Liz Eeles, author of cheerful, uplifting romantic comedies, is my guest today on Last Word of the Week.
Posts tagged ‘writers on writing’
Lyn also writes articles, short stories, blog posts and, on occasion, songs and academic articles.
When she’s not at work or writing, Lyn is reading, singing, watching world cinema, or attempting to improve her Tibetan language skills (currently dreadful).
Welcome to Last Word of the Week, Lyn! Tibetan language skills? Interesting! Tell me, when did you write your first story?
I can’t remember writing stories when I was young, but I was always imagining stories. My sister used to tell us bedtime stories, that she made up as she went along. I copied that style in my own imagined stories, that I told to myself, especially when life at home got really difficult. My first written stories didn’t come about until English class at secondary school. I was allowed to go to school just for that one class as I was a chronic truant by the age of 12. I remember writing stories at this point in life as completely absorbing.
Stories often help, don’t they? What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?
I’ll answer the planning aspect first as it’s something I really struggle with. With my first novel I just dived in and kept writing, making mistakes and rewriting. It took me ten years so with the second one I’ve really tried to plan more. It hasn’t gone quite as I intended, I’ve had to create a second Scrivener document so that I can redraft my outline and copy across all the notes and scribbles into the right bit of the structure (this is partly because I dived into Scrivener without knowing how it worked!).
I never want to get afraid to just write as things come to me because I don’t have somewhere ‘tidy’ to put it immediately. On the other hand, my ‘jigsaw’ method of writing different pieces and spending hours finding where they fit isn’t the most organised one. I’m looking for that happy medium between planning and inspiration because I think you have to work within your own limits and writing style.
Imagination grows the more you use it. I write down thoughts and ideas as they come to me, no matter how stupid they seem. Some of these ideas may never develop further, but capturing your brain’s imaginings is a great way to get over that harsh self-critic you carry around as well as being a good warm up for writing. And a few of my musings have later been used to give a character more depth or provide the backdrop for a scene. Imagination is never wasted.
I really enjoy dreaming, especially right now as I’m using nicotine patches to give up smoking. They have a known side effect of vivid, crazy dreams. My last remembered dream was watching a jet ski competition – where all the competitors were dogs. At this point in time I have absolutely no use for that but some of the best stories in the world make unexpected links between seemingly disparate events or things and/or are complete flights of fancy. Jet skiing dogs might just be the next bestseller. Love your dreams!
Great advice there: love your dreams! What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
Winning a prize for my debut novel was definitely the highlight. I was told my first book was too ‘brutal’ to be easily marketed, because my main character is a battered child. I think it’s the fact that the child is not a silent entity, as so often happens in violent crime genre, but is ‘in your face’, that made some agents uncomfortable. Being awarded the prize gave me confidence that difficult subjects can be written about, can make beautiful writing. It’s also given me the motivation to keep writing.
That sounds very affirming. Good on you for persisting. What are you most busy with at the moment?
My day job keeps me very busy, especially as it’s marking season right now. I’m also reading a lot, mostly research for the second book, though I have to remind myself to take notes as both main strands of research are so fascinating.
Ooh, fascinating. If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Keep writing. The more we write, the better we get – and I don’t mean in terms of winning prizes. I mean in terms of writing what we want to write, with a precision and skill that satisfies us.
And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?
Mine too! Thanks so much for talking with me today, Lyn! I’ll be on the lookout for your next novel.
The wonderfully talented Dr Eugen M. Bacon (MA, MSc, PhD) studied at Maritime Campus, less than two minutes’ walk from The Royal Observatory of the Greenwich Meridian.
Today’s guest on Last Word of the Week, Eugen is a computer graduate who has mentally re-engineered herself into creative writing. Eugen has published over 100 short stories and articles and multiple anthologies worldwide.
She is also a professional editor, of the very highest quality (yes, she edits some of my work! Much to my delight.) Today Eugen has agreed to tell us a bit about herself and her writing.
LWOTW: Welcome, Eugen! Tell us about when you first realised that you are a writer.
Eugen: I knew as a child that writing took me to a mystical place. There was flair in my letters when I wrote them—remember real letters, pen on paper, before email? Always vivid in my imagination, English composition was my favourite subject in primary and secondary school.
I express myself best in writing. I look at my text, and it’s exactly what I mean to say. Sometimes I feel but lack words to clarify the feeling until I put it to text.
A natural-born writer, then. That’s impressive! Do you rely more on dreams, imagination, and planning?
I love dreams, especially when my departed beloveds come to visit. I dream in colours and smells and sounds. Never music, I don’t think… But I hear conversations and the timbre of voice, for example my mother’s. And I imagine. I always imagine.
Planning is a discipline that came as part of doctorate studies. It was excruciating but necessary to chart my non-fiction. But shorter fiction is spontaneous. Planning would ruin it!
Sounds like a great balance you have there. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
Please don’t make me choose! Every text has led me to where I am. Even those stupid earlier pieces Amazon has refused to take down! I was young and impulsive, and I really wanted to get published.
My very first achievement came in winning a writing competition and the Writers Bureau in the UK published ‘Morning Dew’, my very first publication. I later republished the short story as ‘The Writer’—it is a cathartic piece that is also autoethnographic, fictionalised. It was also my first earnings as a writer. Fifty pounds.
Frankly, the doctorate opened the literary world. Suddenly I networked and had access to publishers who were open to give my work a go.
Meerkat Press is a highlight, one of the best publishers to work with. The US book tour for Claiming T-Mo is just magic.
So many highlights, of course you can’t choose. What are you most looking forward to at the moment?
I love my work as an editor, especially when I read a piece of text that stirs me.
I would love to write professionally, but all formal reports on writers’ earnings paint a dismal picture. Only a rare few authors can truly live on writing alone without subsidiary income.
I am excited about current writing projects—a cultural novella set in Australia; a graphic collection of speculative flash fiction; a prose poetry collaboration… I also have a collection of speculative fiction out with Meerkat Press in 2020.
Sounds like you have plenty to be getting on with. If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Edit, edit, edit. Make sure you professionally edit your work. Stay away from boutique publishers who will snatch all your publishing rights and continue to make the work available long after you’d rather they didn’t.
And, most importantly, don’t keep a shrine of rejection slips. Work at quality, read the authors who most inspire you, and keep submitting until your work finds the right home.
Great advice there. And finally:
Who would you be if you were a fictional character?
Professor Moriarty. A tantalising mastermind. S/he’d be a person of colour.
Aha! That makes a kind of sense, I must say.
Thank you so much Eugen for having this week’s Last Word.
Isobel Blackthorn writes great stories. She’s one of those accomplished authors who won’t be put in a box. Think thrilling mysteries, dark and dangerous romances, eerie occult tales and more. Every time I pick up one of Isobel’s books, I know I am about to be transported into an exotic location where I will meet intriguing characters who wrestle with particular circumstances…and I will have to read as quickly as I can to the end!
Hi Isobel, it’s wonderful to have you as today’s guest on the Last Word of the Week Q&A. Can you tell us about when you first realised that you are a writer?
Isobel: When I was eighteen, I developed a thirst for literature. I had uni friends studying English literature and I asked them for lists. That was how I feasted on Austen and Hardy, and then Zola and Flaubert and Kafka and Hesse. A little Sartre. I devoured those books and as I did, something in me stirred. I wrote little bits of poetry and song lyrics. I had not an iota of confidence, just a deep urge or impulse that would rise up in me every now and then. I heard the narrative voices of those books in my mind and I began to develop a narrative voice of my own, which proved to be a lot like Hesse at first. This was in the 1980s. It took decades before I had the time and space and self-belief to apply myself to learning the craft.
A great way to enter the world of writing, indeed. As a writer, do you rely more on dreams, imagination, and planning?
Ideas for new works emerge as if from nowhere. Little aha moments. It is rare that a whole novel will emerge at once. Sometimes many years go by before the initial impulse is developed into a book-length work. I do as little planning as possible. Too much planning can kill the creative spark. I prefer to let things flow as much as possible. Although writing mysteries and thrillers, there is always an element of plotting. And I usually know how a story will end so I have something to work towards. I am forever mindful of balancing the story elements and I am always fixated on the word count.
Story ideas are delicate creatures, I agree. I think you wrangle them very well. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
Finding myself shortlisted for the Ada Cambridge Prose Prize. I have long coveted winning a prize or even just reaching the long or short list. A prize is a rubber stamp that tells the world you are really quite good at what you do. In a fiercely competitive and swamped marketplace, we need to stand out somehow.
Congratulations! Yes, wonderful to have that stamp! What are you most looking forward to at the moment?
That is a big secret.
Oh, how marvellous! Now you have me guessing. If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Don’t give up. Writing is an all-consuming activity that will stretch you in unexpected ways. Enjoy the creative process and do not be defeated by rejection. It can take ten years and many books before you feel you have climbed more than a rung of the ladder. Above all, support your fellow writers. We are a vast community, published and unpublished and we can help each other progress in many ways.
Lovely, thank you! And finally:Who would you be if you were a fictional character?
Here is that curly question at the end of the exam! Just when you feel you are ahead and passing is assured, along it comes and dashes your hopes. Who would I be? I used to think I would be Cathy in Wuthering Heights. No more. But I can think of no single character. I am that woman who sits by her upstairs window and gazes out at the world. An artist, probably, and very solitary. Who is she? I am a lot like, or want to be a lot like the protagonist in The Oblique Place by Caterina Pascual Soderbaum. I urge all literary fiction fans to read that book.
It sounds intriguing – very suitable! Thank you so much for talking with me today, Isobel.
All of Isobel’s important links:
The Unlikely Occultist – viewbook.at/Occultist
Trev Lince, today’s guest on Last Word of the Week, originates from Marske-by-the-Sea on the North East coast of England, but now lives in Darlington with his wife, Claire. A keen golfer and frustrated Middlesbrough FC fan, Trev gets to as many matches as work and leisure time allow. He writes in what little spare time he has. Room 119 – The Whitby Trader was Trev’s first book but he may have a few more stories bursting to get out of his head…
LWOTW: So pleased to meet you, Trev. I won’t mention Middlesborough, or golf come to that 🙂
Thanks for talking with me about your writing. Can you tell us about when you first realised that you are a writer. I gather you started quite late?
Trev: I attained an ‘e’ in English and am borderline dyslexic and only read 11 books in my entire life before I had the crazy idea of writing Room 119.
So I guess I am not your stereotypical author. I had a dream, told a few people and after a year or so banging on about it my lovely wife said
‘Well why don’t you write it Trev, you never finish anything you start EVER.’
Next day was 2 Jan 2017, 4 months later I wrote The End.
Good for you! Nothing like a spousal challenge, eh? Do you rely more on dreams, imagination, and planning?
Room 119 and Funicular were both born from dreams, or at least the idea and out line was.
I generally sort of know what’s next as I type. I never really have moments looking for inspiration. I can write 5 or 6k words every sitting when I’m in the mood.
I have, on both books, had a couple of nights after a heavy writing session gone to bed and had 6 or 7 dreams the continue the plot.
It’s actually hard to explain as you’re not asleep but not quite awake and I have to get up for water every hour, frustrating and tiring when it happens, but I’m glad it does.
That’s wonderful. Such a creative process. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
Seeing Room 119 – The Whitby Trader arrive in paperback in a box from amazon. That might be eclipsed if it becomes a film!
Screenplay done and I’m in talks with a few directors.
Wow that’s impressive. Congratulations! What are you most looking forward to at the moment?
It’s all about the next book, which I have been neglecting due to a new job and working hard to get Funicular out as an audiobook. Now that’s done I’m back on it.
If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Don’t listen to anyone who says you can’t do it, if I can, you can.
Also when you get a bad review (I’ve only had one so far) then take it with a pinch of salt.
Equally don’t go overboard with your good ones, you can’t please all of the people all of the time.
It is nice when you get a good one though!
And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character?
Of my characters I would probably like to be Benjie the clown because I love him, it’s funny how you can make someone up and then they end up so real in your head.
When people say they hate clowns in books I end up sticking up for him like an old friend.
If not mine, then I said earlier I’ve only read 11 well 15 now, probably DEATH in Terry Pratchett books, quite a cool bloke, he’s just got a dodgy job.
That’s wonderful. Thank you so much for speaking with me. Your writing process is very inspirational. More power to you!
You can find out more about Trev on
On Twitter @Room119TFLince
LJ Evans, my guest on today’s Last Word of the Week, is an award winning author who lives in the California Central Valley with her husband, daughter, and the three terrors called cats. She’s been writing compulsively since she was a little girl and will often pull the car over to write when a song lyric strikes her. While she currently spends her days teaching 1st grade in a local public school, she spends her free time reading and writing, as well as binge watching original shows like The Crown, Victoria, and Stranger Things.
If you ask her the one thing she won’t do, it’s pretty much anything that involves dirt—sports, gardening, or otherwise. But she loves to write about all of those things, and her first published heroine was pretty much involved with dirt on a daily basis. Which is exactly what LJ loves about fiction novels—the characters can be everything you’re not and still make their way into your heart.
LWOTW: Welcome, LJ, it’s such pleasure to meet you! Can you tell us about when you first realised that you are a writer?
LJ Evans: This question always has me stalling out. I mean…I’ve written since I was a little girl. Stories by myself. Stories with my sister. Novels. Screenplays. I published my first book, MY LIFE AS A COUNTRY ALBUM, because my sister “made me.” It even won an award, and the first 3 books in the series were nominated for and won some awards, and yet I still didn’t feel like a “writer.” I didn’t feel like I deserved that “tag.” Then, I joined a group of other writers online in December who were talking about all the same things as me. Plot problems, inspiration problems, publishing dilemmas, and it finally clicked. I am a writer. I am an author. It doesn’t matter what happens with the books I write (even if no one reads them). I love to create worlds and characters and stories, and that’s all it takes to be a writer.
You are SO a writer! Do you rely more on dreams, imagination, and planning?
Imagination. I get a LOT of inspiration from music. I’ll be listening to a song and the lyrics and I’ll see a whole scene or a whole novel plot including the characters and sometimes even their names. Is that a little bit of dreams and imagination? I don’t know. I do know that I’m not a planner. I don’t plot out stories before I start, so sometimes that means I have to start over or do more rewrites, but for me, I have to just learn the characters and the story as a I go. I’ve also learned that this is okay. To not plan. There is no one way to write just like there is not just one book that fits everyone. Be you as you write, and that will shine through.
All my books have playlists…in fact, music is so entwined in my books that each chapter starts with a song title. My latest book has over 30 songs tied to it.
That’s completely inspirational. I love it, thank you! What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
Having my first book win the Independent Author Network’s Young Adult Book of the Year was pretty cool. Having no idea, but being nominated for an UTOPiCON Award was huge. But really, the true HIGHLIGHT of my career has been when people I don’t know reach out to me and tell me that my book impacted them in some way. I’ve had lots of parents of Type 1 diabetes children reach out to me, and it makes me realize that I’ve brought attention to a disease that is often overlooked because a lot of people don’t get that Type 1 is NOTHING like Type 2 diabetes. People don’t understand that Type 1 can kill you in a heart beat or slowly and painfully. I love that my story has reached a community of people and wound its way into their hearts. That for me, is the best gift that I can ever have been given back.
That is wonderful. To touch other lives in such a positive way must be very rewarding. Congratulations! What are you most looking forward to at the moment?
Summer. With time to cuddle the cats, time to see my girlie who is on her own creative writing journey at college, and time to read and write.
Oh…did you mean writing? 😉I’m definitely looking forward to writing some spin offs to my last book with characters that people have been asking for. Mac Truck to the rescue!
Well, writing and life are intertwined, aren’t they! If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Don’t get hung up on how others are telling you to write. Write your way. Write your thoughts. Let “you” shine through. But do it a lot. Practice a lot. Write a lot. That doesn’t mean it has to be every day or a certain word count. It’s okay to ebb and flow in the volume of your writing and what you write. Just do it with your own authenticity. Then… TAKE THE RISK to put it out in the world. It’ll be worth it. I promise.
And finally:Who would you be if you were a fictional character?
I WANT to be Jenny Weasley. She was cool, quiet, and powerful. If I can’t be her, then I’ll be Veronica Mars. Do you have the Veronica Mars show in Australia? It has been “off” for several years, but has a new season coming out on Hulu in July! Veronica is played by Kristen Bell, and she’s like a modern-day sassy, bada$$ Nancy Drew. I’m not sure I’ve ever been that sassy, and I’d love to be.
Great choices there. And isn’t it wonderful how writing allows us to let out our sassiest selves?
Thank you so much for speaking with me today. A truly inspirational interview. Plus music! What could be better?
Find out more about LJ and her books at www.ljevansbooks.com
AUTHOR SOCIAL MEDIA SITES:
Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/LJsMusicandStories/
Amanda J Evans is an award-winning writer of paranormal and fantasy novels as well as children’s stories. Growing up with heroes like Luke Skywalker and Indiana Jones, her stories centre on good versus evil. An early tragedy in her life has also made its way onto the page and Amanda brings the emotions of grief to life in her stories too. Amanda lives in Oldcastle, Co. Meath, Ireland with her husband and two children. Amanda is also the author of Surviving Suicide: A Memoir from Those Death Left Behind, published in 2012.
LWOTW: So lovely to meet you, Amanda. Can you tell me when you wrote your first story?
Amanda: I wrote my first real story when I was eight. It was called The Little Elf Fairy. It was about a young elf fairy child going off in search of his mother. I remember that it filled a copybook and I drew little pictures to go with it. My parents had it typed up and I even sent it to Penguin books. My first rejection too. :-0
Oh that is starting young in the realities of writing! What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?
I’m a big believer in dreams and the messages they can give us. In relation to writing dreams, I believe you have to have them. You have to have something to strive towards, something to excite you and keep you motivated. Whether it’s seeing your book in big name shops like Easons, or hitting the bestsellers list. You have to have a dream.
Imagination is essential for writing. I love imagining what my characters look like, how they’ll overcome the obstacles they are facing, etc. I also love imagining success and people reading and enjoying my books.
I’ll be very honest and say I don’t plan my books at all. I am what is referred to as a pantser. I pick up my pen and just write. The story unfolds as I’m writing it and I love it. I love the surprises, the twists, and the way that characters take over. I get to experience the story as a reader would even though I’m the author. I have tried planning in the past, but it never works. My characters always seem to do their own thing and I’ve learned that they know best.
That’s fabulous. What a wonderful way to write. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
There have been a few, but I think the best one was probably the most terrifying. It was after I’d finished writing Finding Forever and had sent it to beta readers. I was a nervous wreck. I was imagining all sorts, mostly negative. I kept thinking readers were going to say my story was rubbish, and who did I think I was being a writer. When the first messages started to arrive, I was afraid to open them. They could literally shatter all my hopes and dreams. I remember having a drink or two the evening I decided to read them. To calm myself down and give me the courage. The very first message I read left me with a big smile on my face. The reader loved the story. The rest of the feedback followed the same way. They loved the story and wanted more. I had readers telling me it could be a series and everyone loved one particular character. It was the boost I needed to move forward and publish my book.
One of the highlights for 2018 was being invited to take part in two anthologies with bestselling authors and being asked to write an editorial quote for Anna Undreaming.
Congratulations, what a fabulous list! What are you most busy with at the moment?
At the moment, I’m busy promoting my latest release, Hear Me Cry. It’s a short novella that retells the Irish myth of the banshee. It’s a fantasy romance and is receiving great feedback so far. Next month I have a new angel and magic themed book releasing in an anthology. It’s called The Cursed Angels.
If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Don’t give up. If writing is something that you love to do, do it. Not for the money and fame, but because it brings you joy. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the talk about making loads of money if you self-publish and this should never be your focus. Write because you love it. Read a lot, and improve your skills as you go along. Don’t put yourself under too much pressure and always remember why you started writing in the first place. Don’t ever let it become a chore.
And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?
This would have to be either blue or pink, in all shades.
Thank you so much Amanda for speaking with me today. You have made my TBR pile even bigger. Thank you!
You can read more about Amanda at
Find Amanda on:
Books By Amanda J Evans
Save Her Soul – A Paranormal/Urban Fantasy Romance
Finding Forever – A Romantic Suspense Novella
Surviving Suicide – A Memoir From Those Death Left Behind
Nightmare Realities – Spooky Short Stories for Ages 9-16
Author Ann Brady, who writes historical fiction and also engaging children’s books, is my guest today on Last Word of the Week. Ann is a wonderful mentor of other writers and her caring and wise attitude can be seen in many of her books. She is adept at creating engaging characters and attractive worlds. Ann lives in Cardiff but has been known to visit antipodean shores…
LWOTW: Hello Ann, how nice to meet you. Can you tell us about when you first realised that you are a writer?
Ann: I’m not really sure when the idea of being a writer first came to me. I have always been able to write whether it be fiction or fact. Perhaps that’s down to my open mind and my wild imagination as well as my being pedantic in wanting to research things deeply and clearly. I do know I have always been able to write.
I love the combination of an open mind and a wild imagination! Do you rely more on imagination, dreams, or planning?
I take whatever life throws at me. Sounds silly but for me life delivers such wonderful scenarios that you only need to use your own imagination to create stories. For example, many of the Little Friends Children Picture Book Stories come from my having seen children’s reactions or behaviours. Children are wonderful sources for stories.
Endlessly inspiring, I agree. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
Everyday. I just love being part of the writing world. More so in recent years as I have learnt so much more in relation to publishing. Mentoring other writers, especially younger ones, has been a delight and there is nothing more satisfactory than seeing the look of delight on a youngster’s face when they see their work in print. Even someone as young as five.
That’s wonderful! What are you most looking forward to at the moment?
Developing my knowledge and passing this on through the new workshops that I am creating. Unlike a lot of people, I believe in sharing and am not jealous of their success. Perhaps that due to my age or just the fact that I have achieved so much I am happy in my own skin.
Great to hear. I’d love to hear more about those workshops. If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Persevere, be patient and grow a thick skin. There are a lot of people out there who are very willing to be criticise thinking they know the answers and yet they haven’t got a clue. If they had they would be the ones I would be saying this to.
Oh, yes, a thick skin is very necessary! And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character?
Wow this was a hard one as I’m not sure who I would be. I think it would have to be a woman who is as strong as I am now. Who doesn’t put up with any nonsense and one who could be successful regardless of the time or era she lived in? If I were a factual character, I suppose the closest I could come might be Queen Elizabeth 1 or maybe Queen Victoria. Both were strong no nonsense women determined to be equal to men. Now that sounds a bit weird, even to me ha ha!!
It sounds like a very good choice to me! Thank you so much Ann for speaking with me today.
Ann’s important links:
Author Alex Marchant is first and foremost a Ricardian – yes, read on for more information. Alex also has a background in archaeology and publishing. When she’s not writing, she strides about the moors devising ways to help the rest of us learn about the real Richard III – not the maligned chap of Shakespeare’s telling, but the actual king whose skeleton was recently discovered under a carpark in Leicester.
Lovely to meet you Alex. Can you talk a bit about when you first realised that you are a writer?
That’s quite a difficult question, but there were probably two main occasions – the first at the age of about seven or eight when I began to write my first ‘book’ (I was convinced that I could do as well as C. S. Lewis, who was my favourite author at the time – the main differences being that I had a horse-emperor rather than a lion and a magic fireplace for the children to go through instead of a wardrobe!). The second I guess was when I published my first book, The Order of the White Boar, and the first five-star reviews came rolling in. I have to admit to being rather older on the second occasion than on the first…
But dreams do come true, as we see! Do you rely more on dreams, imagination, and planning?
Good grief – and there was me, thinking it was perhaps odd for writing to be regularly inspired by dreams, but you’ve placed it first in your question! I wouldn’t say I rely on them, but dreams have fed into my writing at important times. Particularly those ‘between sleeping and waking’ types of dreams. Often an issue that’s been bothering me for a while is resolved in that way – just as I surface from sleep in the morning, or perhaps during the night. I don’t imagine I’m the only writer who always has to have a notebook and pen by the bed to catch ideas, just in case. Otherwise a large proportion of my ideas come while I’m on autopilot in the shower or walking the dog on a familiar path across the moors. Nowadays I do plan more than I used to, to ensure a decent structure for the ideas that come at odd moments like that.
Autopilot times are very important, I find. Especially dog-walking. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
A single highlight is difficult to pinpoint. Having come rather late to writing seriously, I’ve been enjoying almost every part of the process of independent publishing. The enthusiastic reception of my books – among both people already interested in my lead character, Richard III, and people who previously had barely given him a thought – has been fantastic, and meeting readers at various events is always a buzz, particularly children, as the books are primarily aimed at young people aged 10 and above.
One of the best was when a young student remembered me from a school author visit, and came up to my stall at an event months later and in a completely different county, a big grin on her face, asking me to sign the sequel. Another highlight was being asked to King Richard’s 566th birthday party at Middleham Castle as special guest to cut his cake, while a very early confidence boost came when I was notified that my first completed manuscript, Time out of Time, had won the Chapter One Children’s Novel Award.
No wonder you have trouble choosing one highlight! What a great collection of fabulous happenings. What are you most looking forward to at the moment?
I sell a lot of my books at events and I’m again attending a range of medieval festivals over the summer, including Bosworth and Tewkesbury – sites of two iconic battles in King Richard’s life. Only one of them features in my books – and last year it was very emotional to be able to read an excerpt from The King’s Man only yards from the site of the king’s death. I’m also looking forward to reading all the entries for the new anthology I’m editing which will be sold in support of Scoliosis Association UK – a follow-up to last year’s collection of Richard III-inspired fiction, Grant Me the Carving of My Name, which has proved so popular. (Details of how to submit can be found at https://alexmarchantblog.wordpress.com/2019/02/24/call-for-submissions-to-new-richardiii-anthology/, deadline 19 May)
Thanks for the tip!If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Never give up! Keep reading, keep writing, believe in yourself, tap into all the positive energy flowing from fellow authors, and don’t take no for an answer from agents or publishers.
And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character?
Will Stanton, lead character of Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising – the original boy who wakes up on his eleventh birthday to discover he’s not ordinary after all. We all need that sort of magic in our lives. (J. K. Rowling is apparently also a fan…)
Thank you so much for speaking with me today, Alex. It’s been an absoloute pleasure to meet you.
Buy links: mybook.to/WhiteBoar
Bone Lines, Stephanie Bretherton’s debut novel, considers what it is to be human by engaging us in the lives of two women, separated by millenia. Stephanie is a wonderful communicator who has a fascinating backstory of her own – Born in Hong Kong to a pair of Liverpudlians, she is now based in London, but manages her sanity by escaping to any kind of coast, particularly far west Cornwall.
LWOTW: Welcome, Stephanie, it’s lovely to meet you. Thanks for sharing this Q&A about writers and writing. Tell us about when you first realised that you are a writer.
Stephanie: Probably the first time I got an A for a school composition! Those kind of dopamine hits can become as addictive as sugar. Just as well, really, as I have struggled with ‘numbers’ all my life. Words, on the other hand, have been my friends. It’s amazing what you can do with them, from creating and escaping into your own imaginary worlds, to coming back out into the ‘real’ world and communicating ideas, forming friendships, entertaining people, making them feel good.
If I had lived in the times of the prehistoric character in my book, Bone Lines, I would have been a rubbish hunter but would probably have made myself useful as the storyteller of the tribe.
That’s a great thought. You are obviously good at imagining yourself into the texture of your stories. Do you rely more on dreams, imagination, and planning?
I use all three. A dream might inspire, or help solve a problem, but that’s more passive. Active imagination is the key driver. Planning tends to come retrospectively, if that makes sense. I reverse engineer the planning once I have a character, a world, a theme, an idea that has been allowed to run free and take its own shape.
I love that notion! Reverse engineering planning – brilliant strategy for the imaginative writer! What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
I have always worked with words, communication or ‘storytelling’ in one form or another, and there have been quite a few thrills and spills along the way, from reading the weather report on Hong Kong television to building my successful ‘boutique’ communications agency. But creative writing fiction in particular has always been my first love and publishing a book was a lifelong goal. So undoubtedly bringing my debut novel Bone Lines out into the world last September, as exciting and terrifying as that journey has been, has to be the highpoint so far
I’m glad you mention the terror. It’s something writers don’t always expect, but it’s certainly there, hiding among the joys and delights. What are you most looking forward to at the moment?
Three weeks unbroken chill at my bolthole in Cornwall in the summer, to rest, write, walk and play. I am very blessed to have found a corner of the world that fills my soul. I’ve had a rather nomadic life since childhood (though I have always been drawn to a coast) and I while recent generations of my family are not from Cornwall (we are misplaced Scousers) and I’d never spent much time there before, I had the strangest sense of ‘coming home’ when I visited friends near Land’s End three years ago.
I had a small inheritance after my widowed mother had died, and I found a tiny place near the sea that weekend, put in an offer on the train back to London and knew it would gradually become ‘my soul’s landscape.’ I still have to spend a lot of time in London for work, but whenever I can get back to Cornwall, it’s just magic. The perfect place to write. (And I really need to crack on with book two.)
That sounds divine – but yes, we need Book Two. (I’ll put aside thoughts of Poldark for the moment…very distracting…) If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
If it’s what you want to do so badly that you are prepared to make sacrifices of your time, ego, cash flow, personal life, and sometimes what feels like your sanity, then just keep writing – whether you are ever published or not.
If you have something that has to be said, a story that has to told, a head full of characters demanding to written about, if you feel most ‘yourself’ (and at peace with yourself) when you are writing, then write, write, write. But there are no guarantees. Anything can happen and you can get lucky, but it’s a hard profession in which to make either headway or money. On the other hand it’s also a wonderful profession to be a part of. You can also self-publish – but do that as well as you can too. All readers deserve your best, most professional work.
Do the work, learn the craft, take advice from those whose track record speaks for itself. Work with a good editor. If you can, pick a genre. I haven’t really yet, so am no example, but it will help when it comes to selling to the industry and then marketing – and know that marketing is a huge part of being an author too, so start to learn those skills as well. Nothing will just come to you though. Take rejection on the chin. You are unique, but you are not ‘special’ (yet) – writing is graft, but worth every minute, at least it has been to me.
Wonderful advice, thank you! And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character?
Atticus Finch, and Scout. The father in The Road, and his kid. Cathy and Heathcliffe. Pip, Abel Magwitch, and Estella. Or Joe and Biddy. Luke, Han and Leia. And Chewie. My Dr Eloise and all her lost lovers, and John, the priest. My ‘Sarah’ and all her ‘children.’ Aren’t we all the characters we have ever loved, learned from, or imagined?
LWOTW: Indeed we are! Writers and readers are the most changeable, and perecptive, of humand. Thank you so much for speaking with me, Stephanie, it has been pure joy.
Stephanie’s important links:
Stephanie’s Website is at http://stephaniebretherton.com/
Bone Lines is available online at all the usual places such as Book Depository