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Wednesday Writer Spotlight – Ann Whitely-Gillen

Hello there, I am cruising Alaska while hosting Ann Whitely-Gillen this week. Please leave comments, I will approve them and respond as soon as I am able to.

Ann is a freelance writer and communications advisor from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. BTW, Anne, my half-sister lives in Ottawa, too. Her book, Last Train to Omaha began as a dream after having surgery for breast cancer.

Last Train to Omaha is a heartwarming story of a broken man gaining the strength to let go of the crippling blame and doubt that plague him, pick up the pieces of his life and put them back together. It is complete at 278 pages.

So with no further ado, join me in welcoming Ann.

GO: Welcome Ann. What is the one piece of advice you’d give a young writer?

AWG: Be true to yourself and to your instincts. Write what you know and feel.

GO: What are your writing habits?

AWG: I like writing in a nice bright room in the morning with coffee or a warm room with a glass of wine at night.  I tend to research as I get an idea – if it doesn’t work I move on, if it does, I let that research and idea carry me through the next block of writing.

GO: Do you read book reviews of your book(s)?

AWG: I do, although I feel it’s rather bitter sweet as I am very critical of myself.

GO: Do you think creative-writing workshops are good for fiction writers? Why?

AWG: I tried to attend one, but it wasn’t for me so I really don’t have an opinion. To me, do whatever it takes to get you writing!

GO: How did you develop your style or voice?

AWG: I’ve studied acting and I’ve been a musician and writer most of my life – and my style and voice is inspired by my experiences with all kinds of different people and my relationships with them. Complex, loving, damaging, inspiring, life altering – this is how I develop my characters and my story lines.

GO: How do you fit writing into the rest of your life?

AWG: I work full time as a communications officer and I have four children, so my life is extremely busy. I tend to write in long chunks of time as opposed to a little bit every day. It gives me an opportunity to step back and rethink things.

GO: How do you use details in your writing?

 AWG: Very carefully.  Given a writer is driven to make the reader’s imagination spark, you have to be very careful and respectful of the details in your writing. For example, I’ve never been to South East Asia so I spent a lot of time looking through books, surfing the internet and visiting people’s blogs and travel sites to get particulars of the setting. On the other hand, I have experience with anxiety so I was true to the details surrounding James’ ongoing battle with this disorder. I often find that too much detail isn’t a good thing, unless you are writing about how and what a character thinks and feels as it allows the reader to jump into an empathetic relationship with them. Strong character driven stories are my preference.

GO: What have some of your favorite books taught you about writing?

AWG:  D.H. Lawrence is my favorite author because he was not afraid to say things most people were in his day. I tried to capture this type of humanity in my writing as I feel it’s an important part of the craft.

GO: What mistakes do writers make that hold them back?

 AWG: I believe many writers are held back trying to conform and ignoring their own instincts. On the flip side, if you don’t have thick skin to take the necessary criticism you’re setting yourself up for the “blank page” syndrome – the one where you stare for hours frozen and unable to form even a simple sentence. Writers should always strive for a balance.

GO: What can writers do to improve their sales?

AWG: I’ve read and heard that the best marketing tactic for book sales is word of mouth. Get it out there and spread the word so that your book can get noticed within this grand community. That’s what I’m doing and it appears to be working.

Well, Ann, it was nice having you here today.  Ann’s book is available at Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, and

Till next time



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