Today we welcome Claire Gillian to our humble home, and—
***NEWSFLASH*** This just in! Renouned Pacific Northwest Curmudgeon may actually be … uh, nice?
Claire Gillian is a number-crunching executive by profession, an after hours writer by passion, and a darkly romantic curmudgeon. Published in short stories and anthologies, The P.U.R.E marks Claire’s official, and debut, transition to the publication of her work in novel form.
While Claire’s writing spans all ages and subject matters, she’s happiest penning romance drenched in humor with a dash of intrigue and loads of spice.
Claire lives in the boggy Pacific NW with her husband and two teen-aged sons.
Ms. Gillian will now take your questions:
When did you begin writing, and did you always envisage being an author?
I never seriously envisioned being an author until a few years ago. I’d always had some fleeting sort of hope I’d one day write a novel similar to how I hoped I’d one day win an Olympic gold medal in something. Neither seemed attainable. I started writing in 2008 because of an unhealthy fascination with the television shows Heroes (season one mostly). I found the world of fan fiction and discovered I loved expressing my appreciation for the show by lifting its characters and putting them into situations of my own creation. I loved reading others’ works too. Fan fiction isn’t publishable for commercial purposes but it was a terrific entrée for me into writing and, most importantly, a safe venue for sharing my writing with others. From there, I got a glimpse that maybe, just maybe, I could be more than a fan fiction author.
Where does the title of your book, The P.U.R.E., come from?
PURE was a commonly used derogatory moniker during my own days in public accounting. It stands for previously undetected recruiting error. It’s a play on a professional standards rule dealing with how you should correct “previously undetected” accounting errors. The public accounting profession, especially the Big Four (Big Eight when I started) is known for wining and dining the cream of the crop graduates. The bitter reality is once you sign, you start at the bottom of the heap where no task is too menial, and new recruits who looked good on paper sometime fail to deliver the goods once hired. The irony is the hiring “error” can be made by either the company or the recruit, though it’s only used in practice to apply to the recruit, not the recruiter.
You’re a romantic and a CPA, how did you come up with the idea to combine these two worlds in your novel?
Actually I’m a reluctant romantic. In general I’m not very demonstrative. Outward expressions of love often embarrass me, to be honest. But I realize that love doesn’t care whether you’re romantic or not. I’m conservative with my heart and as a CPA, conservative in my profession. My MC Gayle demonstrates that same conservatism as does Jon. But there is passion…inside…and I love those flashes that slip out, those fleeting expressions, admissions, acts that reveal the cracks in the poised exterior and hint of the churning emotion within. I love a good mystery and the mystery of the heart is the greatest one of all and a joy to solve.
Did any of the characters or plot twists surprise you while writing?
Gracious yes. The P.U.R.E. had a completely different ending the first time I wrote it. The killer was a different person and his/her motives were derived from an entirely different set of circumstances. All I knew initially was that it would be about a new hire, a PURE, who wasn’t as dumb as her employer thought and who used that underestimation to her advantage. When I finally settled on the plot that is in the final product, it was a eureka moment that made me curse being a pantser instead of a plotter. That’s the downside of pantsing—you sometimes have to venture down multiple paths to find the right one. On the other hand, plotting in my head is often too brisk of a process and lacks the inspiration that I get when pantsing. So, I’ve learned to accept that initial visions of the story can and do warp into completely different outcomes.
What inspired you to create the character of Gayle Lindley? Do any of her characteristics or qualities, relate to your own?
Gayle is, in some respects, me. I lifted many of my own experiences when I first started in public accounting and gave them to her. Awkward, tongue-tied, politically inept, but idealistic inside as to how it should be and hopeful that I’d eventually get it right. Like Gayle, I too believed that I could only concentrate on my career or a relationship but not both and certainly not with a co-worker. I eschewed romantic entanglements with co-workers. Like Gayle, I and many of my female colleagues dealt with the good ol’ boy system because when I started females only comprised a very small percentage of the partners and were less than half of the managers too. Sexual harassment existed, at least in benign forms, that while not hostile (unlike Gayle’s situation which clearly was) were certainly not nurturing to females in a male-dominated profession. Legally that’s not sexual harassment but it was certainly unfair and aggravating.
Gayle is also based on a colleague from my public accounting years in Dallas. Smart as a whip, this woman worked for me on as many audits as I could nab her for. I thought she was amazing BUT she had a reputation for being a bit of a ditz and couldn’t seem to shake it. She went on to have a VERY successful career, started her own company that she sold for so much money she was able to retire barely into her forties. She sure showed her naysayers, of whom I am happy to say I was NOT one. She made me cry when we connected on Facebook and she sent me a really kind note expressing how much she appreciated the vote of confidence I gave her at the start of her career.
Gayle has a quick wit and there’s a lot of humor in the novel, was that element difficult to incorporate in a suspense story?
No. Humor was the easiest element for me. That’s just how I think, talk and write and always have. If I didn’t already have a strong “voice” when I started writing, I probably never would have become an author.
Jon is both sexy and charming, what characteristics describe your idea of a perfect hero?
Thank you! I love a clever hero with an element of mystery to him, and I do love a good mystery. I love a hero who is witty, and I love a hero who can move with ease between alpha and beta archetypes. Physically speaking, almost all of my heroes are tall and dark, often of Italian or Spanish heritage. That’s my preferred type so my heroines have similar tastes. LOL
How did you meet your husband? Was it love at first sight, or did you play hard to get?
It was definitely NOT love at first sight. I met him through a personals ad. In the olden days, BTI (Before the internet), we ran ads in newspapers. As I approached thirty, I shifted my sights from career to family and decided I was ready to have a serious relationship. Sounds calculating, I know. I advertised. He responded. I set aside his letter as a “maybe” and went out with a lot of frogs. I advertised again. He responded again and again I set aside his letter as a maybe, and again I dated a lot of frogs. The third time I advertised, he again replied and included a stick figure of himself he’d drawn on an otherwise typed letter. I called him and we talked on the phone for two hours. Met for drinks and talked for three hours. I liked him! But he didn’t call. I steeled up my nerve and during the middle of the day when MOST people are at work, I decided to call and leave a message on his answering machine to at least hint that I was still interested. If he never called back, well then I’d know for sure he wasn’t interested. That was my plan. Low risk. Only…he’d gone home for his half hour lunch break and answered his phone himself. I never dated another man and we’ve been together for over twenty years.
What books inspired you in high school? Did you have a favorite?
I loved the classics—Count of Monte Christo, Pride and Prejudice, The Three Musketeers, Jane Eyre, and I loved gothic romances by Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney. I also devoured Gone With The Wind. Loved, loved, loved GWTW.
Which young adult writers are your favorites?
I adored Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins was amazing. I also really enjoyed Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, and The DUFF by Kody Keplinger.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Work hard and be humble and accepting of well-intentioned criticism.
Thanks for joining us today, Claire, er, Ms Gillian.
Pssst. You know, as cranky as she wants you to think she is, I think she’s nice.