Shirley talks to her “Writer of the Week”, Louise J Stevens, as part of our weekly feature.
As her terrific first serial for us draws to a close, I’ve invited Louise J Stevens to be my Writer of the Week to talk about writing it.
I remember that “Alfred’s Emporium” started out as three separate short stories back in 2015, all featuring Albert and his ambitions. What inspired the character and the setting?
Fifty years ago I worked in “ladies apparel” as it was then known, and many of the characters in the first set of stories were from memories of that time. Alfred’s character is based on my father, Ray, who started a small business in the early 1950’s selling stockings. He expanded into clothes and then somehow or other moved on to selling spare parts to the motor trade, a business which the family still run today.
Transforming three stories into a serial involved a number of major rewrites, but you stuck at it and I think it was well worth it. Did you envisage that this was possible when you first wrote those three stories?
No. I wrote the three original stories with a common theme of Alfred’s store but as they were set forty years apart I never considered a serial. Alfred’s Emporium covers the opening of his store in 1892 and I have begun work on a follow-up set in the 1920’s/30’s.
You don’t submit much to the Friend – do you do a lot of writing? And what is your ambition as a writer?
I dabbled at short story writing for years, and even won a competition once. Since my caring responsibilities sadly ended I’ve focused more on writing. I’ve been a member of Bulkington Writers group for many years and we’re lucky to have a very experienced leader, Diane, who encourages (and occasionally badgers) us to produce and submit work. The honest (but courteous) feedback from group members helps enormously.
Ambition? I write to entertain the reader and because I so enjoy the process. And of course there’s a terrific ‘buzz’ when you get an acceptance. One day I hope to complete my novel, “Rhett”, about a boy evacuated to the country in 1940.
This was your first serial – can our readers look forward to another in the future?
Yes, this is my first serial. They’re a greater commitment than a short story, but allow so much more scope. (See 2 above)
Notebook and pencil or laptop? Kitchen table or study? Blank wall or inspiring view?
I always write on a desktop in a separate room – it’s away from any distractions and when I get stuck I walk away and try again later. A nice view from the window helps too. So does the notice board I have at the side of me. If I get inspiration from pictures/scenes/painting I pin it up while I’m writing. The story I’m currently working on has several locations and I have my hand drawn map to refer to also.
And a PS: What’s your one top tip for aspiring writers?
Tip? I find it useful to read work out loud to myself or, better still, record and play it back. ‘Hearing’ the story gives you a fresh slant on it, besides highlighting over-use of certain words and punctuation errors.