Guest Post: The Girl Who Was A Gentleman

Anna Jane Greenville graduated from Goldsmiths in 2016 and has gone on to pursue a career in writing and publishing. Her first novel, ‘The Girl Who Was A Gentleman’ was released in English and German by Digital Publishers.


My first novel was published on 7 December 2017 – exactly one year after my graduation ceremony, which feels like a tremendous achievement. People all over the world can read the book and get a glimpse of my thoughts. Besides being pretty amazing, it is also the reason why I decided to write under a pseudonym.

Although I have been working on the novel for nearly three years, it was several weeks before my Masters dissertation deadline that most of the book was written. In retrospect, it might not have been the best timing (and it did affect my grade), but I would totally do it again. It is strange how one gets those creativity bursts whenever one’s hands are full with other very important things.

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Despite (or perhaps, because of) my academic background in art, the book I have written is quite mainstream. It is a Victorian coming-of-age romance (my editor told me to use the word Regency romance, although it is not set in the Regency period, but apparently Regency romance is more frequently searched for, so here it is).

The book cover is pink and violet with hearts because we were really trying to stress the romantic storyline, although I was afraid that readers would call me out as I had actually written a feminist tale with LGBT elements that was also a love story, but mostly about finding one’s feet in the world when you feel different. Even though it is set in Victorian England, I tried making it about all the bits and pieces that are on our minds today. A lot less has changed in the past 100+ years than we like to think and that is what I wanted to show. Out came ‘The Girl Who Was A Gentleman’.

I had no idea whether or not this was going to be one that people would want to read, but they actually did. Since my publisher is German, I was asked to translate the original English manuscript into German which then became ‘Das Herz Eines Gentleman’, and the latter has become a bestseller on Amazon (January and February 2018). Besides plenty of kind feedback I do get bad reviews too – obviously tastes vary. Sometimes the more critical reviews include invaluable tips on how to improve and I am very grateful for that (although I do love the ‘best book ever’ reviews, don’t get me wrong). But I can’t help being self-critical about my work, after all I am a Goldsmiths alumna.

Here’s a short excerpt that I am very happy with as, in my opinion, it captures the mood quite well:

Candles were lit wherever there was space to place them, despite the tremendous gas-lit chandelier, which was made entirely of crystal. The formidable piece of craftsmanship hung above the dining room table and threatened close to one hundred and fifty lives with its thousand shimmering diamond-shaped glass pieces […]

The noise in the vast dining room drowned every thought in my brain but one – the fear of the chandelier. It swung just a tiny bit when the bald man next to me stomped on the floor with his enormous foot after the other bald man opposite him had said something funny. They both laughed with their mouths wide open, displaying half-chewed turkey in all its glory.

‘If it falls, at least it will put us out of our misery,’ whispered Hanson under his breath and smiled when I did.

‘The Girl Who Was A Gentleman’, Chapter 20: p. 219-220

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Currently, I am working on my next book. In indie publishing, the genres that sell best are romance, historical, young adult and paranormal – and my next book will be somewhere between those genres because it is precisely what I love to read and write. What I find most exciting about mainstream is exploring how far I can stretch clichés in order to create something new that is just traditional enough for readers to still appreciate it.

The time I spent at Goldsmiths inspired me greatly and the people I met there have had a strong influence on my writing. Because of that most of the names I have dedicated my debut novel to are the special people I met during my time at university.

 

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