Sharyn Lilley – Women’s History Month

Gillian and the Cursed Novel

This Women’s History Month, Gillian has asked us to talk a bit about our own histories. She may well regret that – my recent history is going to bring her front and centre to my post. I met Gillian online well over a decade ago; she already had Illuminations out, and laughed about her cursed novel, The Art of Effective Dreaming, while doing easily 30 or 40 other projects at that time. Neither of these will surprise long time readers of Gillian’s blog – the sheer volume of work she accomplishes whilst claiming to be very lazy, and the easy laughter about a novel whose publication date kept being knocked around by hurricanes and life and death situations. Life happens; you have to laugh at it – or make bad puns. You can see a pretty good example of both things in Jason Frank’s interview with Gillian, here.

But there was one other thing that made Gillian stand out from my online friends, her understanding of pain, and dealing with chronic illness, and the need to keep creating as one worked their way through each day. This is somewhat unusual in my experience. I exited a car via a windscreen thirty three years ago, and ended up wrapped around a bridge support post. I have not had a pain-free day since. My injuries will, eventually, degenerate so badly I’ll need mobility devices. I accept that, but I’m doing everything I can to delay that moment. Top that with twenty five years of living with a chronic illness that has lead to other health issues – including four years of collapsing without warning, and you know when I say that people with Gillian’s level of understanding are rare, I am speaking from a wealth of experience. Of course, Gillian came by her understanding the same way most of us do – from living with her own.

Through the years, as one thing after another delayed publication of the cursed novel, and I morphed briefly into one of Gillian’s publishers, with Life Through Cellophane, and Baggage, amongst other things, we also did fun things like be on the organising committee for Flycon with participants from all around the world, and some amazing authors of whom I am in awe. (fun might not be the best word, but it was fun  I’ve written about it for a previous WHM blog post, you can find it here, just ignore the links to the Eneit Press site, for Eneit Press no longer exists)

But throughout, her encouragement for me to keep writing and creating never stopped. Last year I had the first of my science fiction series published through Snapping Turtle Books. I wrote about the process, and the steps I do not recommend an author take on the path to getting published, I said that I didn’t want another year like that one. And the universe was listening, and it answered me – by making this past year much worse in a health sense, to the point of needing surgery that should have entailed just an overnight stay in hospital, and finished with me being in the acute care ward for six days. All this while doing all the things a mother has to do, and I’m only about 20,000 words from book two in the series being ready to go to my publisher *happy sighs*.

Is it easier to put everything else aside and just write if you are a man? I honestly don’t know, for we all have challenges, but men don’t usually have to deal with the extra societal pressure to present the spotless home and well-fed, clean children. It’s odd, some of the most passionate foodies I know are men, and they are often treated with awe for knowing how to cook well and loving the process. To me, no matter what gender you are, if you love doing something, then do it. My disabilities meant I couldn’t do it all, so I had to get help in to present the clean home side of things, and I deal with the ongoing feelings of failure for having to do so. I kept the things I love doing. And my writing, and music, for those things are as essential to me as breathing. This is where the encouragement of a friend like Gillian shines.

But, that cursed novel? Gillian tells me the curse has finally been broken. In fact, in a short while she should be able to share cover art images with us and after all this time I think it will feel like seeing an old friend come to life.

Mother of seven, voracious reader, author, and former editor & small press publisher, Sharyn is currently being published by Snapping Turtle Books as Ryn Lilley. The first novel in the Underground series was serialised before being released in full, you can find her work here.

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