Wednesday 6 December 2017

Talking to #Author Gill Paul about Working From Home @GillPaulAUTHOR

I'm delighted to welcome author Gill Paul to Random Things today. Gill is an old friend of Random Things. I've read and reviewed a few of her books on the blog.
Her latest book is Another Woman's Husband, published by Headline on 2 November 2017, I read and reviewed it here on Random Things last month

How to Work from Home and Stay Sane
I’ve been working from home for over twenty years and it suits me to a tee. I concentrate better without folk chattering by the KitKat machine, and I love the freedom from commuting and clocking in. Early on I decided to be very disciplined about getting to the desk at nine every morning, wearing actual clothes (I can’t get into work mode while in a dressing gown), and not skiving off to munch ginger nuts while watching Loose Women or Countdown. As bosses go, I’m pretty strict. 
The isolation can have its downsides, though, and a major one is coping with bad news on your own. If you work in an office and a customer rings to complain, you can roll your eyes and make faces to colleagues then have a bitch after you hang up. If they share their own stories of imbecilic customers you soon you feel a whole lot better. But if there’s negative feedback when you work from home, it’s easy to brood and decide you’re a failure. That’s why you need a little network of home-working pals in the same industry whom you can email for advice and TLC. Not all day, every day, but when the need arises. 
It’s not just the negatives: how do you know if you’re doing well? More often than not, you don’t hear if customers are happy so no news is good news. But us sensitive home workers are more needy than most, especially if we’re in creative professions. When praise is not forthcoming, or not fulsome enough for our fragile egos, we start analysing the nuances in emails. Is there a hint of criticism? Why does this one end with a ‘Yours’ rather than ‘Best wishes’ or even ‘Love’? Time to take a deep breath, tell yourself you’re fabulous, and carry on. 
In an office you have co-workers to compare yourself with, but at home all you can do is trawl online. For authors this can lead to the slippery slope of comparing your Amazon ranking and number of reviews with those of other authors. If you’re an eBay or Etsy seller, it means checking your competitors’ satisfaction rating. Take it from one who knows: that way madness lies. I set rules about how often I’m allowed to check my rankings or read reviews, and it’s never more than once a day. If a Tweet or Facebook post pops up about another author’s success, I congratulate them straight away, which helps to mitigate the envy. 
Social media is clearly a huge danger for home workers, who might otherwise go hours without any human contact. When I reach a sticking point in my writing, it’s tempting to check what’s trending on Twitter. Hands up, I don’t always resist, but wandering through to make a cup of tea is a better option because I can stay immersed in the novel while waiting for the kettle to boil. My self-imposed rule is to restrict social media to first thing in the morning, lunchtime and the end of the day. But clearly I can’t possibly stick to that if something exciting is going on, like royal couples getting engaged or an irresistible discussion on Book Connectors. 
Another danger of home working is that you don’t get any fresh air and sunlight, especially in winter. I combat this by swimming daily, year-round, in an outdoor pond; but with a water temperature that’s currently 5C, it’s not everyone’s drug of choice. It works for me because I can think about writing while in the water and while walking there and back, and I get a little social interaction with the other swimmers (eccentric souls to a one). 
Finally, home-workers should try to be disciplined about clocking off from work and having an actual life. Without a line manager to oversee your workload, it’s easy to take on too much and run yourself ragged. Know your limits and just say no if a customer suddenly quadruples their order or moves the deadline forward unrealistically. It’s tempting to check emails at bedtime, or nip in to reread a chapter you’ve just written, or fire out a few last Tweets. But it means you go to bed brooding about work, which could well be at the root of my appalling sleep patterns. I’m prone to working seven-day weeks, which is bad for the soul and makes you a tedious dinner-party guest.
So these are my tips on working from home and staying sane – I’ll let others be the judge of whether I’m managing.
Gill Paul is an author of historical fiction, specialising in relatively recent history. Her new novel, Another Woman’s Husband, is about links you may not have been aware of between Wallis Simpson, later Duchess of Windsor, and Diana, Princess of Wales.
The Secret Wife, published in 2016, tells the story of the romance between cavalry officer Dmitri Malama and Grand Duchess Tatiana, the second daughter of Russia’s last tsar, who met in 1914. Gill’s other novels include Women and Children First, about a young steward who works on the TitanicThe Affair, set in Rome in 1961–62 as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton fall in love while making Cleopatra; and No Place for a Lady, about two Victorian sisters who travel out to the Crimean War of 1854–56 and face challenges beyond anything they could have imagined.
Gill also writes historical non-fiction, including A History of Medicine in 50 Objects and series of Love Stories, each containing fourteen tales of real-life couples: how they met, why they fell for each other, and what happened in the end. Published around the world, this series includes Royal Love Stories, World War I Love Stories and Titanic Love Stories.
Gill was born in Glasgow and grew up there, apart from an eventful year at school in the US when she was ten. She studied Medicine at Glasgow University, then English Literature and History (she was a student for a long time), before moving to London to work in publishing. She started her own company producing books for publishers, along the way editing such luminaries as Griff Rhys Jones, John Suchet, John Julius Norwich, Ray Mears and Eartha Kitt. She also writes on health, nutrition and relationships.
Gill swims year-round in an open-air pond – “It’s good for you so long as it doesn’t kill you”– and is a devotee of Pilates. She also particularly enjoys travelling on what she calls “research trips” and attempting to match-make for friends.
For more information visit
Follow her on Twitter @GillPaulAUTHOR

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