The Writer of the Week is Alice Elliott, whose story, Fire Flowers, appears in our April 7 issue.
In Fire Flowers, your heroine travels to Tokyo to take up a teaching position. What made you decide to use Tokyo as your main location, and is it a place you have ever visited, or would like to revisit one day?
I’m so glad you asked this question, as parts of this story are, in fact, inspired by my own experience of teaching English in Tokyo. Shortly after I finished university, I decided to spend a year in Japan. I absolutely loved the country, the culture and the people. I’ve always wanted to set a story there – it’s only taken me 13 years!
Cherry blossom features significantly in Fire Flowers. As a writer, in what way does nature have an impact on your creativity?
I adore the natural world, and from a writing perspective it can make a wonderful contribution to a story, in terms of setting, atmosphere and often the plot itself. For instance, I’m always struck by the fleeting beauty of spring flowers and also reassured by the certainty they’ll be back the following year, regardless of all else that might take place in between.
You have written different genres for the Friend. In general, do you have a genre you are most comfortable with, and what do you think about writing outside your comfort zone?
I really enjoy writing romantic and family themed stories. I also love exploring different eras, particularly Victorian times and the 1960s. It always feels a little strange to wander out of your comfort zone, but recently I’ve had a go at writing supernatural stories, which has proved a great experience. A ghostly element can add something quite special to a story.
What are your writing plans for the future? Could we see a novel from you one day?
My goal is to write a novel one day! Currently I’m working on a Pocket Novel which I plan to submit to the Friend. It’s set in Victorian London.
Notebook and pencil or laptop? Kitchen table or study? Blank wall or inspiring view?
I tend to do a bit of everything! I generally plan out ideas in one of my many notebooks and then move on to my laptop for the actual writing of the story. I’m blessed with a beautiful view from my kitchen window in Halifax, West Yorkshire, so I usually work in there. But I also quite like writing in cafés, too (as you’ll notice from my photo). I find that a bit of noise and bustle around me spurs me on.
P.S., What’s your one top tip for aspiring writers?
Read, read, read! Write, write, write! Don’t forget to ask for feedback, too, especially from those who know the market well. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but there’s no better learning tool.