About Gillian

Gillian Leggat The Author

Gillian Leggat is a prolific writer and an experienced teacher. She has published more than ninety books in a wide variety of genres, including: Christian picture books, Young Adult fantasy, Young Adult Christian novels, Adult Christian novels, a memoir about bereavement, supplementary readers for the primary school, textbooks and other educational material. She has been published by mainstream educational publishers like Macmillan, Pearson, Maskew Miller Longman and Cambridge University Press. Many of her Readers have been translated into Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa and other African languages. Since 2013, she has been published by the international publishing houses, Austin Macauley, Kingdom, Creative Juices and Lighthouse Christian Publishers. She has published two Smashwords ebooks, both adult novels. She enjoys developing plots, delving into the psyches of her characters, exploring settings and highlighting themes. She is constantly exploring new ideas for stories; for her, writing has been a life-long companion.

During the course of her career, she has taught in a range of educational establishments, including high schools and tertiary institutions. She has designed and run fiction and non-fiction writing courses for the Bergvliet Continuing Education Programme in Cape Town. Currently, she is tutoring English to students studying for the Cambridge Curriculum at the Valley Tutor Centre in Fishhoek where she lives. She loves to walk on the beach, attend cultural events – when not in lockdown – and participating in her local church which fortunately is providing plenty of useful online resources. Gillian has three adult children and two grandchildren.

Smashwords Interview

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
While I don't remember the first story I actually wrote, I remember like it was yesterday the first book of mine that was ever published. It was a children's picture book entitled, The Biggest Pizza, and was based on a trip to my local supermarket where they were trying to make the biggest pizza ever. As I was teaching Geography at the time, I had great fun using an iron and steel works as my setting for the baking of that pizza. It was a hilarious story that I really enjoyed writing.
What is your writing process?
I always write by hand first before I type out my material. I find that a pen in my hand pressing down on the paper helps my ideas to flow - sometimes fast and furiously, almost as if I am indulging myself in 'free writing'. At other times, my ideas come more slowly; I look at the view (my favourite place to generate ideas and to write is on my sunny, sheltered balcony overlooking the Fish Hoek hills), think about what I want to say, indulge myself in 'writer's thoughts.' Once I have finished a section, I type it up, editing as I do so. Obviously at the end of that whole process, especially if it's a long manuscript, I print the whole thing out, make changes, re-draft until I am 'reasonably' satisfied. Is a writer ever completely satisfied with what he/she has written? I'd be curious to know, because I certainly think in my own writing there's always room for improvement.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa where I lived in homes with beautiful gardens. I especially remember the 'Romeo and Juliet' type balcony of my bedroom in my second home. As I stepped out onto that small balcony, I could look up at the stars at night, watch the fir trees that lined our property on one side swaying in the wind and look down on the majestic pinoak which was at the centre of the lawn. Views from balconies have always been a source of inspiration for my writing. I was very fortunate to have a happy, sheltered childhood where I could dream and sometimes indulge myself in fantasy worlds. My first foray into fiction writing only actually took place after I had birthed my three children: the bedtime stories I told them eventually got written down and sent off to prospective publishers. But my early years laid the groundwork for my imagination to soar.
What inspired you to write your book?
In early March 2020, when the Corona virus began to sweep across the world and strict lock-downs were imposed in various countries, we were all bombarded with fact after fact and figure after figure about Corona and Covid 19, especially how the pandemic was affecting different continents and countries. There was a great deal of uncertainty, sometimes even fear, about life, as millions of people were confined to their homes, lost their jobs and battled to keep 'safe' from the disease that was stalking the world. I was inspired to write a fictional novel about the situation, especially as so many people I knew seemed to be re-evaluating the purpose of their lives as they negotiated the many enforced changes that lack of contact with others brought. I certainly had more time to reflect, more time to think, more time to write. And so, my novel, Meltdown Miracles, was born. I chose to fictionalise Covid as a vindictive, powerful ruler in charge of a vast germ army, who was battling it out with his 'enemy', Khaila and her dedicated team of workers who were intent on slowing down the spread of the virus and bringing spiritual healing to the world. What a fascinating fictional journey the writing of Meltdown Miracles was for me!
When did you first start writing?
I started to write a very long time ago: in the mid-eighties, in fact, but my first book was published in 1989. Since then, I have written so many books, some of them which have seen the light of day, and others which have remained 'undiscovered'. However, I have managed to re-cycle or re-circulate many manuscripts that were originally rejected. A few of my early picture books, for instance, were eventually adapted and published as supplementary readers for primary schools. Because I am so prolific and have tried my hand at many different genres, I am constantly on the look-out for publishers who are prepared to view unsolicited manuscripts. I scour the net often for this purpose: that is how I recently discovered Smashwords. I have never had an agent, as I value my independence. I could say that writing has been a life-long journey for me, a journey where I am constantly discovering new things. And what an exciting journey it has been, and continues to be as I venture into new territory.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Although I have more than seventy published books in various genres, lately, it is becoming more difficult to get a book published. When I recently discovered Smashwords via google, I was delighted as this company gave me a vehicle for expressing my ideas and getting my books published without having to wait months and months, and sometimes years and years, to have my manuscripts reviewed, and possibly rejected, by publishers. Particularly during this difficult time in our world, traditional publishers face financial constraints and manuscripts take longer to review and publish. When reading through the many resources that Smashwords provides, I was struck by the idea that an ebook has a very much longer life than a print book. This fact has been brought home to me recently by a note I've had from a publisher about one of my books being remaindered. It's a good feeling to know that this can't happen to an ebook!
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
My greatest joy in writing is in thinking up the initial ideas for a book. I love generating plots, creating characters in my head, brainstorming ideas, mind-mapping, story-boarding. This phase of 'writing' is always an adrenaline-rush for me. It is so exciting to have all those ideas spinning around in my head. I often take a quiet walk along the beach for that very purpose: to think about a new idea for a book, to get inspired by the sound of the sea or just to ponder on one idea at a time. The actual writing process can be more mundane and less exciting, as I push out pages to achieve the correct length. I'm not often in a particularly inspired state when I am getting the initial words down on the page, but I must say, when a manuscript has been completed, that adrenaline-rush rises to the surface again, and I once again feel that initial joy, which now is coupled with a sense of achievement: on reflection, this makes the whole writing process extremely satisfying.
What are you working on next?
I actually have three projects I am busy with at the moment: a fictionaised adult novel which is set in the stunning area of Balgowan in the KZN Midlands. The story is loosely based on my life with my deceased husband, but I have chosen to highlight corruption as my theme, as we were personally victims of this scourge in the '90s and lost our beautiful small-holding as a result. I wrote the novel some time ago, but am revising it and intend to publish it as my next Smashwords title. I don't think I will be giving too much away by revealing my title here: Firm Foundations. I hope that will whet prospective readers' appetites. I am also working on a YA novel and a collection of YA short stories. I do have a traditional publisher who has expressed interest in these manuscripts, but I'll see how that pans out.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I live in very beautiful surroundings: there is a large tree just in front of my bedroom window where I can watch the antics of the birds and in the distance I can see Elsie's Peak, the Fish Hoek hill. And if I step out onto my balcony overlooking the garden, I can see a sliver of sea in the distance. So I would say the beauty of God's creation is definitely what motivates me to get out of bed each day, although I can't say I'm an early riser! As a rule, I work late into the night which is often my most productive writing time. Then there is the engagement with my students on two days a week, my mid-morning bible study once a week, a pilates class, a walk along the beach, whatsapp chats to my children and grandchild, the chance of experiencing a creative frenzy, delving into the bible, dipping into a book, which are all activities which inspire me to get out of bed in the morning.

When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Of course, many of my 'normal' activities have been curtailed by the restrictions on social gatherings and cultural activities. Normally, apart from walking on the beach, I would be attending aqua aerobics classes three times a week, going to a play, a ballet or an opera, enjoying a Sunday service, meeting a friend for coffee, and my favourite activity of all - flying to Bloemfontein to visit my grandchild or, more occasionally when finances allow, visiting my son and daughter in the UK. I love to travel, walk, swim and read, although I find I have to have reading and writing phases. When I'm in my reading phase, especially if I'm so interested that I can't put the book down, I find that I hardly write at all. As reading is so much 'easier', it's too tempting to read obsessively. As you may have gathered, when I'm in my writing phase, I write obsessively. I can't seem to do both successfully at the same time!
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Although I have to be honest by saying that I can't remember the very first story I ever read, I can remember reading Enid Blyton's Magic Faraway Tree as a child and being fascinated by characters like Moon-face, and totally enthralled by the different lands the children visited above the clouds, especially by the land of sweets. That book certainly stimulated my imagination, and I must say, it has been a great adventure for me to create fantasy worlds myself. Sometimes, I think that I should explore this genre more often. My most satisfying foray into the fantasy genre was my creation of my young adult trilogy, The Golden Highway, The Diamond Pathway and The Emerald Treasure Chamber. But I can't say that it was Enid Blyton who inspired me to write these books: it was rather the themes that I wanted to communicate to readers and the extraordinary settings of the Cradle of Humankind, the Skeleton Coast of Namibia and the mighty pyramids of Egypt respectively that inspired me to write this trilogy. Imagination is such a precious gift to pass on to young people who will hopefully keep reading and exploring fantasy worlds, amongst other genres.
Read More
Breath of God by Gillian Leggat
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