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Tuesday, 24 March 2009

In the saddle with Gillian F. Taylor interview



Gillan F. Taylor describes herself as a part time writer from Sheffield but for a part timer she is certainly prolific with eleven Black Horse Westerns under her belt. She also writes fan fiction set in the Blakes 7 and Star Wars universes. She has a joint honours degree in ancient history and archaeology and proved her smarts when she recently won BBC's television's Mastermind which is probably the most arduous TV quiz in the world.

The Archive caught up with this lady of the West for a quick question/ answer session.

TA:
What is it about the western that appeals to you?


GT:
Horses ! I was, and still am, a classic pony girl. So I loved to watch westerns on the telly because they had horses in. The first western I read was called ‘White Stallion, Red Mare’, by J T Edson, which I bought under the impression it was about horses. It wasn’t, but I enjoyed it and bought more.

I like westerns in much the same way I like other action-based genres, but it does has some unique aspects. I love the way that westerns are so often firmly set into the landscape. They evoke wide plains, mountains, deserts. The landscape often influences the action in a way that you don’t get in other genres.

I’ve done a lot of research about the west for my own writing, of course, especially how people lived out in this new land. When I read a western I’m reminded of what these pioneers went through, moving into a empty land, facing all the natural and unnatural hazards, and building a new life so far from home and family. The people who moved West were brave people.

TA:
What writers influence you?

GT:
That’s difficult to answer, because I read a lot of different authors, and have been writing for many years now. I could suggest Jane Austen, Ian Fleming and J T Edson and they’re probably all in there somewhere.


TA:
What is your writing pattern?

GT:

My writing tends to be rather irregular, hence the erratic gaps between books appearing. When I’m being organized, I try to write during the day, regular working hours, but I’ve always been a nightbird, so it’s not uncommon for me to work in the evening or late into the night. When I’m making the effort to sit down and get on with a book, I aim to write two pages a day, five days out of seven.



TA:
How would you describe your books to newcomers?



GT:

Umm…I guess there’s a bias towards character-driven stories. ‘Cullen’s Quest’ is a more straight-forward adventure, though its two sequels, ‘Hyde’s Honour’ and ‘The Judas Metal’ (out next year) are more character driven. There’s usually a streak of humour in them, especially the Darrow novels. Writing dialogue for Darrow and Keating when they start sniping at one another is great fun.

More specifically, there are three series so far. The Rocking W trilogy (Rocking W, The Paducah War and San Felipe Guns) is complete and evolved from the first western I wrote. It centres around the friendship between Paul Hallam, and the Comanche half-breed, Josh Thunder and is set down in the Big Bend of Texas.

The Williams/Hyde trilogy will be complete on the publication of ‘The Judas Metal’. Hyde and Williams meet during an eventful stagecoach journey in the south-west of Texas (Cullen’s Quest) and start working a silver mine together. Loyalty and friendship are the themes of these books, tested by lots of action.

There are currently three Darrow books (Darrow’s Law, Darrow’s Word and Darrow’s Badge) and I intend to write more. These are set in an expanding railroad town in Wyoming. Darrow is the local sheriff, who does a good job in spite of his low opinion of the town and his deputy. Deputy Hugh Keating is an English gentleman with a weakness for alcohol and gambling, and a sense of self-preservation and borders on cowardice.

Of my other titles, Jonah Durrell, the protagonist of ‘Two-Gun Trouble’ will probably return again, as will Sheriff Alec Lawson and his deputies from ‘Silver Express’ – out in September 09.

TA: Given the state of the genre at the moment where do you see it going in the future?


GT:

There’s been a mini-revival of the western in cinemas recently, so one can hope that this would spill over into more mainstream books. However, I suspect that the western book as likely to remain sidelined, especially here in the UK. I don’t think it will die out totally, but I think it needs to find a younger readership. Just don’t ask me how.



TA:

Future projects?



GT:

I’m currently writing a short story featuring Jonah Durrell for the next Express Westerns anthology. After that I plan to write the next Darrow novel. Elements of that story have been simmering away for three or four years now, but I recently figured out how to make them work as a coherent story. Then it’s either another full length Jonah Durrell novel, or a Sheriff Lawson novel.


TA:

How does it feel to be a Mastermind winner?



GT:


Great ! I’d been on 15-1 three times before (final twice, won once) so I knew I wasn’t likely to freeze under the pressure of answering questions in front of the camera. I had a lovely day out – the production team are lovely people and really took care of us. I loved sitting in the black chair, being challenged with the questions and giving back the answers – at least in my specialized subject, where I got everything right, and made what I believe to be the highest score of the series (18), and possibly of the revived format. Then as my general knowledge was weaker, it went to a tie-break, which is unusual. I won on Mastermind thanks to something I’d picked up from watching ‘I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here’, which amuses me no end.

I’ve watched Mastermind from back in the 1970’s, and long had a vague idea of appearing on it. I finally decided that this was as good a time as any, and went for it. I guess anyone who watches it wonders how they would do, and I’m proud that I not only tried, but won.

My next appearance will be broadcast on Friday 17th April.



TA:

Desert island book?



GT:

That’s a tricky one to answer. I’ll nominate ‘Out West’, a short story anthology from the 1950’s edited by Jack Schaefer. It has stories of all kinds, including some good comic yarns, and covers pretty much the full range of the western story. Sadly, there’s nothing by Schaefer himself, who was an excellent writer. I’m also tempted to claim my own ‘Darrow’s Badge’, because I enjoy it so much.



TA:

Desert island film?


GT:

Once Upon A Time In The West. All three or so glorious hours of it. The first time I saw it, I was fascinated by the three men waiting at the railroad station, the way they passed the time and the natural sound that gave a better sense of time and place than any dialogue. I love the soundtrack – the wailing harmonica and Cheyenne’s jaunty theme, and how each theme is used and transformed within the film. I’m a big fan of Charles Bronson and this is a good role for him. I love the way the stories unravel, and the different layers of the characters, and Cheyenne’s fate and…



The archive thanks Gillian for her time.


Visit Gillian's web site HERE


Below is a video I have put together of Gillian's last Mastermind appearance - enjoy.







12 comments:

I.J. Parnham said...

Good interview, although you should have gone all Jeremy Paxman on her to find out how she does on the next Mastermind - I don't think I could stand the tension again!

And there's another reminder of the fact I've not had a single short story idea yet for the next Express Western anthology and the clock's ticking slowly round...

ARCHAVIST said...

I'm at the same point with the short - working on one now.

David Cranmer said...

Keep these interviews coming because I'm learning alot about this great community.

How often is the short on the Express updated?

Steve M said...

Great interview with Gillian, she's an excellent writer.

ARCHAVIST said...

David - Ian should be able to answer that question as I'm not sure. And Chap is the man to ask about Black Horse Extra

I.J. Parnham said...

David, the short story on the Black Horse Express site is one of the rare ones that have been sent to me as we are more of an articles site. The next items in the pipeline are all either articles or interviews. But I'm delighted to publish short stories (provided they fit in with the Black Horse style), so if anyone sends me another...

David Cranmer said...

I.J. Thanks and maybe one of these days I will send a western your way. Between writing and editing stories for Beat to a Pulp my time has dwindled but I enjoyed reading In the Shadow of the Tower by Steve Ritchie and the various book extracts on the Express.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Great interview, Gary. A woman writing westerns just floors me. I could never hope to inhabit such a male world that well.

Chap O'Keefe said...

Women have always been significant writers of westerns, Patti. This was noted way back in 1972 by bestselling novelist Dean Koontz in his book Writing Popular Fiction. "Women often have a talent for research and a feel for historical periods," he said. This certainly applies to Gillian. For many years, the late Irene Ord, formerly a romance author, penned BHWs under several male pseudonyms like "Tex Larrigan". The Hale western list also features or has featured M(ary). Duggan, Layne Kenric, Steven Gray, T. M. Dolan, Terry Murphy, Ty Kirwan and Jo Walpole. And I'm sure there are secret others! Later today I will be emailing one of them who I hope will agree to tell us about her admirable Black Horse Westerns in a future edition of Black Horse Extra.

Howard said...

Very nice interview and having read a couple of Gillian's novels I can attest to how good they are. Sheesh, like Ian I am story dry at the moment for the next EW Antho. Been too wrapped up with Green Hornet brainstorming (or stalling, as the case may be.

Anonymous said...

She didn't win Mastermind

ARCHAVIST said...

Anon - at the time of writing this interview she did indeed win Mastermind, the quarter finals. watch the video here. She also did well on tonight's semi finals.