In search of a lifestyle: Erin Kaye
A family-friendly job
Monday 28 March 2011 ~ Romance Matters
Patricia Gibb, who writes as Erin Kaye.
Wanted, new job: applicant would like to be self employed; independent; not managing others; determining her own deadlines, and deciding how and when to work. Must eventually be able to work hours to suit around motherhood.
Qualifications: applicant likes solitude; working in isolation; and is self motivated to work hard and complete on time any task she commits to. She has a degree in geography; banking qualifications; ten years experience of working in banking; an A level in English; an interest in literature and a desire to express herself. She also has a very supportive husband.
That was Patricia Gibb’s position when she decided to give up her successful financial career. She was not a scribbler from childhood; not a day dreamer who always told herself stories. She was a university educated, no-nonsense director of quality and communications in a Scottish bank who was looking for a different life style and a new career path.
Although originally from Ireland, when Catholic born Patricia married her Protestant husband in 1988 they moved to the east coast of Scotland where sectarianism was not an issue. When in 1997 she began to look for a career change, the decision to write was not an automatic choice.
Tackling the proposed lifestyle change as she does everything else, with total commitment, Patricia asked herself: If I could do anything I wanted, what would I do? She read What Colour is Your Parachute? A practical manual for job hunters and career changers by Richard N Bolles and dutifully completed all the exercises and psychometric tests. The job it suggested she was most suited for? Banking!
But eventually, the thought of solitude and being able to take control of her own working hours led her to writing. So in the belief that ‘you cannot fully commit unless you burn bridges’, she handed in her notice and gave herself full time to writing. She and her husband took a joint decision. They were both prepared ‘to live frugally and batten down the hatches’ so that she could ‘give it a go’ for two years.
In her studious, meticulous way Patricia threw herself into a ‘writing apprenticeship’ with total commitment by going to Waterstones and buying endless volumes on ‘how to write’. She read books on all aspects of writing craft such as structure, plot, how to get published and she spent six months ‘learning from others’ mistakes’. Finally after reading Writing a Blockbuster Novel by Albert Zuckerman, Ken Follett’s agent, she felt ready to begin writing herself.
Patricia completed the entire book before thinking about sending it out. Then she spent time putting together a package: a professional photograph, a carefully crafted covering letter, CV and synopsis, and of course the typescript. She sifted through the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, selected 15 possible agents and publishers and sent out 15 packages on the same day.
Eventually one agent asked whether she was prepared to make wholesale changes in response to feedback and Patricia readily agreed. ‘If you want to write more than one book and have a commercial career you need to listen and be prepared to work hard.’ Mothers and Daughters was eventually published in Ireland by Poolbeg in 2003. Patricia’s seventh book Promise of Happiness will be published by Avon in July, and she is now working on her eighth.
To avoid confusion with her mother, a well- known local councillor who shares her name and who would not have appreciated people thinking she had written books with sex scenes, Patricia chose a name she liked, Erin, and added a differently-spelled version of her own maiden name to form her writing name, Erin Kaye.
It was her agent who suggested she joined the RNA and she loved the first conference she attended where ‘there was a buzz from being with other writers.’
Patricia has had no mentors and has never shown her work to anyone other than her agent, whose judgement and editorial suggestions she completely trusts.
Her writing has developed and evolved. The books have shifted genres from a two- generational family saga to more contemporary novels with some dark themes. Originally writing about down to earth working class people, she now writes more about relationships and friendships, not necessarily families.
So, how difficult has the career change proved to be? ‘Writing can often be a struggle and I always panic at the end of a book that there will not be another, but gradually ideas come. It may take a while but eventually a new theme and an initial idea will become a synopsis. And once I start writing I often put too much into the story and have to cut back, for example on the sub plots.’
Patricia now has set up her own workplace at home. ‘I have a study where I write directly onto the computer. And each day I have a fresh filter jug of water that has to be full. You need to keep drinking for the brain to be fully functional. I notice the difference if I ever become dehydrated.’ And she has her own idiosyncratic work schedule to fit in with her two young children. ‘I normally work from 10-3pm with possibly another couple of hours in the evening after 8.’ But essentially she is a morning person so that during school holidays she gets up at 5.30 and works till 9.30am when the children begin to demand her attention. She then goes to bed early in the evening.
But in reality she rarely has the total seclusion she craves. ‘Life tends to intervene. Having to keep stopping is frustrating. I can lose the impetus.’ But she carefully guards the time she does have. She finds no time to twitter and, although she has a website, found she had to stop blogging as it was too difficult to keep it up to date. She does have a Facebook presence but also struggles to find the time to keep it up. She pursues her book promotion instead through book tours and local radio and TV.
Patricia didn’t start writing because she was driven but now she has become driven by her writing. Because of her personality and background she finds she ‘has things to say that need to be said’, though she never realised it till she started writing.