have wasted…. And then write like the clappers until the children come home.

What is the best writing advice you have ever received?
Sir John Mortimer, the great writer, lawyer and general great bloke, always used to say: Writing brings down writing. And that is true. If you feel completely uninspired, just sit down and determine to knock out 500 words of just anything. At the end of it, you will find a thousand words about something that you didn’t even know you knew.

Finally how do you plan to celebrate publication day?
I’ve got a few things to do on the day itself, but am having a little party the following week.  I never expected to write one book, and certainly never dreamed of writing two. So many people – the publishers, my agent, my family, my friends – have helped me along the way and it will be nice to all get together and celebrate.

The small town of Bridgeford is in crisis. The high street is half empty, businesses are closing and the idea of civic pride seems old-fashioned to the commuters rushing home from work. Somehow, it seems to have lost its heart.

But there is one thing that might just bring the town together: music. The Bridgeford Community Choir has a chance of winning the county championship. First though, the small band of singers must find a lot of new members and a whole new sound.

Enter Tracey - one of life's soloists, and hiding a secret past; Bennett - a church choir refugee, baffled by the modern world. And Jazzy - who sees her voice as her passport straight out of town to a future of fame and fortune. Can they really fit in with dependable old regulars like Annie? Can they learn to work together, save their singing group and maybe even their community?

Gill Hornby is the author of The Hive and All Together Now which is published by Little, Brown on 4th June, £14.99.

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