Gillian Royes: The Writer Who Turns Both Cheeks

Gillian Royes - Author of Goat Woman Largo_ 26Sept11“Gillian Royes: The Writer Who Turns Both Cheeks” features St. Croix-based writer Gillian Royes, who has recently transitioned from non-fiction to fiction writing with her two novels: The Goat Woman of Largo Bay (2011) and The Man Who Turned Both Cheeks (2012). Here is the full article with a link to the original:

Having written two works of non-fiction (Business is Good: The History of Canning’s and Company in the Caribbean, and Sexcess: The New Gender Rules at Work) Gillian Royes described the transition into creating fictional worlds as a natural one. The concept for her first novel came to her intuitively, in the form of a lucid dream that she catalogued in her journals. To hone the process of writing fiction, Royes enrolled in writing classes for two and a half years.

In a Skype interview from St Croix, she recommended that all would-be writers who wanted to be published ought to attend pitch conferences; the conferences are an invaluable asset for those who are serious about their craft, and teach invaluable lessons in how to market one’s work. Royes’ writing style has been described by Kirkus Reviews as “cosy mystery with social commentary,” and comparisons have been made between her work and the No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novels of Alexander McCall Smith. These parallels, Royes remarked, are flattering. “I tried to keep a toe in both the commercial and literary worlds of writing,” she said of her Shad series.

“I think the American public tends to think of the Caribbean in an idyllic sort of way”, Royes said. Her novels seek to avoid that interpretation, seeking instead to shed light on some of Jamaica’s toughest social issues. It was difficult, she owned, to write about the homophobic atmosphere in Largo Bay in her new novel, The Man Who Turned Both Cheeks, yet necessary at the same time. The novel is dedicated to Brian Williamson, a Jamaican gay-rights activist who was murdered in 2004. Sensitising the wider regional and international audience about gay hate crimes in Jamaica, Royes said, is one of her chief concerns with this new novel. Royes read excerpts of it at the Reader’s Bookshop in St James, on February 16.

Published in 2012 by Atria Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, and released to acclaim in international circles, it marks the second in the Shad mystery series, set in Largo Bay, Jamaica. The first of the series, The Goat Woman of Largo Bay, was released in 2011. Currently at work on the fourth Shad novel, with the third manuscript having been completed and submitted, Royes shows no signs of slowing down. A lecturer in journalism and communication at the University of the Virgin Islands’ St Croix campus, she said with optimism that she aims to write as a full-time profession. Her goal is to spend six months of each year writing and teaching in St Croix, and the other half of the year in the United States, travelling and marketing her novels. “If you’re going to be in the American mainstream publishing industry,” she advised, “you need to do a lot of promotion. It’s been an interesting ride.”

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