A LONG day at the university reattaching a wing to a stuffed seabird damaged in the Cumbrian floods does little to dampen Vicky Garlick’s true passion – creative writing.
When she is not conserving artefacts at Durham University she is hard at work writing her fantasy novels, the latest of which has just come to print thanks to an Australian publisher.
Forgotten Magic is the first of a series of books she is writing as she transfers her childhood fantasy worlds to paper.
Now 28, she returned to Northallerton School & Sixth Form College, where she studied and her late father taught, to talk to and inspire the book club.
“Right from primary school I remember being upset when I had to stop writing creatively,” she tells the students. “Now I get in from work about 6.30pm and am writing by 7pm until about 10pm.”
What pours onto the page may have been influenced by The Hobbit, The Hunger Games, the witches’ TV series Charmed, but is original fantasy about a world stripped of its magic by a plague; where one woman regains her powers but uses them for evil and is battled by a heroine and the twins in her care.
The rest of the story the students will have to read for themselves as she donates a copy of Forgotten Magic to the library in memory of her much-loved father Graham, who taught humanities at the school for many years but died in 2009.
Her father is the reason she attended the school when the family lived at Thornton Watlass, near Bedale, not far from where she now resides in Thirn.
At school her love of the written word saw her study English literature and language in the sixth form and English language and linguistics at Lancaster University.
A job at the Armouries Museum in Leeds saw her join a sword fighting and knife-throwing club, a pastime she still enjoys and finds useful for her writing.
Her current day job is as an objects conservator at Durham University, restoring ancient artefacts of metal, wood and bone, as well as more modern but still historical teapots.
“I’ve got some taxidermy birds damaged in the flood in Cumbria to sort out at the moment,” she says. “There’s a seagull in my freeze drier; it’s wing fell off and I felt really sorry for it.”
Out of hours it is back to writing. She is expecting a report from Amazon this month as to how many copies of Forgotten Magic she has sold so far, a novel she started while at Northallerton College years ago.
“I have always loved fantasy and written about random worlds. I would love to have powers like the sisters in Charmed. How great would it be to be able to freeze people and blow things up? I am a bit of a fantasy geek.”
A second novel is two thirds completed. Inspired by her sister Jo, who is an artist, the latest book details the antics of characters who can bring to life their artistic creations from paintings, drawings and sculptures. After that it is back to the Forgotten Magic series.
Students questioned Vicky on her life and writing and talked about their own creative writing work.
“Writing sounds easy but the first 20 minutes are the hardest,” she tells students. “Then I get into the zone and it is fine. It is great fun. If I do get writer’s block I go for a run to clear my mind. I set my phone to record and randomly talk to myself.
“There are about 100,000 words in my book and the editing is the hardest job, revisiting and scrutinising every phrase. It is also difficult deciding whether you have had an original thought or if it is a memory of a book you may have read years before, so it is always important to give the storyline your own twist.”
The session was organised by learning resource centre manager Chris Brayshaw. “Book club members needed to see how being a writer doesn’t have to remain a fantasy,” she says. “Not too many years ago Vicky was sitting exactly where they are and look at her now.”
Student Becca Wade told the author of the adventure mystery she is currently writing while fellow reading club members Aimee Poole mentioned reaching chapter 5 of her horror sci-fi before being struck down with dreaded writer’s block. James Quigley told her of his novel which, unusually, blends horror with mystery and comedy.
Vicky tells the students: “It is great fun so just do it and you will find that the more you write the better you become. I managed to get it published by winning a competition being run by Australian firm Wildwood Publishing. Now it is available on line at Amazon and Waterstones.
“But you have to be prepared for rejection, which can be hard as your book is very much your baby. Even J K Rowling was rejected and look what happened there.”