11 DECEMBER 2012
AN INTERVIEW WITH LOVELY LIZZIE GASKINS - PART ONE
A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Lovely Lizzie Gaskins. As she's just nominated CAROL'S CHRISTMAS as her Christmas Book of The Week I thought I'd reproduce our conversation as part of my blog. Here it is in full.
Q : You started writing at 21, but changed to Financial Services as a career for many years. What made you decide to return to writing?
A : Yes, I did start writing at 21 but it was never a career choice at that time. And the truth is, I made a complete hash of it first time round and made some fundamental mistakes - which I do not intend to repeat now. So I took a step back and then the need to earn a living got in the way and it was another 33 years before I got back to it. But it was the desire to pick up where I'd left off that got me going again - and I knew it was time to pack up Financial Services when I found the most interesting thing in Money Marketing was the Sodoku.
Q : You have a blog on your website devoted to your journey to becoming a recognised author. What do you hope readers will learn or glean from your blog?
A : The idea that readers of my blog should learn or glean anything from it has never occurred to me - I have no desire to 'teach' anyone anything - and I suppose I must apply the same philosophy as I do about my other writing. My main concern is to entertain and I have no personal or political message to convey. My readers must take what they will from my blog as they do from my books, be that inspiration, or sometimes, disgust or depression. I have no desire to change their view of the world, only to help them see it more clearly.
Q : Your novellas cover a wide range of subjects. Where do you find inspiration for your stories?
A : Mostly by observing what goes on around me - there's so much to tell! I went to a Writers Group meeting recently and sat next to a very pleasant lady who said she was determined to be a writer but didn't know what to write about. I don't think I could be a writer if I didn't have something I desperately wanted to say. Sometimes I burst with ideas and I can't wait to get them down on paper. I do have an 'ideas' file with odd things in it eg. a newspaper article about a WWII soldier's bag found preserved in the desert with a letter in it; an Order of Service for a funeral; a photograph of two people walking along the promenade in 1950's Weston-Super-Mare. My great regret is that I will never have the time to write all their stories.
Q : Where do you hope to see yourself in the next few years in respect to your writing career?
A : The short answer to that is - published. The long answer involves being able to set down the eight novel-length pieces I have in my head while I still have time. Four of these are written in some form or another and I hope to have the first of these available next year. I'm currently working on the second. The novellas are a bit of fun and not to be taken too seriously - starters, if you like, while the main course is yet to come.
Q : What advice would you give to a young writer on how to start their own writing career?
A : It would be presumptuous of me to give anyone advice. All I can tell you is that you will know inside yourself whether you want to write or not and if so, you should do it. If you're young and starting out, think carefully about genre. I think there are some genres you can write for at an early age. I personally found it impossible to write literary fiction at 21 because I hadn't done enough, hadn't read enough and hadn't practised writing enough. Here I am all those years later and it's still difficult. Now we're back to question one!
So there you have it. My thanks to Lovely Lizzie and I hope you find it as interesting to read as I did to provide the answers to her questions.
You can read more of what Lovely Lizzie has to say about CAROL'S CHRISTMAS and much else at bit.ly/Vvq2Wl. Please visit her website.
24 DECEMBER 2012
AN INTERVIEW WITH LOVELY LIZZIE GASKINS - PART TWO
The other week Lovely Lizzie Gaskins nominated CAROL'S CHRISTMAS as her Christmas Book of the Week. There were some questions she wanted to ask me about it. Here they are, together with my answers.
Q : What inspired your story Carol's Christmas?
A : I usually write about things that have been in my head for a while and are crying to be let out. CAROL'S CHRISTMAS was different in that I had determined to write a Christmas story and then went in search of a plot.
About half a mile from my house there's a street just like the one in the book. Every year all the houses in the road are decorated from top to bottom with sets of exotic lights and people go up there to drive round and look at them. It's a great way of spending an hour one evening prior to Christmas Day. There are even charity boxes at the end of each driveway where you can make a donation (and a contribution toward the electricity bill!).
We also have a tradition over here (I don't know if it's the same in the States) that if you fail to take down any decorations before Twelfth Night, you have to leave them up all year (there's actually one in our house right now, hidden behind a plant in the front window). I've also heard about people who are so besotted with Christmas that their houses are decorated all year round.
With these things in my mind, I lay in the bath one day, closed my eyes to think, and that was the start of CAROL'S CHRISTMAS.
Q : You could have picked anything for the characters to attempt bonding over. What drew you to choose ice skating?
A : Do you know what? I have absolutely no idea! We have an ice rink in York every Christmas and I guess that must have been in my mind too. It used to be outside The Castle Museum and The Courthouse which is where I've described it in the book. This year it's outside a shopping mall out of town. Sad, but hey ho, everything changes.
Q : You wrote Carol's Christmas as a novella or an 'entertainment' meaning that it is readable in one sitting. Was it harder writing the story this way being in that you are limited in how much you can say and may have to leave details on the 'cutting room floor' so to speak?
A : No, far from it. CAROL'S CHRISTMAS was the first 'entertainment' I wrote so it defined the genre for me. I knew the plot from start to finish before I began writing and I simply got it down on paper. It's never been edited so there's nothing on the cutting room floor at all. You could argue that it could be trimmed here and there but once I'd finished it, I was happy with it at 20,000 words. I've since gone on to write two more which quite coincidentally have come out at exactly the same length so there must be something 'natural' about it for me.
Q : This story was wonderful and it opened up tons of possibilities as to how Carol and her father's lives might contimue from here. Will readers be able to re-visit 26 Acacia Avenue someday in more published stories or will it be up to them to use their imaginations?
A : I have to say I have no plans to write any more about Brian and Carol. Just as I needed 20,000 words to say what I wanted to say about them and nothing less would have done, now I have nothing more to say and I'm afraid the mind is empty on the subject, so readers will have to use their imaginations. That's not such a bad thing - and by the way, I've written plenty of other stuff they can read any way!
Q : Be honest, do any of the characters in Carol's Christmas resemble anyone in your own life?
A : Yes - and no. This question boils down to whether my writing is in any way autobiographical . I actually believe that everything we write is autobiographical in some way or another - it must be, since everything we write originates from inside ourselves and no matter how we dress it up, horror, sci-fi, romance etc. it's still a part of us. CAROL'S CHRISTMAS is no different - but the characters are not direct representations of any particular individuals. Any one who reads it will probably recognise parts of themselves somewhere - there's as much of me in Brian and there is of any man, there's as much of my wife in Edna as there is of any woman and there's as much of my daughter in Carol as there is of any young lady her age. What I hope is that this will enable readers to more readily identify with the characters and thereby engage them in the story.
My thanks to Lovely Lizzie Gaskins for spending time with me this way. You can read more of what she has to say about CAROL'S CHRISTMAS and much else at bit.ly/Vvq2Wl. Please visit her website.
Meanwhile Happy Holiday!