Gill Thompson was shortlisted for the inaugural First Novel Award in 2017. Her novel The Oceans Between Us was published by Headline Press in March on the same day as The Conviction of Cora Burns by Carolyn Kirby, our 2017 winner!
“I had wanted to write a novel for as long as I can remember. But for years, juggling family and work commitments meant there was little time to write. My children leaving home coincided with a change of role in the day job and I finally had some space. But I didn’t have a clue what to write about! Then one day I was listening to the lunchtime news and heard Gordon Brown, the then Prime Minister, apologise to the child migrants to Australia on behalf of a British government that had allowed them to be sent there decades before. The children had been told their parents were dead when many were in fact still alive. My first thought was what a shocking account. My second was what a powerful story it would make. Perhaps I’d finally found my subject.
I read widely and spoke to several ex child migrants. My sense of sympathy and outrage grew. But I knew if I was to write their story, I had to do it justice. I enrolled on a Creative Writing M.A course at the university of Chichester. There, many wise tutors and fellow students helped me shape my novel. I continued to work on it in workshop groups for another four years until it felt ready. By 2017 I was keen to test the water, and the Blue Pencil Agency first novel award provided the perfect opportunity. Much to my delight I was long-listed … then short-listed. It was a thrill to realise other people believed in my story and my writing. Soon afterwards I signed with Anne Williams of the Kate Hordern Literary Agency. Anne suggested a few changes, which I duly addressed, and submitted it to several publishing houses. Two in particular came up with offers and I eventually went with Headline. The Oceans Between Us is selling well and receiving some good reviews. More importantly, people are responding to the story of the child migrants, a story that touched my own heart all those years ago.”