Monday 24 July 2017

Not Thomas
Sara Gethin

Today I am delighted to be part of the Blog Tour for Not Thomas by Sara Gethin. I have an extract for you and also a Q&A with the author.

Genre: Fiction
Release Date: 15th June 2017
Publisher: Honno Press

Tomos lives with his mother. He longs to return to another place, the place he thinks of as home, and the people who lived there, but he’s not allowed to see them again. He is five years old and at school, which he loves. Miss teaches him about all sorts of things, and she listens to him. Sometimes he’s hungry and Miss gives him her extra sandwiches. She gives him a warm coat from Lost Property, too. There are things Tomos cannot talk about – except to Cwtchy – and then, just before Easter, the things come to a head. There are bad men outside who want to come in, and Mammy has said not to answer the door. From behind the big chair, Tomos waits, trying to make himself small and quiet. He doesn’t think it’s Santa Claus this time.
When the men break in, Tomos’s world is turned on its head and nothing will be the same again.


The lady’s here. The lady with the big bag. She’s knocking on the front door. She’s knocking and knocking. And knocking and knocking. I’m not opening the door. I’m not letting her in. I’m behind the black chair. I’m very quiet. I’m very very quiet. I’m waiting for her to go away.
I’ve been waiting a long time.
‘Thomas, Thomas.’ She’s saying it through the letter box.
‘Thomas, Thomas.’
I’m not listening to her. I’m not listening at all. She’s been knocking on the door for a long long time. I’m peeping round the black chair. I’m peeping with one of my eyes. She’s
not by the front door now. She’s by the long window. I can see her shoes. They’re very dirty. If Dat saw those shoes he’d say, ‘There’s a job for my polishing brush’.
She’s stopped knocking. She’s stopped saying ‘Thomas’. She’s very quiet. The lady can’t see me. I’m behind the big black chair. And I’ve pulled my feet in tight.
‘Thomas?’ she says. ‘Thomas?’ I’m not answering. ‘I know you’re in there. Just come to the window, sweetheart. So I can see you properly.’
I’m staying still. I’m not going to the window. I’m waiting for her to go back to her car. It’s a green car. With a big dent in it. If I hide for a long time she’ll go. She’ll get back in her car and drive away. She’s knocking. And knocking again.
She’s saying ‘Thomas.’ And knocking and knocking again.
That is not my name.


Hi. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing.

It’s a pleasure.

Firstly, please could you tell readers a little about yourself?
Well, just to be confusing, I have two identities. I write for adults as Sara Gethin but in real life my name is Wendy White. I grew up in Llanelli in west Wales, and for some reason I can’t now remember, I studied philosophy and theology at uni, even though I loved English. After trying out Berkshire and Brussels for a little while, my husband, Simon, and I settled back in Wales. We have two grown up children.
I began writing for children under my real name four years ago, and was fortunate enough to win an award for my first book. My children’s writing is light-hearted but ‘Not Thomas’, my novel for adults, is dark. My editor and I decided that using a pen name would keep my two styles of writing separate – and I’d always fancied having a pseudonym!

When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
I day-dreamed about being an author as a child and had lots of half-finished stories in my collection of notebooks. I loved the local library and spent every Saturday afternoon choosing books as slowly as I could just so I could spend as much time as possible there. I couldn’t imagine anything more wonderful than making up stories for a living.

What did you do as a job before becoming a writer?
I actually worked in the children’s library I loved so much as a child for a little while, which was just fantastic. Then I trained as a primary school teacher and I absolutely adored teaching. Unfortunately, though, I had to give it up in my early forties due to a heart problem, and that gave me the opportunity to turn to writing, so my cloud really did have a silver lining.

How do you carry out the research for your novels?
I’m not the kind of writer who enjoys doing lots of detailed research before I start a project. I write first then research as the need arises.
My new novel, ‘Not Thomas’, is about child neglect and I based some of the situations Tomos, the main character, finds himself in on the experiences of children I taught and heard about when I was a teacher. My first teaching post was in a very disadvantaged area, and the problems I witnessed and heard about left a lasting impression on me. In a way, my life as a teacher became my research for ‘Not Thomas’.

Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?
I love creating the story in my head, maybe for a year or sometimes much longer, before I start typing it up. That’s one of the easiest parts, along with revising or editing. Actually sitting down and tapping the keyboard – that’s the most difficult part for me. That’s the part where the beautiful story in my head might turn out to be terrible on paper!
What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?
I can’t be creative in the morning – my brain just won’t work creatively until after lunch. So mornings are for emails and admin, and then I’ll write from the afternoon into the evening.
I like to sit at my laptop at the kitchen table, but I do have a lovely writing shed that I should make more use of - and a tiny, windowless home office I use when I have a really urgent deadline.

When you're not writing, what do you like to read?
I tend to choose contemporary fiction, and I occasionally read historical and crime novels too. I try to keep up with what’s new, and I average about a book and a half a week. I’m enjoying the novels of my fellow Honno authors too.

How important do you think social media is to authors in today's society?
If you’d asked me before I had my first book published in 2013, I’d have said not very. Now I know better!
Social media is extremely important and because ‘Not Thomas’ has just come out, I’m spending quite a lot of time on twitter and Facebook. It’s a wonderful way to connect with readers, and I’ve also had a few exciting opportunities for magazine and newspaper reviews that began as messages on social media.

Could you tell the readers a bit about your latest book?
‘Not Thomas’ is about a five-year-old boy called Tomos who’s been removed from his lovely foster parents, Nanno and Dat, and sent to live with his mum. She’s hiding a drug addiction and doesn’t look after for him properly. Her drug-dealing boyfriend, Brick, often stays over and the men he owes money to call round causing trouble. Tomos misses Nanno and Dat terribly and longs to be back in the place he calls home.
The novel follows him from Christmas to Easter and while reviewers have said it’s a sad book, it’s also been called ‘ultimately uplifting’. I wanted to show what neglect feels like to a child, so it’s written from the viewpoint of Tomos himself, in his five-year-old voice, a little like Emma Donoghue’s ‘Room’.

Which of your characters would you most like to be and why?
It would be wonderful to be Lowri, Tomos’s teacher, as I’d love to have a class of my own again.

Is there anything else you would have liked to be asked?
Maybe: “How long did it take you to write ‘Not Thomas’?”
I used to be embarrassed to answer that question, but now I think it proves you should never give up on your dreams.
I started ‘Not Thomas’ in 2001, and wrote it slowly over a fourteen year period, just a scene every few months. I didn’t believe it would ever be published as it’s written from the viewpoint of a very young child. Then Emma Donoghue published ‘Room’ in 2010, and like so many other readers, I loved its child’s viewpoint. It made me believe there might also be hope for my novel – so I speeded up, finished ‘Not Thomas’ and approached a publisher. I’m delighted it’s finally been published, and I hope readers will care about little Tomos as much as I do.

Thank you so much for your time in answering my questions.


Sara Gethin is the pen name of Wendy White. She grew up in Llanelli and studied theology and philosophy at Lampeter, the most bijoux of universities. Her working life has revolved around children – she’s been a childminder, an assistant in a children’s library and a primary school teacher. She also writes children’s books as Wendy White, and her first, ‘Welsh Cakes and Custard’, won the Tir nan-Og Award in 2014. Her own children are grown up now, and while home is still west Wales, she and her husband spend much of their free time across the water in Ireland. ‘Not Thomas’ is her first novel for adults. 

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3 e-copies (International) & 3 paperbacks (UK only)

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  1. I would love to win an e copy of Not Thomas as it sounds a fascinating read hearing about child neglect from a child's perspective

    1. Thank you, Julie - good luck in the giveaway!

  2. Thank you for hosting my debut novel 'Not Thomas' today, Julie. It was a pleasure to be interviewed too.