Renowned writer offers expertise to Perse creative arts students
28 Nov 2018
Leading novelist and screenwriter Patrick Gale provided expert tips and advice to The Perse’s aspiring writers as part of the school’s Creative Mentors scheme.
Mr Gale, who wrote the screenplay for 2018 International Emmy Award-winning mini-series Man in an Orange Shirt, visited The Perse fresh from an appearance at the Cambridge Literary Festival. On playing his part in the BBC 1 drama’s success, he told students: “It was very exciting. My feet haven’t touched the ground!”
An author of 16 novels, he explained how he had loved writing since he was a child, inspired by a voracious appetite for reading books. However, as a teenager he had aspired to become a musician, having played cello to a high standard, and later an actor, while still writing his own plays which he shared with a small group of like-minded peers at school. Instead, Mr Gale studied English literature at Oxford University while still regularly taking to the stage to perform in plays.
His route into writing professionally came while he worked as a pianist/singer and waiter in a London cabaret restaurant after completing his degree. He recounted how he wrote what became his first novel, The Aerodynamics of Pork, during quiet periods on shifts and piqued the interest of an agent thanks to the manuscript’s unusual title.
Mr Gale explained how after the book was released in 1985, he was able to “serve an apprenticeship” with his publisher by penning further novels and growing a cult following of readers before his 2000 work Rough Music became a bestseller. During that period, he told the audience that he also made a living from writing articles for glossy magazines and screen adaptations of other authors’ works for film production companies.
He also outlined his process for creating a novel, from the time of his first idea for a book to literally putting pen to paper – Mr Gale writes two drafts of each novel longhand before committing to an electronic version for his editor to look over – before reading an extract from his latest book Take Nothing with You.
Following the session, Mr Gale said: “It’s been great to visit The Perse. I’ve met some really bright students who asked some very challenging questions and it’s been enormous fun.”
Listen to Mr Gale talk about the influences on his work and his advice for budding professional creative writers below.