What are you working on?
I’ve written an eighty thousand word children’s novel pitched for nine to twelve-year olds about a furry four-armed alien called Yub who, a teenager on his own planet, has a special ability that allows him to travel through space. His planet is dying and all its inhabitants live underground in biospheres built after the Cataclysms (a war) that caused the destruction of the protective atmospheric shield around the planet. Looking for a planet like his own was before the violent changes. Yub arrives in the North of Scotland and contacts a teenage boy, Josh, who is also feeling a bit alien as he is an incomer from the south. With the additional help of another isolated incomer, Leonie, they get Yub’s family and closest friends to Earth and hide them. There are many ups and downs, some humour, and some real-life problems like Leonie’s relationship with her chronically depressed father.
I’ve written it, edited and re-edited, worked on a sequel, and think it is good enough to publish but haven’t enough courage to try sending it to any publishers! My self-confidence comes and goes.
I’m also working on a sort of patchwork novel which gives me a chance to make stories up for the characters that fill my imagination. It’s much more adult but doesn’t yet have a connective ‘voice.’
How does your work differ from others in the genre?
That is an extremely difficult question. Quick answer: I’m not sure either of these novels actually differ much from what’s on the market already. Probably because I am older I will have a more old-fashioned approach to writing children’s stories but I have read a lot and still enjoy teen fiction (Kathy Reich’s ‘Virals’ for instance.)
I love J.K. Rowling’s style and would like to be like her without actually emulating her (if you see what I mean). What I admire is her talent for spinning a good yarn, for creating characters who are real and walk off the page, for always mixing in touches of humour with drama even when the situation is dire. She has created a world of friendship, loyalty, bravery and good intentions, the most valued qualities. She creates a whole world in which children love to lose themselves. In my opinion, children need escapism as much as adults and really don’t want ‘real life’ stuff about drugs, getting pregnant, dysfunctional families, or the terrible life of children in war-torn lands, thrust at them constantly. That sort of ‘good for you’ genre reminds me of the books I used to get given as ‘prizes’ at Sunday School, moralising Victorian works like ‘Mary Jones’s Bible.’ They darkened my days–and completely put me off religion, I might add!
Why do you write what you do?
That’s another poser. I’ve written both the children’s story and portions of the adult novel with great enthusiasm and enjoyment. The characters for the latter are people I would like either to meet or be and their psychology amuses me. Probably they are all projections of myself; that’s fine. It’s like being allowed to be multiple-personality-me.
I love crime novels so it is shaping into one of those, but I do have to avoid police rules or autopsies because, though I’ve read a lot about both, I don’t want to get into areas that I only half understand. It would distract from the intricacies of the human mind behind the crime and the reactions of the other characters involved one way or another.We shall see.
How does your writing process work?
I used to always be writing something but have never been very good at consistency or discipline. Family matters and daily obligations easily distract me. It has been better since I retired properly and I have acres of time to myself – I love that. Once I do hit a hot spot I can write for eight hours a day, coming up for air only for coffee and snacks. I love that. At those times even when I lay down to sleep my mind is busy with the next chapter or event. Then months will go by and I can’t bring myself to add anything or even glance at what I’ve done. During this period, I usually write poetry. Recently there have been times when I write nothing. Strangely, I think this has come about because I joined a writing group. They are supportive people and for nearly a year, I loved my Tuesday evenings. Then I started to feel full up with other people’s words and my output dried.
I’ve stayed away for two months – it’s coming back.
So, no words of wisdom here. I am an author who has self-published three small collections of folk tales indigenous to this part of the world. Everything I hear about getting published, from people who are really successful with their writing, is dedication, determination and discipline. I think that the added ingredient is enjoyment. The most successful authors are the ones who almost can’t help themselves–they have to write. I have found that I feel much better when I am writing poetry, which isn’t what I expected; I thought I was a story-teller. It has been quite a surprise and a great pleasure to find my poetry is acceptable. The ultimate secret! Do what you’re good at.